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Wind farm raises concerns for Missouri wildlife

Monday, May 5, 2014 | 4:10 p.m. CDT

MOUND CITY — Several groups have raised concerns about a proposal to build a wind farm in northwest Missouri near a national wildlife refuge that attracts migratory birds.

Element Power of Portland, Oregon, wants to build Missouri's largest wind farm on 25,000 acres east of Squaw Creek National Wildlife Refuge, The Kansas City Star reported. Element Power plans to break ground soon for the $400 million Mill Creek Wind Energy Project, which will have 84 to 118 wind turbines, each nearly 350 feet tall.

"If I could look all over northern Missouri for the worst possible place to put this thing, this would be it," said John Rushin, a former head of the Biology Department at Missouri Western State University in St. Joseph. Rushin has also worked and researched at the Squaw Creek for 30 years.

State conservation areas including Nodaway Valley and Honey Creek surround the site.

Squaw Creek, about 100 miles north of Kansas City, has more than 7,400 acres of wetlands, fields and grassland. About 250,000 visitors a year visit to see several birds, including pelicans, wood ducks, trumpeter swans, blue-winged teals, sandhill cranes, blue herons, snow geese and smaller shorebirds.

The Audubon Society, the American Bird Conservancy and birders have predicted that birds and bats will fly into the turbines and be killed by them as they fly around Squaw Creek and worry that the project could alter migratory patterns.

"I'm all for alternative energy, but this is nonsense, a ridiculous place for this thing," said Jack Hilsabeck of the Audubon Society of Missouri.

Element Power chief executive officer Ty Daul said the company is excited to deliver "a Missouri-based source of clean energy." The company will sell power from the 200-megawatt facility to Kansas City Power & Light. Element Power acknowledges that some birds would be killed but says most species at Squaw Creek fly too high to hit the turbines.

Scott Zeimetz, project manager for Element Power, said the Mill Creek project would comply with the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, Endangered Species Act and Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife has warned the company that it risks violating those acts if certain birds or bats are killed.

 


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