Energy company abandons plans to build turbines along migratory bird route

Source: By Donald Bradley, Kansas City Star • Posted: Wednesday, September 24, 2014

A wind energy company that planned to install 84 to 118 wind turbines directly in the path of a migratory bird route in Missouri has quietly pulled out of the project.

Element Power LLC had leased 25,000 acres to erect the 350-foot turbines just east of the Squaw Creek National Wildlife Refuge, where 1 million snow geese showed up in March.

“It’s like [Element officials] didn’t have a clear understanding of what that site was and what was at stake,” said John Rushin, a former head of the biology department at Missouri Western State University in St. Joseph who has worked and researched at Squaw Creek for 30 years. Earlier this year, when the plan was announced, he said: “If I could look all over northern Missouri for the worst possible place to put this thing, this would be it.”

Element Power couldn’t be reached for comment, but Mark Sitherwood, presiding commissioner of Holt County, said authorities from the company left him a voice message saying the company wasn’t going through with the Mill Creek Wind Energy Project and landowners had been served notices of lease termination.

“We were working with the company, and then all of a sudden, everything just quit,” Sitherwood said. “They just quit communicating with us. Opponents thought it was a horrible place for it, and I’m sure that had something to do with their decision.”

Millions of migratory birds, including pelicans, wood ducks, blue-winged teals, blue herons and snow geese, make their way through the wetlands in Squaw Creek, using an updraft from the nearby Loess Hills to help them on their way.

Opponents of the project, including the National Audubon Society, the American Bird Conservancy and bird enthusiasts, predicted slaughter for birds and bats flying into turbines as they passed through the area (Donald Bradley, Kansas City Star, Sept. 22). — JL