Friday, December 3, 2010

WDNR Report On Authorities Needed To Minimize Impacts of Wind Energy Projects

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) has submitted a report to the Wisconsin Legislature in November 2010 regarding the agency’s authority to protect wildlife and natural resources from wind project impacts. The WDNR report was submitted in response to 2009 Wisconsin Act 40, which required the agency to determine if its “statutory authority is sufficient to adequately protect wildlife and the environment from any adverse effect from the siting, construction, or operation of wind energy systems.”

WDNR made four recommendations to enhance its current authority to minimize potential impacts from wind projects:

1. Require WDNR to prepare a formal “biological opinion” and require the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin (PSCW) to consider that opinion before PSCW approves a wind project; this opinion would 1) describe the potential impacts of the project to wildlife and natural resources; 2) identify potential conflicts with wildlife protection laws; 3) reach a conclusion as to whether the project has the potential to cause a significant adverse impact to habitat and fish and wildlife resources; and 4) reach a conclusion as to whether mitigation measures can be implemented to substantially reduce those impacts below the level of significance;

2. Require a wind project developer to obtain Incidental Take Permits or Authorizations under the Wisconsin Endangered Species Law before constructing a wind project; currently, developers are encouraged but not required to obtain such authorizations;

3. Expand the Wisconsin Endangered Species Law to protect endangered and threatened species habitat, as currently included the Federal Endangered Species Act; and

4. Require easements for wind facilities to authorize access to those properties for the conduct of biological studies by developers, WDNR personnel and/or authorized agents.

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