Louisiana's coast is the busiest in the hemisphere when it comes to bird migration. Virtually all the eastern neotropical migrant landbird species in the United States and numerous species from the western United States leave the tropical coasts from Yucatan and South America following the Mississippi Flyway to our coast. There are concerns in the environmental community that wind turbines ("Winds of Change," Feb. 23) could potentially be catastrophic for bird populations, if measures are not taken to reduce migratory bird mortality. In addition to their flying patterns, we know that birds will try to land to rest on anything they see on the Gulf of Mexico: boats, oil rigs and most likely on wind turbines.
In addition, many other species of birds live on or migrate through our coast, and the endangered peregrine falcon uses and hunts on the oil rigs.
We, as environmentalists, are great supporters of clean renewable energies like wind, but in the case of placing turbines off our coast we feel that it is crucial that the following steps should be taken:
1. An environmental impact statement is prepared that takes into consideration all the factors that make our coast so unique, with emphasis on neotropical birds and peregrine falcons.
2. Start with very few turbines strategically located.
3. Closely monitor these initial sites, especially during peak times of bird migration and during unfavorable weather conditions. Science should dictate the length of the study.
4. In the case that no major bird mortality is detected, a slow increase in the number of turbines should be allowed with additional monitoring.
5. As a condition of permitting for all wind turbine developments, parties should agree to the above monitoring and to implementing all measures available to reduce bird mortality. There must be an understanding that if steps to reduce bird mortality are not taken and the number of deaths is high, the permits will be revoked.
With the above considerations in mind, let this chapter go on record as calling for the Louisiana EPA, DOE, DNR, Mineral Management Service, the Army Corps of Engineers and other governmental bodies responsible for preparing environmental impact statements and for eventually permitting offshore wind energy development to ensure that an environmental impact statement, focusing on potential impact of wind turbines on bird migrations through Louisiana, is prepared and that the findings are thoroughly considered before permitting offshore wind energy development in Louisiana.