Golden eagle killed by Wash. wind turbines
A golden eagle was killed by a wind turbine blade at a southwest Washington wind farm, a state biologist says.
The Columbian newspaper in Vancouver, Wash., reported that it is the first known eagle fatality caused by a Washington wind project.
The 10-pound bird had a broken wing and two broken legs after the April 27 accident at Goodnoe Hills Wind Project southeast of Goldendale, said Travis Nelson, the state's lead biologist on wind power issues.
"This is certainly not the outcome that anyone who was involved in planning and permitting this operation would have wanted, especially the project owner," Nelson said. "We have convened a small review group internally to discuss how we can avoid this in the future."
Golden eagles are not listed as threatened or endangered, but federal law prohibits intentionally harming raptors.
Federal and state wildlife officials created new guidelines in April to reduce the effects on birds and wildlife from wind energy development. Environmental groups and utilities also worked on those guidelines.
They call for extensive surveys of proposed wind farms before they are permitted and a recommended 2-mile wide buffer around the nests of raptor species, including golden and bald eagles.
The dead golden eagle, a mature bird with a 6-foot wingspan, was found by a crew of URS Corp., a contractor for PacifiCorp., the Portland, Ore.-based utility that owns the Goodnoe Hills wind farm.
Wind project operators are required to document and report bird kills to state authorities. Nelson said the eagle's death was reported promptly in this case.
"We have a robust avian protection program and we proactively take steps to assure compliance with all regulations," PacifiCorp spokeswoman Jan Mitchell said.
Raptors are common in the eastern Columbia River Gorge, where shrub steppe and grasslands offer prime habitat for prey such as ground squirrels and pocket gophers.
The big birds typically soar at about the same height as the turbine blades - roughly 300 to 400 feet.
Although this is the first golden eagle death reported in Washington, raptors have been killed at wind projects elsewhere. At the world's largest wind project, Altamont Pass Wind Power Resource Area in California, between 570 and 835 raptors are killed each year by wind turbines, the newspaper said.
A study by Shawn Smallwood, an independent wildlife ecologist who has also studied bird deaths at Altamont, concluded that raptor deaths have been far higher than predicted at Klickitat's first wind project, the 200-megawatt Big Horn Wind Energy Project.
Smallwood estimates 49 raptors died in Big Horn's first year of operation, compared to a company consultant's projected annual toll of 31.
There are three wind projects operating in Klickitat County, five others under construction and three more proposed.