RIO VISTA (AP) — A wind energy farm in Northern California could become the first in the nation to agree to protect golden eagles under a conservation plan being worked out with federal officials.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service released a draft of the plan on Thursday for the roughly 100-megawatt Shiloh IV wind farm in Solano County. It would allow for the farm's 50 wind turbines near Rio Vista to kill up to five golden eagles over five years, the San Francisco Chronicle reported (http://bit.ly/1bdzyYF).
In exchange, the wind farm company would modify power lines in Monterey County to prevent the electrocution of golden eagles and take other measures to protect the birds.
Officials say overall, the plan would help preserve the birds. It is now open to a 45-day public comment period and expected to be adopted in early 2014.
"It really does set a precedent in that it does show the service can work with the wind industry," said Eric Davis, assistant regional director for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. "Renewable energy is here to stay, and we need to ensure eagles and other wildlife are here to stay as well."
Wind turbines kill dozens of golden eagles each year around the country. But wind farm companies are not required under federal law to obtain take permits for those deaths or create conservation plans to protect the birds, which are not protected under the Endangered Species Act.
The Shiloh IV farm was completed in 2012. The company that runs it is a subsidiary of San Diego-based EDF Renewable Development Inc.
The company pursued the permit based on its responsible development practices to minimize environmental impacts while creating zero-emission energy, Rick Miller, director of wind business development for the company's West region, told the Bee.
California Audobon Renewable Energy Director Garry George praised the draft plan although he questioned why power lines were being modified so far away from the wind turbine site.
"We have some questions about how that's actually going to affect regional populations of eagles," he told the Bee.
But overall, he said the plan represented a "giant step" forward by the wildlife service.