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Groups may sue over wind turbine near Lake Erie

PORT CLINTON, Ohio – A group of birding enthusiasts is threatening to sue the Ohio National Guard over plans to build a wind turbine along Lake Erie because they are concerned it will endanger migrating birds and eagles.

The American Bird Conservancy and Black Swamp Bird Observatory said this past week that they are looking at taking legal action over plans to build the wind turbine at the guard’s Camp Perry site near Port Clinton.

The groups say they believe plans for the wind turbine violate several federal laws including the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, the Port Clinton News-Herald reported.

“There are 60 active bald eagle nests within a 10-mile radius,” said Kim Kauffman, director of the Black Swamp Bird Observatory.. “We have a lot of new information that states wind turbines have a significant impact on bald eagles.”

Ohio Air National Guard officials have said an assessment found the turbine won’t cause significant impact and disputed that the 198-foot tower would be a threat to the eagles and other migrating birds.

“There’s a process in place, and we’ve followed that process,” James Sims, a guard spokesman, told The (Toledo) Blade.

Federal funds are covering the cost of the $1.5 million project. The tower could go up by late February.

Camp Perry plans to conduct a study along with Bowling Green State University and the University of Toledo to determine what impact the turbine has on birds during its first operating year.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has suggested shutting off the turbine and dimming the lights around it during the height of the spring and fall migration periods.

“Until we are able to gather data on this particular year, it wouldn’t make sense to do those mitigating circumstances if there’s no impact at all,” Sims said.

The Fish and Wildlife Service also disagreed with the guard’s belief that bald eagle deaths are unlikely.

“If completed, this turbine would sit in the middle of a major bird migration corridor directly adjacent to a national wildlife refuge,” said Michael Hutchins, head of the American Bird Conservancy’s Smart Wind Energy Campaign.

Bird-watchers blanket Ohio’s Lake Erie coast just east of Toledo in early May to see several hundred species of birds that stop at the marshes and rocky shoreline to rest and refuel.

Migrating birds flying from Central and South America all the way to northern Canada stop before continuing their journey across Lake Erie.

“Birders are incensed that this area could allow wind energy to be developed in the most bird-sensitive area,” Kaufman said.