Big Island wind farm allowed ‘incidental take’ of 3 endangered species

  • Pakini Nui Wind Farm operator Tawhiri Power LLC’s request for incidental take of three endangered species, including the Hawaiian petrel, of which a chick is pictured, has been been approved by state and federal officials. Photo courtesy Andre Raine/Kaua’i Endangered Seabird Recovery Project via USFWS

  • The three endangered species covered by Tawhiri Power’s request are the Hawaiian hoary bat (left), the Hawaiian petrel, and the Hawaiian goose or nene. (Photos courtesy/USGS/Andre Raine/Laura Ruminski)

  • Pakini Nui Wind Farm operator Tawhiri Power LLC’s request for incidental take of three endangered species has been been approved by state and federal officials. The wind farm located near South Point produces 20.5 MW via 14 turbine generators. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)

  • Pakini Nui Wind Farm operator Tawhiri Power LLC’s request for incidental take of three endangered species, including the Hawaiian goose or nene, pictured, has been been approved by state and federal officials. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)

KAILUA-KONA — Pakini Nui Wind Farm operator Tawhiri Power LLC’s request for incidental take of three endangered species has been approved by state and federal officials.

In exchange, the Ka‘u wind energy facility operator will implement a habitat conservation plan that includes a variety of measures to reduce the likelihood of take as well as off-site mitigation effort benefiting the Hawaiian hoary bat (ope‘ape‘a), Hawaiian goose (nene) and Hawaiian petrel (ua‘u).

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The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Friday announced the publication of a Record of Decision to issue the incidental take permit to the South Point wind farm operator. The permit allows for the incidental take of an estimated 26 hoary bats, three petrels and three nene over 10 years.

Pakini Nui was one of four wind energy projects that applied for the federal permit. The others were Kaheawa Wind Power II and Auwahi Wind projects on Maui, and Kawailoa Wind Power project on Oahu.

The 10-year permit issued to Tawhiri Power LLC covers the remaining operation life of the project, which is less than eight years, as well as the decommissioning stage. Pakini Nui has been in operation since April 2007, producing 20.5MW via 14 turbine generators, and has recorded only three fatalities involving hoary bats, the first in 2013.

Among the measures to reduce take being implemented are year-round low wind speed curtailment during sunset and sunrise, lighting direction and reduction, removing any standing water that may attract the three species, a 25-mph speed limit and avoiding use of barbed wire.

To mitigate the potential take of the endangered species at its 111-acre site off Kamaoa Road, the wind farm operator and agency agreed to three off-site efforts via a Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP).

The first requires restoration activities on at least 1,200 acres of degraded, lowland mesic-wet ohia forest for the Hawaiian hoary bat, Lasiurus cinereus semotus. That effort will take place in the Kahuku Unit of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, according to the Record of Decision.

Pakini Nui will also fund the construction of a 7-acre fenced enclosure to provide Hawaiian goose, Branta sandvicensis, breeding habitat. The pen would be located in Piihonua, according to the federal document.

The third mitigation will come by maintaining 5 miles of fencing surrounding 600 acres of Hawaiian petrel, Pterodroma sandwichensis, habitat within Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

The service said it issued the Record of Decision following a 30-day period during which the issuance of each permit was evaluated independently. The final Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement that was used to evaluate the decisions was published Aug. 2 incorporating public comments and suggestions collected during a 30-day scoping period, a 45-day public comment period, and six public meetings.

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“The Service is committed to protecting endangered species such as the Hawaiian hoary bat, Hawaiian goose and Hawaiian petrel,” the agency said in the Friday press release. “Under Section 10 of the Endangered Species Act, HCPs are voluntary agreements between the Service and a landowner, private company or non-federal agency that ensure harmful effects to threatened and endangered species are avoided, minimized and mitigated.”

View the Record of Decision in the Federal Register at https://www.federalregister.gov/d/2019-20410.

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