Habitat Conservation Plan Finalized for Fowler Ridge Wind Farm
Work was completed on a habitat conservation plan that will provide long-term conservation for endangered Indiana bats at Fowler Ridge Wind Farm in northwestern Indiana. The Fowler Ridge Wind Farm currently includes 355 wind turbines in Benton County, with plans for up to 94 additional turbines. Two occurrences of Indiana bat mortality have been discovered and reported by Fowler Ridge during surveys at the facility.
The plan accompanies an application by Fowler Ridge for an incidental take permit. Under the Endangered Species Act, companies like Fowler Ridge may obtain a permit that allows limited take of threatened or endangered animals, provided an approved habitat conservation plan is in place to offset the loss of protected species and provide long-term conservation. To receive an incidental take permit for Indiana bats at its project, Fowler Ridge must follow the approved habitat conservation plan designed specifically to reduce impacts to the Indiana bat.
Also completed was an environmental impact statement. The environmental impact statement evaluated measures for reducing Indiana bat mortality at the Fowler Ridge Wind Farm. Among those measures are feathering the turbine blades below a specified cut-in speed (the wind speed at which the turbines begin to generate electricity). Feathering causes the turbine blades to be motionless, or nearly so, below these wind speeds, reducing impacts to bats flying through the facility. The measures would be implemented on a nightly basis from sunset to sunrise, adjusted for sunset/sunrise time weekly, from Aug. 1 to Oct. 15 annually.
In addition to efforts to avoid and minimize Indiana bat mortality, the habitat conservation plan includes measures to coordinate, fund and monitor the protection and restoration of both summer and winter habitat for the bat.
Under the approved habitat conservation plan, Fowler Ridge will preserve and restore summer maternity habitat near existing Indiana bat maternity colonies in Putnam County, Tippecanoe County, Vermillion County or Warren County, Indiana. Fowler Ridge will also protect winter habitat by installing a new bat gate near the entrance of an important hibernaculum – a cave used by Indiana bats during winter for hibernation.
More information about the plan can be found at http://www.fws.gov/midwest/endangered/permits/hcp/FowlerRidge/index.html
-- Georgia Parham,