Bald eagles, bats thwarting plans for Minn. wind farm

E&E • Posted: Monday, February 27, 2012

A Minnesota commission yesterday held up a plan to build a rural wind farm because of concerns for bald eagles and insect-eating bats.

AWA Goodhue Wind Project will need an Avian and Bat Protection Plan approved by the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission before the developers can begin work on a 50-turbine wind farm in southeast Minnesota.

Construction on the 32,700-acre site is scheduled to start this summer. But the site includes part of the Mississippi Flyway, a corridor used by migrating birds.

AWA Goodhue has applied for a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service permit that would allow the wind farm to kill no more than about one eagle every three years, attorney Christy Brusven said. The permit would be the first of its kind.

“It is not our intent to have a negative impact on birds and bats in the area, and it certainly is not our intent to kill bald eagles,” Brusven told the utilities commission.

The project’s opponents said the commission’s decision was a victory of a national symbol over a project backed by Texas oil and gas billionaire T. Boone Pickens. Pickens founded the Mesa Power Group, which formed AWA Goodhue.

“In this political climate, I don’t think the American public is ready to watch Minnesota’s nesting bald eagles pay for a Texas billionaire,” said Mary Hartman, a spokeswoman for the Coalition for Sensible Siting (Leslie Suzukamo, St. Paul Pioneer Press, Feb. 23). — JE