The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) has issued a five-year “eagle take” permit to Alta Wind X for the 137 MW Alta East Wind Project, located in Kern County, Calif.
According to the agency, the permit grants the “take” of up to three golden eagles at the facility throughout the five-year period.
“We are committed to ensuring energy development is compatible with the conservation of our nation’s wildlife and are delighted Alta Wind X chose to work collaboratively with us to protect golden eagles at their project site,” says Eric Davis, assistant regional director of the service’s migratory bird program. “We hope this will encourage other companies to work with us to produce similar eagle conservation plans and provide a better future for California’s wildlife.”
The 48-turbine Alta East Wind Project operates on a 2,274-acre site in the Tehachapi Wind Resource Area, near Mojave, Calif., and will help California meet its goal of producing 33% of its energy from renewable sources by 2020.
In its permit application, Alta Wind X LLC provided an Eagle Conservation Plan that describes measures the company will implement to avoid, minimize and mitigate the project’s impacts to eagles. According to the FWS, the plan was collaboratively prepared using eagle conservation guidelines developed for the wind energy industry.
“[The FWS] strives to work proactively with energy producers to prevent eagle deaths by engaging them in the permit process. This helps developers implement sound conservation practices that avoid, minimize and mitigate for eagle mortality and to obtain a degree of regulatory certainty for unavoidable harm to eagles that still occurs despite these efforts,” says Davis.
According to the FWS, the Alta East Wind Project will provide valuable monitoring data that will help biologists learn more about the interactions of eagles with wind power projects and ensure avoidance and mitigation measures are adequate. If the number of eagles killed at the facility approaches the permit limit, the FWS can reengage in consultation and request additional protection measures.
A notice of availability of the FWS’ Finding of No Significant Impact, final environmental assessment and response to public comments on the draft environmental assessment will be published in the next Federal Register.