Eagle deaths could bring hefty fines to wind developer
In order for AWA Goodhue Wind to avoid facing some substantial charges in the event of an eagle death from its project's wind turbines, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is highly recommending the wind developer acquire what's called an incidental take permit.
"We've been encouraging them for a while. Since last summer," USFWS wildlife biologist Mags Rheude said.
AWA Goodhue is planning a 78-megawatt wind farm in Goodhue County, and local residents have shown a great deal of concern for the area's avian population. Many are worried the spinning blades will strike and kill bald and golden eagles.
Without a "non-purposeful take" permit, AWA Goodhue could run into some serious fines. If found guilty of one take, the company would be charged with a misdemeanor, which Rheude said could include a fine of about $5,000. If a second eagle dies, however, the charge is quickly bumped up to a felony and there's a maximum fine of $500,000.
USFWS officials said they would work with AWA Goodhue in establishing what would be allowed if the company wanted to attain a non-purposeful take permit.
"We would work with them and kind of look at their pre-construction surveys," Rheude said.
Based on how many eagles are observed in the area and how many wind turbines are put up, U.S. Fish and Wildlife would estimate how many eagles staff think are likely to be impacted from the project and issue the permit accordingly.
Though the permit is not required, if AWA Goodhue proceeds with its project without one and an eagle is eventually killed, there's no turning back.
"If you're found guilty of doing something you could have gotten a permit for, you can't retroactively get a permit," Rheude said.
On the other hand, AWA Goodhue can choose not to apply for the permit and, as long as no eagles are killed, can always think about applying in the future.
The wind developer has been in talks with USFWS, but Rheude said nothing has been completely figured out.
"They've told us that they're willing to apply for a permit -- we just haven't gotten an application."
AWA Goodhue did not return calls for comment.