Draft Habitat Conservation Plan Available for Indiana Wind Farm
By Georgia Parham
In April, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service made available a draft habitat conservation plan for Fowler Ridge Wind Farm in northwestern Indiana. The Service also released a draft environmental impact statement addressing impacts to the endangered Indiana bat and the environment.
Fowler Ridge Wind Farm LLC, Fowler Ridge II Wind Farm LLC, Fowler Ridge III Wind Farm LLC, and Fowler Ridge IV Wind Farm LLC are seeking an incidental take permit under the Endangered Species Act. The draft Habitat Conservation Plan developed by Fowler Ridge includes measures for long-term conservation of Indiana bats at the Fowler Ridge facility. 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 routine surveys of the facility.
The draft EIS identifies alternatives for reducing Indiana bat mortality at the Fowler Ridge Wind Farm. The no-action alternative would shut down all 449 turbines from sunset to sunrise from Aug. 1 through Oct. 15 to avoid take of Indiana bats; an HCP would not be needed. The other three alternatives involve feathering the turbine blades below a specified cut-in speed (the wind speed at which the turbines begin to generate electricity), either at 3.5 meters per second, 5 meters per second (the alternative proposed by the applicant and described in the HCP) or 6.5 meters per second. Feathering causes the turbine blades to be motionless, or nearly so, below these wind speeds thus 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 take, these alternatives describe proposed mitigation for any incidental take of Indiana bats. Mitigation would include coordinating, funding, and monitoring the protection and restoration of both summer and winter habitat.
Specifically, Fowler Ridge would preserve and restore summer maternity habitat in the vicinity of existing maternity colonies in Putnam County, Tippecanoe County, Vermillion County, or Warren County, Indiana. Fowler Ridge would also protect winter habitat by installing a new bat gate near the entrance of a Priority 1 hibernaculum in Indiana.
The draft documents are available on the Midwest Region’s website at http://www.fws.gov/midwest/Endangered/permits/hcp/r3hcps.html
The Service is accepting comments through June 4, 2013.