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  Nebraska Wind Energy and Wildlife Project

Wind Energy & Wildlife Tools

Overview

dickcissel. usfws image

Dickcissel. USFWS image.

 

For inquiries regarding proposed projects, questions about the environmental review process, and requests for environmental reviews, please contact:

Michelle Koch, Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, 2200 N. 33rd St. Lincoln, NE 68503
michelle.koch@nebraska.gov, (402) 471-5438.

Martha Carlisle, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 203 W. 2nd St. Grand Island, NE 68801
martha_carlisle@fws.gov, (308) 382-6468, extension 19.

 

For questions about wind and wildlife research and interactions, the Nebraska Wind and Wildlife Working Group, and Guidelines for Wind and Wildlife Resource Management in Nebraska, please contact:

Caroline Jezierski, Nebraska Cooperative Fish & Wildlife Research Unit, School of Natural Resources, University of Nebraska - Lincoln
windwildlife@unl.edu, (402) 472-8188.

Consultation Process

Development projects are reviewed by the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission (NGPC) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) with the purpose of ensuring projects do not adversely impact at-risk species or their habitats.

Send the following information to Michelle Koch (NGPC, 2200 N. 33rd St. Lincoln, NE 68503) and Martha Carlisle (USFWS, 203 W. 2nd St. Grand Island, NE 68801) for an environmental review:

  • Map of project location including project footprint.
  • Project description (entire project and component needing a state permit).

Review facts:

  • Projects are reviewed in the order they are received.
  • Approximate turn-around time is 30 days.
  • There is no expedited option.

Nebraska endangered and threatened species resources:

Pronghorn Antelope

Pronghorn Antelope. Photo by Joseph Fontaine.

 

Navigating the Wildlife Consultation Process: Wind Energy in Nebraska

Developed in cooperation with the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service with the purpose of providing basic information on the wildlife consultation process for parties interested in wind energy development in Nebraska.

Navigating Wildlife Consultation Process
Navigating Wildlife Consultation Process 2

 

For inquiries regarding proposed projects, questions about the environmental review process, and requests for environmental reviews, please contact:

Michelle Koch, Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, 2200 N. 33rd St. Lincoln, NE 68503
michelle.koch@nebraska.gov, (402) 471-5438.

Martha Carlisle, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 203 W. 2nd St. Grand Island, NE 68801
martha_carlisle@fws.gov, (308) 382-6468, extension 19.

Wind Energy and Nebraska's Wildlife Map

The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, in collaboration with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and other resource professionals, developed the map below to depict the relative sensitivity of Nebraska's species of concern to wind energy development. On the lower left corner of the map, the color legend show that the areas in the map that are off-white or tan are relatively less sensitive to wind energy development; whereas, areas that are depicted in pink and red may be highly sensitive to wind energy development.

The map is based on 14 species including 10 bird species, three bat species, and one terrestrial mammal. For each species or important migratory stop over for birds, expert knowledge and species occurrence data was used to determine areas of concern. Portions of these areas were further ranked as relatively more/less important to the species.

A detailed description of the map design process is below the map image.

This map is one of the decision support tools that is available for wind energy developers in the state of Nebraska.

Map: Wind Energy and Nebraska's Wildlife

Source: Nebraska Game and Parks Commission (http://outdoornebraska.ne.gov/wildlife/pdfs/wildlifewind.pdf).

 

Map Design Process

This map was designed to aid in planning for wind energy development by identifying areas of the state that are considered relatively more sensitive or less sensitive to such development, with respect to selected species of concern. This map is not designed to evaluate wind farm siting at specific locations. Even in “low sensitivity” areas shown on the map, there will be specific locations where siting of wind power infrastructure can negatively impact significant biological resources (e.g. remnant tallgrass prairie, listed plant species, etc.). Proposed wind farms will need to have a detailed, site-specific environmental evaluation and we recommend coordination with Nebraska Game and Parks Commission and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service staff.

The map is based on the following species or groups of species: bald eagle, 3 species of bats, bighorn sheep, ferruginous hawk, golden eagle, greater prairie-chicken, interior least tern, long-billed curlew, mountain plover, piping plover, sharp-tailed grouse, and whooping crane. Important migratory stopover sites for birds are also included. For each species or migratory stopover site, areas of concern were delineated based on expert knowledge and species occurrence data. For some species, portions of their areas were ranked as relatively more/less important.

Species were selected for inclusion in the map, and were assigned relative weights, based on several factors. Factors considered were: status with respect to the state and federal endangered species acts, degree of imperilment, susceptibility to direct damage by turbine blades, and susceptibility to loss of available habitat through avoidance of areas with wind towers. For example, stopover sites for the federally endangered whooping crane are very highly weighted. This species is rare; approximately 300 whooping cranes survive (as of December 2011) in the Central Flyway population, the only selfsustaining population in the world. Direct effects (e.g., potential turbine and related power line collisions) and indirect effects of wind energy development (e.g., reduced availability of nightly roost areas during migration due to avoidance of prime wetlands in the vicinity of turbines) could impact the survival of the species.

There are a number of at-risk species for which damage can be minimized through siting of individual towers and other infrastructure within a wind farm location, and these species were not included in the map. For example, plant species of concern have restricted distributions and are relatively immobile. Therefore, within the area selected for a given wind farm, direct damage to an at-risk plant may be minimized by placing turbines away from the plant’s population.

The Biologically Unique Landscapes (BULs) were delineated by the Nebraska Natural Legacy Project (Nebraska’s State Wildlife Action Plan, http://outdoornebraska.ne.gov/wildlife/programs/legacy/), based on known occurrences of at-risk species and high quality examples of natural communities, embedded in a relatively intact landscape. These areas represent the best opportunities to conserve the full array of Nebraska’s flora and fauna. These landscapes are the focus of significant conservation effort among a variety of conservation agencies and organizations in the state. One of the conservation goals is to reduce habitat fragmentation in these BULs and thus infrastructure development in these landscapes should be carefully evaluated.

This draft map was developed by an informal working group at the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission. As new information becomes available on species’ distributions or susceptibility to wind power development, the map will be updated. For further information on wind energy and Nebraska’s wildlife, please see Guidelines for Wind Energy and Wildlife Resource Management in Nebraska, http://outdoornebraska.ne.gov/wildlife/windwildlife.asp.

Last updated 30 December 2011.

Guidelines for Wind Energy and Wildlife Resource Management in Nebraska

 

Guidelines for Wind Energy and Wildlife Resource Management in Nebraska were developed by the Nebraska Wind and Wildlife Working Group.

The guidelines are non-regulatory statewide recommendations designed to help developers assess and minimize potential environmental impacts that could result from development of wind energy facilities. However, not all recommendations will be applicable to all wind energydevelopment projects, which are reviewed and discussed on a project-by-project basis.

Additionally, site-specific recommendations may be made that are not included in this document. These guidelines do notsupersede site-specific recommendations provided by the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission (NGPC) or the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) during the environmental review process.

As a living document and will be updated when new information for recommendations becomes available.

Please contact Caroline Jezierski, the Nebraska Wind Energy and Wildlife Project Coordinator, at windwildlife@unl.edu if you have any questions.

Guidelines for wind energy and wildilfe included:

  • Introduction to Wind and Wildlife
  • Pre-construction Assessments
  • Practices to Avoid and Minimize Impacts to WIldlife
  • Post-construction Surveys and Operational Monitoring
  • Mitigation for Permanent Habitat Impacts
  • Research Needs
  • Other Considerations
  • Related Links
  • Literature Cited

The guidelines were updated in November 2013.

NE guidelines

Avian Assessment Guidance for Wind Energy Facilities

An avian assessment is a key component for evaluating the risk of impacts of wind energy facilities on Nebraska’s birds.

Nebraska’s Avian Assessment Guidance for Wind Energy Facilities provides information and technical guidance to assist wind energy project proponents with conducting an avian assessment that meets the standards and expectations developed by staff of the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission (NGPC) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Nebraska Field Office (USFWS). 

Included in the Avian Assessment Guidance document:

  • Suggested timeline for pre- and post- construction avian surveys
  • Whooping Crane Desktop Stopover Risk Assessment
  • Mountain Plover Survey
  • Breeding Bird Survey
  • Nesting Raptor Survey
  • Prairie Grouse Survey

For each survey listed, recommendations for survey design and reporting are given, but it is highly recommended to work with NGPC and USFWS prior to beginning surveys and during the survey process.  Following these guidelines is voluntary, but recommended.

Burrowing owls. Photo by Joseph Fontaine.

Burrowing owls. Photo by Joseph Fontaine.

 

For inquiries regarding proposed projects, questions about the environmental review process, and requests for environmental reviews, please contact:

Michelle Koch, Environmental Analyst Supervisor, NGPC
michelle.koch@nebraska.gov, (402) 471-5438

Martha Carlisle, Fish and Wildlife Biologist, USFWS
martha_carlisle@fws.gov, (308) 382-6468, extension 17

For technical questions regarding avian surveys, to have avian survey protocols reviewed, or to submit comments or suggestions about this document, please contact:

Joel Jorgensen, Nongame Bird Program Manager, NGPC
joel.jorgensen@nebraska.gov, (402) 471-5440

Waterfowl in flight. Photo by Joseph Fontaine.

Waterfowl in flight. Photo by Joseph Fontaine.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Land-Based Wind Energy Guidelines

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Guidelines (USFWS) were developed through collaboration with the Wind Turbine Guidelines Federal Advisory Committee whose members provided recommendations about responsible development of wind energy and effective measures to avoid and minimize impacts to wildlife and their habitats.

The final version of The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Land-Based Wind Energy Guidelines was released on March 23, 2012. For a summary of the Guidelines, check out the guidelines fact sheet.

The Guidelines provide a structured, scientific process for addressing wildlife conservation concerns at all stages of land-based wind energy development. Although the Guidelines leave the decisions up to the developer, the USFWS retains the authority to evaluate whether developer efforts to mitigate impacts are sufficient, to determine significance, and to refer for persecution any unlawful take that it believes to be reasonably related to lack of incorporation of Service recommendations or insufficient adherence with the Guidelines.

The Guidelines use a "tiered approach" for assessing potential adverse effects to species of concern and their habitats. The first three tiers are for the pre-construction stage; the last two are for post-construction. The tiered approach provides the opportunity for evaluation and decision-making at each stage, enabling a developer to abandon or proceed with project development, or to collect additional information if required.

The five tiers are summarized as:

  • Tier 1 - Preliminary site evaluation (landscape-scale screening of possible project sites)
  • Tier 2 - Site characterization (broad characterization of one or more potential project sites)
  • Tier 3 - Field studies to document site wildlife and habitat and predict project impacts
  • Tier 4 - Post-construction studies to estimate impacts
  • Tier 5 - Other post-construction studies and research

The most important thing a developer can do is to consult with the USFWS as early as possible in the development of a wind energy project. The USFWS is committed to providing timely responses. Service Field Offices should typically respond to requests by a wind energy developer for information and consultation on proposed site locations (Tiers 1 and 2), pre- and post-construction study designs (Tiers 3 and 4) and proposed mitigation (Tier 3) within 60 calendar days.

Table 1 of the Guidelines, Suggested Communications Protocol (below), is divided into the roles of the wind energy project developer or operator and the USFWS for each of the Tiers.

USFWS Suggested Communications Protocol

Adherence to the Guidelines is voluntary and does not relieve any individual, company, agency of the responsibility to comply with laws and regulations.

 

The information on this website was taken from the Guidelines.

 

More information:

http://www.fws.gov/windenergy/- U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Wind Energy Development Information.

http://www.fws.gov/nebraskaes/Wind%20Power%20Development%20in%20Nebraska.html- U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Wind Power Development in Nebraska.

USFWS Eagle Conservation Plan Guidance: Module 1 - Land-based Wind Energy (v2)

The desire for an increase in domestic and renewable energies has resulted in the development of specific guidance to help make wind energy facilities compatible with eagle conservation and the laws and regulations that protect eagles.

The Eagle Conservation Plan Guidance document provides guidance for the siting, construction, and operation of wind energy facilities in a manner that conserves Bald and Golden eagles.

The plan defines a number of stages:

  • Stage 1: Initial site assessment
  • Stage 2: Site-specific surveys and assessments
  • Stage 3: Predicting eagle fatalities
  • Stage 4: Avoidance and minimization of risk using conservation measures and ACPs and compensatory mitigation(if required)
  • Permit Decision
  • Stage 5: Calibration and updating of the fatality prediction and continued risk assessment

 

Bald eagle. USFWS.

Bald Eagle. USFWS image.

 

 

More information:

http://www.fws.gov/migratorybirds/BaldAndGoldenEagleManagement.htm- U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Migratory Bird Program, Bald and Golden Eagle Management.

http://outdoornebraska.ne.gov/wildlife/wildlife_species_guide/eagles.asp- Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, Bald Eagle Species Page.

Public Conservation Lands

  • Nebraska has a wide variety of public conservation lands including state parks, state recreation areas, wildlife management areas, national forests, national wildlife refuges, and more.
     
  • Through the Open Fields and Waters Program, some private lands owners in Nebraska have granted access to their lands to the public for hunting and/or fishing.
     
  • These state, federal, partner, and private lands are important for wildlife conservation and public recreation.
     
  • Several counties have setbacks from these lands for wind turbines.
     
  • To determine if any of these lands are near your project location, you can use an online Public Access Atlas or download the Atlas into Google Earth.
Public Access Atlas
Wetland Mapper Example

 

Wetlands Mapper

Knowing whether wetlands are located in or around your wind energy project footprint and what type of wetlands they are is important.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service National Wetlands Inventory has an interactive Wetlands Mapper available for use.

Quick instructions for use:

  • Zoom into the area you are interested in until the different wetland types appear in the legend. If you are too far out, the legend will say Wetlands Mapping Status.
     
  • Click on a wetland for more information.
     
  • Decode the classification code.
     
  • Use the table below to correlate the wetland type provided by the wetland mapper and wetland type listed in county zoning ordinances.

 

 

 

Cowardin Water Regime (Wetland Mapper code) Stewart and Kantrud class                         (USFW code used by County Zoning)
Temporarily flooded (A) Class I- ephemeral ponds
Temporarily flooded (A) Class II- temporary ponds
Seasonally flooded (C) Class III- seasonal ponds and lakes
Semipermanently flooded (F) Class IV- semipermanent ponds and lakes
Permanently flooded (H) Class V- permanent ponds and lakes
NA Class VI- alkali ponds and lakes
NA Class VII- fen (alkaline bog) ponds

 

NWI Cowardin Codes can be found at: http://www.fws.gov/wetlands/Data/Wetland-Codes.html.

Cowardin Manual is available at: http://www.npwrc.usgs.gov/resource/wetlands/classwet/index.htm.

NOTE: The Cowardin System is the preferred wetland classification system in Nebraska.

 

 

Wetland Information

Nebraska's wetlands are diverse and include marshes, lakes, river and stream backwaters, oxbows, wet meadows, fens, forested swamps, and seep areas.

Some of Nebraska's wetlands only hold water following a rain and are dry other times of the year, while others hold water year-round.

Wetlands can:

  • Improve water quality;
  • Provide habitat for wildlife, fish, and unusual plants;
  • Reduce flooding;
  • Produce food and fiber;
  • Supply water;
  • Provide recreation and education opportunities.

More Information: GUIDE TO NEBRASKA’S WETLANDS and their conservation needs

Whooping Crane Operational Contingency Plan

A Whooping Crane Operational Contingency Plan "template" was developed based on previous contingency plans and input from the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission (NGPC) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS).

An operational contingency plan outlining what steps will be taken in the unlikely event a Whooping Crane is observed near a wind energy project can help reduce the potential for Whooping Crane-wind turbine collisions.

The Whooping Crane is state and federally listed as an endangered and is found in Nebraska during spring and fall migration.

Although Whooping Cranes migrate at elevations higher than 1,000 feet, they rely on frequent stopover sites to rest and feed.

It is in approach or departure to stopovers and during flights to feeding areas while at stopover locations that Whooping Cranes are more susceptible to collisions with structures, such as wind turbines.

Modifying wind turbine operations when Whooping Cranes are within five miles of a wind energy facility is judicious.

It is highly recommended that wind energy developers and operators develop an operational contingency plan for Whooping Cranes for wind energy development projects in Nebraska.

The "template" can be used to assist in plan development. Use of the "template" does not replace consultation with the NGPC and USFWS.

whooping crane operational contingency plan
Mitigation Guidelines

Mitigation Guidelines for Wind Energy Development in Nebraska

The Mitigation Guidelines for Wind Energy Development in Nebraska were developed to standardize the mitigation process. Wind energy developers will be provided a better idea of what mitigation, if any, will likely be recommended for wind energy facilities developed in different parts of the state. Once a project location is selected, the mitigation ratios established in the docu-ment can help developers estimate the cost of mitigation for a given project.

There are some places in the state where no amount of minimization measures or mitigation would appropriately offset impacts to listed species; completely avoiding development in these highly sensitive areas is the only way to prevent impacting these species.

The Mitigation Guidelines for Wind Energy Development in Nebraska is one in a series of statewide, non-regulatory guidance documents. It does not replace coordination or consultation with the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission (NGPC) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS).

The document is currently in working draft format. All comments submitted to windwildlife@unl.edu in the next six months will be compiled. Updates will be made in April 2015.

Nebraska Mitigation Worksheet Example

ainsworth

Fatality Estimator User's Guide (USGS)

Good estimates of fatality are challenging because the relationship between the number of observed carcasses and the number of animals that were killed is not direct. USGS research statistician Manuela Huso and co-authors published new software and a user’s guide designed to provide accurate and unbiased estimates of wildlife fatality at wind facilities.

The fatality-estimator software uses carcass counts and detection-rate information provided by the user. More importantly, the software provides measures of uncertainty in these estimates.

The estimates are critical to predicting potential fatality prior to construction, developing techniques to reduce fatalities, and assessing cumulative effects on wildlife populations.

A different set of statistical tools is needed to evaluate fatality of rare or endangered species at wind facilities, and the USGS is currently working to develop these.

This software tool to evaluate wildlife fatalities at wind-power facilities is available for free at: http://pubs.usgs.gov/ds/729/.

A presentation of the fatality estimator was given during the Land-Based Wind Energy Guidelines Tier 4 Post-Construction Studies and Reporting webinar offered by the USFWS. A recording of the webinar, transcript, and copy of the presentation are available at: http://www.fws.gov/windenergy/wind_training/wind_training.html.

Avian Protection Plan (APP) Guidelines

The Edison Electric Institute's Avian Power Line Interaction Committee (APLIC) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) jointly prepared the Avian Protection Plan (APP) Guidelines.

The voluntary principles presented in the document can be used to develop an APP specific to the needs of a utility or wind energy developer.

Developing an APP is recommended in the Guidelines for Wind Energy and Wildlife Resource Management to help identify and minimize the risks to migratory and resident birds.