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Bird, bat deaths prompt call for St. Lawrence Valley wind moratorium

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Save the River, an environmental group based in Clayton, NY, wants a three-year delay in development of more wind power along the St. Lawrence River.

A spokesperson for the group says there are proposals for some 400 wind turbines in the Thousand Island region. Preliminary numbers from a study at an 86-turbine wind farm on Wolfe Island, a Canadian island near Kingston, Ontario, show higher than usual mortality among birds and bats. Martha Foley has more.

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An environmental group is calling for a three-year moratorium on building more wind turbines in the St Lawrence Valley. Save The River points to recently released data indicating the 86-turbine wind farm on Wolfe Island caused more than a 1800 bird and bat deaths in six months. The group's assistant director Stephanie Weiss says that's more than double the national average. "When we're comparing these numbers, we're talking about how many birds are dying in a 12-month period. The national average might be 2 or 3 or even as high as 4. But the numbers we're seeing out of Wolfe Island are 8 birds per turbine, in a six-month period," Weiss said.     

Wolfe Island is Canadian territory. In Canada, the province decides where wind farms can be built. In New York State, it's up to local town governments. Weiss says a moratorium would give them time to find out why avian mortality rates are so high on Wolfe Island. It's the only wind farm on the St Lawrence River and it's six months into a three-year study on bird and bat deaths caused by turbines.

"There are a lot of reasons why this could happen. Wolfe Island itself is an important bird area, designated by Nature Canada. It's a part of the fly way, which is really important. We know there's some really essential grassland habitat here. We know it's incredibly important over-wintering raptor area," said Weiss.

Weiss says once a wind farm is built, environmental damage is hard to undue. She says 400 wind turbines have been proposed in the Thousand Islands. And a thorough study at Wolfe Island will help local officials make the best decisions about if, and where, they should be built. "We can't just guess at what kind of bird and bat mortality we would have. The three years are essential. I don't think it's too long. The wind will still be there," Weiss said.

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