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Hundley: Apex Clean Energy must update environmental impact data | Columnists

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Melissa Hundley

I have spent most of my life exploring, nurturing and loving my family’s 855 acres of forests and fields and the 3 miles of perennial waterways adjacent to the proposed Rocky Forge Wind Farm site in the county of Botetourt.

My parents were determined to keep some forest land in Virginia, and so the land is in a conservation easement. The proposed location for the turbines is wildlife habitat for countless species, but my biggest concerns are the known impacts on birds and bats and threatened aquatic species from soil erosion and sedimentation of the yard of water.

I am lucky to know what clean streams look like. It’s a privilege but it shouldn’t be. I know that if construction starts on the Rocky Forge site, due to ground disturbance, it will cause soil erosion and sedimentation of streams into streams when it rains. Everyone knows this, but the decision makers in this process have not assessed and disclosed the impacts.

Common sense tells me that as the proposed turbines increase in size, the impacts change. It has been at least eight years since wildlife information to assess impacts has been collected.

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Eight years is a long time during which life on land and water is being impacted at an unprecedented rate and scale. Climate change is rapidly impacting our environment.

Wildlife studies eight or more years ago are useless in describing current conditions. The proposed turbine site is within the southernmost breeding territory of the golden eagle. Golden eagles fly from Canada to the mountains of Virginia every year, particularly the mountain proposed for turbine development.

There is an Indiana bat cave less than five miles from the turbine site and Apex has not updated any information on endangered species also threatened by a widespread fungal disease specifically since this project was proposed for the first time. The natural world is not static, it is changing faster than ever due to increasing threats to habitat. Nevertheless, the Commonwealth of Virginia is about to shamelessly authorize a project for which it has no idea of ​​the actual impacts, even though the Department of Environmental Quality is required to both know what the impacts and to disclose the impacts to the public. . The underlying data here is not meaningful because it is old. Mitigation in the form of reduced turbine operation means nothing without an accurate baseline of population conditions. Knowledge of the effectiveness of the reduction itself has not been demonstrated.

The American Bird Conservancy (ABC) submitted a comment letter on June 24, which forwarded its previous letters dated August 10, 2020 and December 21, 2021. Among other things, the ABC advocates for current data on the eagle, providing the scientific and legal information to support their position. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service also weighed in with an email communication on June 3, 2021, from Thomas W. Wittig, Eagle coordinator of the agency’s North Atlantic-Appalachia region, to Jennie Geiger, senior environmental permitting officer. at Apex. In February 2021, Geiger had informed Mr Wittig that “no changes have been made to the BBCS [Bird and Bat Conservation Strategy] document that was approved in 2016. On June 3, 2021, Mr. Wittig directly challenged Apex’s 2016 assertion that no further study of eagles was “warranted or permitted recommended” because so much had changed. in five years. After listing the important factors that influence the agency’s assessment of the risk to eagles, Wittig firmly states: “In the context of current management and science, I don’t think the BBCS provides enough evidence to argue that the project has a low risk of taking eagles.” Not enough relevant information.

Wind turbines must be equipped with state-of-the-art fire detection and extinguishing equipment. The danger and threat of wildfires is frightening knowing that industrial turbines can ignite a fire at any time, but the effects of climate change on wildfire danger have not been considered. Have we not advanced beyond the industrialization of mountaintop habitats and the pollution of water resources that results from it, especially for the production of marginal energy at such a high cost that the Commonwealth has actually bailed out this mess by agreeing to buy power that no one else except Virginia taxpayers would pay for?

If building 50- and 60-story industrial machinery on top of 3,000+ foot mountains in Virginia was such a great idea, it would already be done.

Hundley Lives in Clifton To forge.