Wind farm will seek permit to legally kill eagles
A controversial wind farm proposed near Red Wing plans to ask for federal permission to legally kill eagles, making it one of the first in the nation to participate in a new federal strategy aimed at managing the often-lethal conflict between birds and turbine blades.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife officials say they urged the developers of AWA Goodhue Wind to seek the new permit because the deaths of an unknown number of eagles and endangered golden eagles will be inevitable once the 50-turbine project is up and running.
The process for such “incidental take” permits was devised in 2009 as a compromise between the demand for clean energy from the growing number of wind farms and the rising concern over the estimated hundreds of thousands of birds and bats that they kill every year.
The 18.75-square-mile site in Goodhue County is home to a number of nesting eagles, and many more migrate through the area every year. There also have been sightings of two rare and endangered golden eagles, which come down from Canada to winter along the Mississippi River bluffs in southeastern Minnesota.
To get a permit, the company must provide a detailed plan designed to minimize the impact on protected species, project how many are likely to be killed each year, and keep track of the outcome.
The plan would have to be approved by the federal wildlife agency, giving it some future influence over the design and operation of the project, which is now under the jurisdiction of the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC).
“There are a lot of issues,” said Mags Rheude, a wildlife biologist with the Minnesota office of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “We’d have to come to an agreement.”
The developer, AWA Goodhue Wind, stated its intent to file for the federal permit in filings with the PUC, but did not respond to requests for comment.
Without the permit, the company could be subject to federal prosecution if the project results in the destruction of the birds or their nests.