TOLEDO, Ohio — A group of birding enthusiasts hopes a decision to halt plans for a wind turbine at an Ohio National Guard base will send a message to developers proposing other wind power projects along Lake Erie.
Federal officials sent notice this past week that they are pulling back from building the proposed wind turbine just weeks after two organizations threatened to take legal action.
The American Bird Conservancy and the Black Swamp Bird Observatory argued that the wind turbine would endanger migrating birds and bald eagles while also violating several federal laws designed to protect those birds.
The wind turbine slated to go up in just a few months at the guard's Camp Perry site east of Toledo is one of about two dozen wind energy projects in the planning stages along Lake Erie in Ohio, according to the American Bird Conservancy.
What upset the birding enthusiasts is that the Camp Perry site is in the middle of a hotspot for migrating birds.
Bird watchers blanket the area in early May to see several hundred species that stop at the marshes and rocky shoreline to rest and refuel while flying from Central and South America all the way to northern Canada.
"It's probably one of the top five migration corridors in the U.S.," said Robert Johns, a spokesman for the American Bird Conservancy.
Ohio Air National Guard officials maintained that an assessment found the turbine won't cause significant impact. But the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service had suggested shutting off the turbine and dimming the lights around it during the spring and fall migration.
A letter sent this week by Air Force Col. Peter Sartori, director of installations and mission support in the National Guard Bureau, said the project wouldn't go forward as of now because of the concerns raised by the two groups.
A message seeking comment about what will happen next was left with Ohio National Guard spokesman James Sims.
"The signal we hope this sends is that groups like ours are going to look hard at this and will take action if warranted," Johns said. "We're not opposed to wind energy. All we're saying is 'Don't put it up where it shouldn't be.'"
A business park near the Camp Perry site already has put up a wind turbine, but it isn't operating yet.
Kim Kauffman, director of the Black Swamp Bird Observatory, said they will be monitoring it. "If we were to learn it killed migrating birds or eagles, we would pursue legal action," she said.
There are about 60 bald eagle nests within 10 miles of the wind turbine, she said.
President Obama's administration, which wants to increase the development of green energy, announced in December it would allow some companies to kill or injure bald and golden eagles for up to 30 years without penalty.
Companies would need a permit and would have to make efforts to avoid killing the birds and submit reports of how many eagles they kill. The permits would be reviewed every five years.