Study: Seabird Won't be Harmed by
by Rob Ollikainen
PORT ANGELES -- A proposed wind power project in Southwest Washington that the Clallam County Public Utility District financially supports will not have a significant impact on the small seabird known as the marbled murrelet, a scientific peer review concluded.
Energy Northwest, a consortium of 27 public power providers in Washington, wants to install up to 32 wind turbines on land leased from the state.
Public utilities in Clallam, Mason, Grays Harbor and Pacific counties are sharing development costs of the Radar Ridge project near Naselle, a Pacific County town of 400.
Advocates said the project will create jobs and help utilities meet a state mandate for renewable energy.
Environmentalists have said the wind farm could put the declining marbled murrelet population at risk.
Clallam County PUD's interest in the project stems from Initiative 937, the Clean Energy Initiative that voters approved in 2006.
The legislation requires PUDs the size of Clallam's to get 15 percent of their power from renewable sources by 2020.
Investor- and consumer-owned utilities with more than 25,000 customers must obtain 3 percent of their energy from "green" sources beginning in 2012.
That requirement jumps to 9 percent in 2016 and to 15 percent by 2020.
Hydroelectricity is not considered a renewable source.
Washington customers get about two-thirds of their electricity from hydropower and about one-third from coal, nuclear and natural gas.
Michigan State University statistics professor Dr. Raoul LePage concluded in his peer review that the Radar Ridge risk model is mathematically valid and would not result in incorrect conclusions.
LePage concluded there are few marbled murrelets in the project area.
He used data from three years of breeding-season studies done by Hamer Environmental.
An initial peer review on the risk model was made by Brian Cooper of ABR Inc.
Both studies found that the number of murrelets affected by the wind project would not be significant.
"It is important that decisions regarding this project are based upon an objective review of the best available scientific information," said Matt Samuelson, who chairs the Radar Ridge participants committee.
Samuelson said the peer reviews address "misconceptions" about the project a state Department of Natural Resources report raised in July 2009. He said that report was based on incomplete data.
Marbled murrelets are robin-sized seabirds that were listed as threatened in 1992.
Jeff Beaman, Clallam County PUD spokesman, said the next step is for the state to determine if an environmental assessment is sufficient or a rigorous and more expensive environmental impact statement is necessary.
Beaman said the PUD has no sense of when that decision will come.
"Our position is the environmental assessment is sufficient," he said.
"We don't believe an environmental impact statement will result in a greater understanding of the impacts."
Radar Ridge could produce up to 82 megawatts of electricity, enough to power about 18,000 homes.
The turbine towers could be as tall as 262 feet.
learn more on topics covered in the film
see the video
read the script
learn the songs