This is just priceless. In 2006, voters in the state of Washington went all hippy and passed an initiative that required utilities to buy wind power for energy.
So a bunch of counties got behind a project to build the first major wind farm in Western Washington.
But the U.S Fish and Wildlife stepped in and gasped that one marbled murrelet seabird could be killed every two years and that’s too high a price to pay and the put the kabosh on the wind farm.
So to get this right – counties responded to a state environmental initiative but was stopped by the federal government due to worries about a bird.
It liked the area because it could help with wind power transmission concerns. Among other transmission benefits, the wind blows there primarily in the winter, while other wind projects in the state have strong winds in the spring and fall.
The land already had been disturbed. Forest has been cut down on the ridge and a large gravel pit and communication towers are operating on top of the ridge, Baker said.
The project partners spent three years conducting scientific studies that showed that the wind farm could be operated in a way that would result in an average of one bird hitting a turbine every two years, he said. That clearly showed the wind project would not jeopardize the species, he said.
The seabirds, which can fly 50 mph, nest in the forest near the ocean to raise their young in the spring and fly out to the ocean in the morning to feed, he said.
However, in mid-August, Energy Northwest learned a draft for a required Fish and Wildlife environmental impact statement would require that the wind project be shut down for six months of the year in the daylight hours. Instead of a 25-year permit, only a five-year permit with extensions would be granted.
The project participants had agreed to spend $1 million to buy 300 acres of old growth forest to set aside for habitat. But the draft environmental study also would require $10 million for the federal government to spend on other habitat projects, Baker said.
The project participants already had adapted the project, including reducing the size of the turbines, and the additional conditions came as a surprise, he said.
Seattle Audobon called the decision to abandon the project a major victory.
Although it supports projects to reduce climate change, the harm to marbled murrelets outweighed the benefits of reduced carbon output, the group said.
Come on. You’ve gotta’ love this story, right?