FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 16, 2014
Georgia Parham 812-334-4261 x 1203
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Announces Final Habitat Conservation Plan for Indiana Wind Farm
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has released the final habitat conservation plan for the Fowler Ridge Wind Farm in northwestern Indiana. The Service has also finalized an environmental impact statement that addresses impacts to the endangered Indiana bat and the human environment.
The habitat conservation plan developed by Fowler Ridge includes measures for the 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 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.
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.
A notice announcing the final habitat conservation plan and environmental impact statement appears in the January 17, 2014, Federal Register. After 30 days, the Service will sign a record of decision which will document their decision on whether to issue the incidental take permit.
More information about the plan can be found at http://www.fws.gov/midwest/endangered/permits/hcp/FowlerRidge/index.html
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