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DIVISION OF RESOURCES

NATURAL
Wildlife Resources Section
324 Fourth Avenue
South Charleston M b 25303-1224
Telephone (304) 558-2771
Joe Manchin 111 Fax (304) 558-3147 FrankJezioro
Governor TDD 1-800-354-6087 Director
October 26, 2009

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Mr. Mike Sponsler c-
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Technical Director I
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BHE Environmental, Iiic e


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5300 East Main St., Ste 101 z .I,&rn
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Columbus, OH 43213 09-03La- -s
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Re: Pinnacle Wind Force, LLC’s Bat Risk Assessment, Avian f i s k


Assessment and Habitat Assessment _ I

Dear Mr. Sponsler:

The West Virginia Division of Natural Resources (WVDNR) has reviewed the
Pinnacle Wind Force, LLC’s Bat Risk Assessment, Avian Risk Assessment and Habitat
Assessment, and, as requested by your firm, provides the following comments which will
assist your compliance with the West Virginia Public Service Cominissioii peimitting
requirements. These comments are provided because we anticipate that this project will
negatively impact ow: avian and mammaliaii charge resources as listed in West Virginia
State Code Chapter 20-1-2 and 20-2-5-(26), wliicli defines “wild animals” and unlawful
acts regarding the take of these resources, respectively.

Based on the studies mentioned above, knowledge of the habitats and species
present on the adjacent Allegheny Wildlife Management Area, and post-construction data
collected at other wind facilities in the East, especially the Mountaineer facility in Tucker
County, WV, the WVDNR believes that the Pinnacle Wind Force (PWF) project will
negatively impact bats, birds (including bald and golden eagles), and additional rare
species associated with the talus habitats found at this site. The WVDNR disagrees with
Pinnacle’s Bat Risk Assessment’s conclusioii that the risk to bats is low. Studies of bat
mortalities repoi-ted from operational wind facilities in the East, including the one in
Tucker County, WV, have documented extremely high mortality rates, especially during
the fall migratioii period. The WVDNR does not anticipate tlie mortality rates at
Pinnacle will differ significantly from these facilities.
Mr. Mike Spoiisler
Page 2
October 26, 2009

PWF must develop a plan to minimize inipacts to rare species during the
construction phase and develop an adaptive management plan for facility operations to
iiiiiiiiiiize bat, bird and other rare species mortalities once the facility is operational. This
plan should be developed by PWF aiid approved by the WVDNR prior to any
construction at the site.

The adaptive management plan must address the expected level of take aiid what
operational inodificatioiis (Le., changing cut in speed, feathering under certain conditions,
etc.) will be taken to iniiiiinize take if documented bat, bird and other rare species
mortalities are above acceptable levels. This will, of course, require post-constructioii
inoiiitoring of bird, bat and other ltills to determine baseline mortality' levels and to
document reductions due to the modification of operational pracsices. The WVDNR
believes there is sufficient inforination from studies at existing wind developments,
including those located in the Eastern United States, to assist with developing such an
adaptive management plan. By definition, the plan may need to be modified in tlie future :
as new inforination
, .
becomes available.

The WVDNR provides tlie followiiig coininents specific to the development of an


adaptive iiianagenieiit plan for PWF based on your avian and bat risk assessments,
Pinnacle's habitat assessment studies and studies conducted at other facilities in tlie
region and WVDNR institutional expertise relative to rare species and habitats.

High bat mortalities should be anticipated and efforts niade to iniiiiinize bird and,
especially, bat mortalities. Efforts should focus on, but not be restricted to, the fall
migration period. If the pattern documented at other facilities is observed at the Pinnacle
site, migratory (tree) bats will comprise the largest proportion of the kills. However,
other species will also be impacted and this could potentially include federally listed
species.

Some of the highest summer concentrations of small-footed bats (a WV Species


of Greatest Conservation Need and a Northeast Regional Species of Concern) in West
Virginia have been documented near the Pinnacle site and small-footed bats made up 14
percent of the spring, two percent of the summer and six percent of the fall mist net bat
captures at the Pinnacle site. Although the risk assessment asserts that these bats will not
be impacted because they will fly beneath rotor height, it is not lcnown how these bats
will interact with wind turbines. Impacts to these bats need to be determined tlrougli
post-construction assessment and potential impacts to this bat inust be addressed.

The anticipated mortalities at this and other wind facilities must be considered in
light of White Nose Syndrome (WNS) wliicli is seriously impacting bats, at least cave
bats, in the Northeastern United States. WNS was detected in West Virginia in January
2009. Because of this additional stress on bat populations, mortalities from other sources
should be minimized to tlie greatest extent possible. The eastern pipistrelle (tricolor bat)
Mr. Mike Spoiisler
Page 3
October 26, 2009

is of particular concern because it appears to be impacted significantly by both wind


projects and WNS.

Tlie adaptive management plan must iiiclude post-construction mortality


monitoring for the life of the project with iiiteiisive nioiiitoriiig during at least the first
three years of operation. This will allow assessment of bat and bird mortality and tlie
efficacy of operational modifications and other mitigation strategies. To address bird and
bat mortalities, post-construction monitoring should include spring, summer and fall
inoiiitoring using tlie Casselman project in Peiuisylvania as tlie starting point for protocol
development. The 2008 Casselniaii report can be found at the link below and a report 011
the 2009 studies at this site is foi-tlicoiiiing:

littp://M~i.batsaiidwind.ora/pdf/Cut.tailmen12008 Final Report.pdf

Once these initial t h e e years of data are collected, a less-intensive plan for
monitoring bat and bird mortalities for the rest of tlie operational life of the facility can be
developed based on patterns of inoi-tality events and mortality levels. The intensity of
that monitoring will depend on the bat and bird mortality levels observed. We anticipate
that this plan will be reviewed periodically (i-e., every five years) over tlie life of tlie
facility.

As part of the inoiiitoriiig protocol, all bat carcasses collected during tlie post-
coiistructioii nioiiitoriiig should be photo-documented. All specimens of bats in the genus
Myotis should be turned over to the WVDNR so that identifications can be verified. In
addition, all specimens of other species (Le., not Mj~otis)not used in searcher efficiency
and scavenging trials should be turned over to WVDNR. For specimens used in on-site
trials, tissue samples should be collected, preserved and labeled and turned over to the
WVDNR.

Tlie adaptive nianagenieiit plan to reduce bat and bird mortalities must be
approved by the WVDNR. Again, we recoinmend tlie 2008 Casselinan study as a good
starting point and a report of the 2009 studies at the site should be available before
operation at Pinnacle begins. Mitigation options developed for data collected at the
Pinnacle site should compliment the Casselinan site strategy, but should explore
additional options for reducing bat and bird mortalities while miniiiiizing production
losses. Because high bat mortalities are anticipated, adaptive management trails should
begin in year one of operation to reduce the total number of bats killed at this site.

The plan should commit to applying Operational iiieasures to reduce bat and bird
mortality over tlie operational life of the project. This coilvnitinent must include the
ability to modify operational procedures in tlie future as new infoiinatioii becomes
available from studies at this and other facilities.
Mr. Mike Sponsler
Page 4
October 26,2009

In addition to the general bird aiid bat issues associated with wind facilities in
West Virginia, tliere are other species of concern at the Pinnacle site. Species of concern
to the WVDNR are the Allegheny woodrat, timber rattlesnake, bald eagle, golden eagle
and spotted sltunk. All these species are listed as Species of Greatest Conservation Need
in the State’s Wildlife Action Plan and all but the spotted skunk are Northeast Regional
Species of Concern.

Data froin raptor migration monitoring and golden eagle radio telemetry studies
suggest the Pinnacle project is located along a significant migration corridor for eagles.
Golden eagles may also frequent the site in winter as tliere are records Erom nearby New
Creek Mountain. Therefore, post-construction monitoring should be conducted in the
winter with a focus on golden eagles, at least in the initial years of operation (in addition
to the general bird aiid bat mortality monitoring),

Talus habitats, coniinoii in this area, provide habitat for tlie noli-avian species
mentioned above. Measures should be taken to reduce impacts to these species of
colicern by minimizing impacts to talus habitats and surrounding forest and minimizing
fragmentation of these habitats. Following construction, measures should be
iiicorporated to close roads aid strategy areas no longer needed and reduce tlie width of
remaining roads and other openings that fraginent forested habitats. Post-construction
access should be restricted to maiiiteiiazice and monitoring activity needed to operate the
site.

The WVDNR expects the plan to minimize impacts to species of concern during
tlie construction phase of tliis project. Ai adaptive management plan that reduces bird
and bat mortalities, limits impacts to other species of concern and includes monitoring to
document effectiveness, must be developed, approved by the WVDNR and implemented
over the operational life of the project. The plan should include protocols to report
observations and deaths of species of concern to tlie WVDNR. Finally, we request that i

PWF commit to providing WVDNR access to the site if we feel a site visit is necessary.
With a vetted adaptive inanagemelit plan addressing the issues stated above, we believe
our conceriis will be addressed and the project can move forward

Should you require additional assistance, please contact Roger Anderson or Craig
Stihler at the Ellins Operatioizs Center, telephone 304-637-0245.

Curtis I. Taylor, Chief


Wildlife Resources Section

CIT/saj
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4* March 11, 2009

cc
U Roger Anderson
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7 West Virginia Department of Natural Resources
U Natural Heritage Program
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r P.O. Box67
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x Elkins, WV 26241
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cc
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P RE: Ecological Resource Assessment Reports for the Proposed Pinnacle Wind Force,
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\c LLC Wind Farm Project in Mineral County, West Virginia
cc
2
\c Dear Mr. Anderson:

Enclosed are two reports completed by BHE Environmental, Inc. (BHE) for the Pinnacle
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Wind Farm i n Mineral County West Virginia. The reports are titled, “Bat Risk Assessment:
6 Pinnacle Wind Farm, Mineral County, West Virginia” and “Habitat Characterization And
Assessment of Rare, Threatened, and Endangered Species For the Pinnacle Wind Farm,
Mineral County West Virginia.”

Thank you for the guidance you provided on this project over the past two years. Your
agency’s delivery of environmental data associated with the proposed project area as well
as the guidance and advice provided during the November 9, 2007 agency meeting
between BHE, USFWS, WVDNR, and Pinnacle Wind Force, LLC was most helpful.

Please feel free t o call me if you have questions about this report or would like t o discuss
further. I can be reached on my office phone at (614) 856-4681 or on my cell phone at
(614) 743-9977.

Si ncerely ,

Mike Sponsler
Technical Director
BHE Environmental, Inc.

cc: James Cookman, U.S. Wind Force, LLC


Karen Tyrell, BHE Environmental, Inc.

Enclosure