The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) has released a draft environmental assessment (DEA) in response to a request by Alta X Wind LLC, an affiliate of NRG Yield Inc., for a five-year programmatic take permit for golden eagles at its Alta East Wind Project in Kern County, Calif.
Under the assessment, the company would be permitted to take a maximum of three golden eagles over a five-year period and would be required to take steps to protect eagles from turbines and power lines, including retrofitting a minimum of 74 area power poles in the first year to prevent electrocutions of birds, as well as other actions to reduce mortality.
FWS believes that if these steps were taken, the wind project would have no significant impact on eagle populations in the area.
Under the federal Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, FWS can issue eagle permits to entities whose activities may result in eagle "take" that is unintentional and incidental to otherwise lawful activities. (According to FWS, "take" means to pursue, shoot, poison, wound, kill, capture, trap, collect, destroy, molest or disturb eagles, their nests or their eggs.)
The Alta East Wind Project is an existing, operational wind facility in the Tehachapi Wind Resource Area. The 150 MW project consists of 48 wind turbines within an area of approximately 2,600 acres located on public (Bureau of Land Management) and private lands.
Wind energy companies are not required to have an eagle permit. However, companies operating without an eagle permit risk prosecution under the act for any unauthorized take of eagles.
The agency published a notice of availability of the DEA in the Federal Register and opened a 60-day public-comment period.
The full text of the DEA is available here.