OLYMPIA — Updated statewide guidelines that provide direction on minimizing the impact of wind energy development and operations on wildlife and habitats are now available from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).
WDFW’s 2009 Wind Power Guidelines, published this April, are a result of an intensive nine-month stakeholder review process, which included environmental representatives, county planners, wind energy developers, state and federal natural resource managers, biologists, and the public. The guidelines were finalized following a State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) review.
Originally issued in 2003, the guidelines serve as a comprehensive planning tool, providing long-term opportunities for partnerships between wind power developers and WDFW in the interest of wildlife habitat protection and management, said Greg Hueckel, assistant director for the WDFW habitat program.
“Since they were first published, the guidelines have provided information to permitting agencies and wind-project developers on how to avoid and mitigate species and habitat impacts when siting, building and operating land-based, wind-power facilities,” Hueckel said.
All wind power projects constructed to date in Washington were built following WDFW’s Wind Power Guidelines. The updated version with additional information should be helpful as more projects come on line, Hueckel said.
“Washington state is currently fifth in the nation for wind power production with a total of 999 turbines capable of producing 1,500 megawatts of energy,” he said. To meet the 15 percent renewable energy standard established by voter-approved Initiative 937, the construction of an additional 1,000 megawatts of wind power facilities can be anticipated, Hueckel said.
The guidelines include:
- Updated, statewide information.
- Updated mitigation alternatives, including a reference table.
Recommendations on habitat mapping and mitigation.
- Recommendations on conducting baseline and monitoring studies.
- Steps to take on minimizing impact to habitat and wildlife.
- Facility reporting and appropriate monitoring protocols.
- Descriptions of Washington’s nine ecoregions and habitat types.
While WDFW currently has no regulatory authority over the construction of wind-energy facilities, the department serves as Washington’s principal agency on species protection and conservation, Hueckel said. “Our job is to plan ahead and find alternatives that minimize the risk to wildlife and their natural habitat,” he said. “That’s what these guidelines are all about.”
More information is available on WDFW’s website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/hab/engineer/major_projects/wind_power.htm.