Wildlife: The Butcher’s Bill

Our Bluff Lands Host a Rich and Varied Wildlife

"No Effective Means Exists to Reduce the Risk of Avian Collision With Turbine Blades."

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) paints a bleak picture of the impacts to wildlife should Southern Illinois Wind, LLC gain a special use permit to install their Wind Energy Generation System along 15,000 acres of Monroe County land.

The consultation report repeatedly notes the special nature of the nature of Monroe County, as in the case of the above-quoted section on avain mortality risk, the report also notes: "The most common recommendation (to reduce risk to birds) is to avoid siting turbines near areas where birds concentrate. There are few such areas in Illinois, but the bluff forests of Monroe County are among them.”

Direct collision with the turbine blades causes most bird deaths.

The kill rate for bats will greatly exceed that of birds, as IDNR notes: “Utility-scale wind turbines in the 1.5/1.6 MW class in Central Illinois, when operated normally throughout the year, kill an average of 15 bats per year. Because turbines in the 4.2 MW class begin operations at lower wind speeds (3.0 meters per second) and have larger rotor diameters, they can be expected to kill higher numbers of bats unless measures are taken to reduce bat mortality.” Using even the low figure from smaller turbines, simple math shows that dozens, even hundreds of bats will be killed each year; the turbines proposed and the fact that our area currently hosts numerous year-round and migratory species means bat mortality is likely to be great.

Bats most frequently die from asphyxiation when their lungs explode due to waves of air pressure differentials in the whirls and wakes of turning turbine blades.

Consider the Illinois Cave Amphipod (Gammarus achrondytes), or ICA, known locally as “the little shrimpy.” This tiny, fairy-like translucent dweller of cave streams floats, lives and endures only in Monroe County. Most definitely NOT charismatic mega-fauna, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service listed this invertebrate species as endangered in 1998.

The installation and operation of wind turbines would adversely impact the species, perhaps even driving it to extinction, as IDNR noted in their consultation on the wind energy generation systems effects. Before dismissing the ICA as a “whatever,” as Mr. Koppeis did during the August 2018 meeting hosted by Monroe County Commissioners, decision makers must consider – with a better sense of humility – George Burns’ lines in the 1977 film “Oh God” that “you try making a mackerel” before dismissing the awesome power of creation. The power of de-creation – of extinction – is just as awesome. Is this to be ceded to an industrial developer on our lands?

Karst: Living Waters Hosting Unique Fauna

Rainwater, snowmelt, any surface water landing on our karstified lands quickly flows below the surface and enters the groundwater. Since our area's thin and highly erosive soils offer little filtration of surface water, dangers of pollution to groundwater are high.

That nature of karst encompasses a unique biology, and that, too, is subject to multiple adverse effects should the wind energy conversion system be approved. The waters that flow underground are living waters sustaining unusual, globally-rare, and, even, globally-singular life forms. Much of the groundwater in our karst-sinkhole plain is classified as Class III groundwater. Such “Special Resource Groundwater is…demonstrably unique… or…vital for a particularly sensitive ecological system…or…groundwater that contributes to a dedicated nature preserve…” (Ill. Admin. Code 620.230). Class III groundwater is to be held to the same standards as Class I drinking water.

In our area, large areas are declared Class III groundwater and also are Illinois Natural Areas Inventory sites. Class III groundwater sites in the karst-sinkhole plain largely conform to the groundwater recharge basins of known cave systems and generally extend well beyond and away from cave entrances. Recharge areas often encompass thousands of acres; for example the groundwater recharge area for the Fogelpole Cave System consists of about 4,300 acres. Surface water falling anywhere on those 4,300 acres works it way into and through the karst terrain and feeds into the sinkholes and every void, crack, and crevice in the erosive soil and honeycombed bedrock and enters the cave’s streams, discharging via springs into Horse Creek and then the Kaskaskia and Mississippi Rivers.

The proposed wind energy generation system poses special risks for animal species that dwell within cave systems and depend on the flow of water through the recharge basins. Additional pollution, vibration from turbine operations (refracted and reflected through voids and each vibratory effect multiplied by the number of turbines), increased sedimentation, and changes in the underground cave and conduit structures all pose risk.

More than 200 species of animals rely on Monroe County caves and Monroe County Class III groundwater areas, including more than 40 invertebrate species classed as globally rare; species completely new to science as well as species previously not found in our state are added with each renewed inventory investigation (Lewis, J., et. al., 2003; Taylor, et. al., 2016).

The Far-Ranging Ill-Wind of a Factory

The IDNR consultation report notes risks to essentially all of our area's rich fauna, to our nature preserves, land and water reserves, recreational areas, and the many Illinois Natural Areas Inventory sites. Ours is indeed a natural resource rich area.

Consider the potential harmful effects on our area’s rich herpetofauna, particularly snake populations. The dangers to these life forms will occur during both construction and operational phases, and include increased opportunity for persecution, vehicle crushing, damage to hibernation sites, and the stress of constant vibration within the ground. Turbine-generated seismic vibrations will travel as far as nine miles through the earth. And, all terrestrial life -- plants and animals -- in the area will be subject to the strobe-light effects of shadow flicker the moving shadows cast by the turning turbine blades.

IDNR made a series of recommendations for county decision-makers beyond their first recommendation for an alternate site for the wind energy generation system. These recommendations are offered to reduce, not eliminate risk. Risks from this project remain high – even if all measures are followed – and the report is salted with phrases such as “distance may be inadequate to protect these areas… the applicant cannot avoid the taking of this species…no effective avoidance measures are known…document the level of mortality experienced.” The damage to the environment, the death of wildlife, the potential of extirpation and extinction is high.

Additional references:

Lewis, Julian J., Philip Moss, Diane Tecic, and Matthew E. Nelson, 2003. A conservation focused inventory of subterranean invertebrates of the southwest Illinois Karst. Journal of Cave and Karst Studies, v. 65, n. 1, p. 9-21.

Taylor, Steven J., Pen DauBach, Carl DauBach, and Aaron Addison, 2016. Paul Wightman Subterranean Nature Preserve 2016 Report to Illinois Department of Natural Resources, Office of Resource Conservation, Scientific Permit annual report.

Photo work:

Indiana Bat photo courtesy Steven J. Taylor.

Illinois Cave Amphipod photo courtesy Frank J. Wilhelm.

Consider, finally, our own environment. Monroe County is rich in resources: our agricultural lands, our forests, our rolling sinkhole-dotted landscape, all the places where we make our living and live our making. We enjoy a vast and varied landscape of bluff palisades rising over the Mississippi floodplain, forested acres stretching behind the colorful hill prairies, and the knowledge of subterranean life mysteries sustained within the living waters of the karst beneath our feet.

Our rural area is not and should not become an industrial zone. This proposed wind energy generation system carries a costly butcher’s bill.

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