READER’S EDITORIAL: TULE WIND PROJECT WILL KILL CONDORS
In April 2007, the first condor spotted in San Diego County in over 100 years soared into East County across the Mexican border. It may be the last, if the wind industry has its way.
By Jim Wiegand
December 28, 2010 (San Diego’s East County)--When is the media going to put an honest spotlight on the wind industry? When is the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service going to wake up?
I am an expert on birds of prey and have seen many environmental impact reports and studies generated for the wind industry. I have yet to see an honest one. All that read this should find this statement shocking.
There is a new Draft Environmental Impact Report that has been released for the Tule Wind project in Eastern San Diego County. It will have an impact on the California condor. The Tule Wind Project is being presented to California by Iberdrola Renewables, which is 80% owned by IBERDROLA, S.A., a foreign company. Together, they represent 9.6 billion shares of stock.
Section D.1.2.3 of the EIR states “ This EIR/EIS analyzes the potential direct, indirect, and cumulative environmental impacts of the Proposed PROJECT and alternatives.” Is this really true?
I looked over the Draft EIR report for the Tule Wind Project and found that there are many problems. I will bring attention to just a few of the misleading paragraphs and omissions.
I could not find in the report any discussion about blade tip speed and the extreme danger these spinning blades pose to birds and bats. IBERDROLA knows very well what these turbines do birds and bats. In Spain where they are based, between 1000-2000 Griffon Vultures are killed each year. They are a species similar to condors in size and feeding habits.
I happen to know the huge turbines planned for the Tule Wind Project will have blade tip speeds that will exceed 200 mph.
Tucked into the EIR is the following: “ECO-BIO-06 No harm, harassment, or collection of plant and wildlife species will be allowed. Feeding of wildlife will be prohibited.” In other words no evidence can be collected. So when condors are killed you will most likely never hear about it.
An easy and fair remedy for this problem is for San Diego County and Fish and Wildlife officials to impose a mandatory 5 million dollar fine for the death of every California condor killed from this project, grandfathered in for perpetuity. In addition, to stimulate transparency, a $1 million reward should go to the party that reports it.
Readers should pay close attention to this carefully worded assessment written in the EIR concerning the condor: "The California condor is a federally and state-listed endangered species and is also Fully Protected. This species has been reintroduced to a number of locations within North America as described in Section D.2.1. Although the closest area used by the Baja-released condors is approximately 50 miles south of the Tule Wind Project, a female condor did fly from Baja over the Cuyamaca Rancho State Park area. The bird did not remain in the United States for more than a couple of days. However, this indicates that these birds could fly the distance to the project area. Although the habitat in the project area is suitable for a condor to forage within, there are no roosting or nesting opportunities, and nesting locations within the Sierra San Pedro de Martir National Park are approximately 100 miles south of the project area.”
There are many things wrong with this statement. (1) Condors can very easily fly, glide, and soar on wind currents over 100 miles in a day. (2) Many other condors could have flown to the Cuyamaca Rancho State Park area, but only one has been reported. (3) The area has suitable foraging habitat so the truth is, condors will always be drawn to the area. (4) It is claimed there are no roosting locations for the condor in the project area. The condors can use the same perches and rim rocks used by the 10 pairs of Golden Eagles reported living in the area. (5) Once the project is built there will be hundreds of new perches and roosting sites for condors and all birds of prey. These will be provided by the 60-200 foot towers and poles used for the project.
Here is another carefully worded and misleading statement from the EIR: "Within the Proposed PROJECT area, suitable foraging habitat includes agriculture, disturbed habitat, field/pasture, and non-native grassland, but this species is not likely to occur within San Diego County since the closest potential breeding population is located in Baja California, Mexico, as noted previously. The species could occasionally wander north from Baja, but breeding of the species in San Diego County has not been recorded since the 1880s (Unitt 2004)."
Will this species try to breed in San Diego County in the future? Where were the historical condor nesting sites? Were they located in the rims rocks of Eastern San Diego County that were declared by Iberdrola Renewables as having no roosting or nesting opportunities for the condor?
The USFWS, entrusted to protect the nation’s wildlife, has repeatedly looked the other way while wind farms were constructed in California condor habitat near Tejon Ranch. Because of the turbines built for the Enron boys, the condor can never really fly free in this area. The historical habitat and flyway that intersects the Sierras Nevada Mountains and the Costal ranges is riddled with thousands of spinning wind turbines. How will they handle the Tule Wind Project wind farm?
San Diego County needs to think about what has happened the last 30 years. Why did you think the condor population plummeted in the 1980's and the last ones had to be trapped? It was not lead poisoning. At the time, all the media attention was on the Golden Eagles being slaughtered at Altamont pass, but the thousands of turbines in the Tehachapi region were no different. Why do you think two experimental condor populations were set up away from the turbines in Arizona and Baja? Why do the remaining semi- wild condors have to be monitored and forever fed at feeding stations far away from the turbines?
If we ask the USFWS, we are told that the Golden Eagle and California condor are fully protected species. It is not true; the wind industry routinely kills fully protected species. This fraud coming out of Washington continues to undermine the good work of many thousands of dedicated USFWS personnel. They all know exactly what wind farms do to birds and bats: they create killing fields for birds, Yet their hands are tied.
What has happened to the condor is only the beginning of what this industry will be bringing to bird life across the world. Let's not kid ourselves, wind turbines, are the number one threat to the condor.
In selling this project Iberdrola Renewables has stated, “There’s far greater consequences and impact to the environment if the project is not developed as proposed.” Despite what they say, this project has nothing to do with solving the problem of climate change. This is about profits. If Iberdrola Renewables were really concerned about the world, it would first be promoting energy conservation and deforestation--two subjects that can impact this problem the most quickly.
For Iberdrola and investors, life remains the same no matter how many of these turbines are built because they do not have to live with the impacts of these turbines. Their connection to wildlife is limited to what they see inside their gated communities with their protected skylines. If they want to see a condor they are content to just go to a zoo or to the Smithsonian to see a stuffed one. Will they care if the 10 pairs of golden eagles disappear from the area?
Has the USFWS resigned itself to a captive-bred stockpile of condors so it can replenish those slaughtered from wind turbines? If so what about other species impacted by turbines?
As it is, the future for the condor looks very bleak. With new wind turbine projects and a captive breeding program to offset high turnover rates in the population, it is just a Band-Aid. The only long term solution for the condor is for the wind industry to move on to the next generation of wind turbines-- without the 200 mph slashing blades.
Here is the bottom line from an expert: California condors from the fragile Baja population of will be killed by the Tule Wind project.
Jim Wiegand is an independent wildlife biologist and expert on raptors. He helped with the reintroduction of Peregrine falcons in California, initiated the investigation behind the first felony poaching conviction in California, and successfully proposed use of DNA analysis to the California Department of Fish and Game.
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