- Associated Press - Sunday, December 4, 2016

PRATT, Kan. (AP) - A Kansas farmer has filed a federal lawsuit to stop a new wind farm from operating out of concern for the endangered whooping crane.

Edwin Petrowsky of Pratt County filed the lawsuit last month seeking injunctions against NextEra Energy Resources, whose Ninnescah Wind Farm is scheduled to start operating next week, The Hutchinson News reported (https://j.mp/2g88fJT ).

Petrowsky contends the wind farm is located in the bird’s flyway. At last count, there were an estimated 329 wild cranes in the flock that migrates between Canada and Texas.

Parts of the wind farm, which will generate 200 megawatts of electricity that Westar Energy is under a 20-year contract to buy, are within 35 to 40 miles of the Quivira National Wildlife Refuge and Cheyenne Bottoms - both designated as critical habitat for the whooping crane. The Salt Plains National Wildlife Refuge, another designated habitat, is also nearby.

“Whooping cranes have been recently documented to use the farmland in Pratt County for feeding while roosting at Critical Habitat areas,” Petrowsky states in the lawsuit.

The American Bird Conservancy also lists the Ninnescah project as one of the 10 most dangerous wind projects in the nation for birds and one of the worst for potential mortality of endangered species.

NextEra spokesman Steve Stengel says the company has worked with state and federal authorities and that the turbines’ placement took the birds’ migratory patterns into account.

“Whooping cranes generally fly higher than the heights of the turbines,” Stengel said. “But, in working with the agencies, we have agreed to ongoing bird monitoring at the site.”

Petrowsky said his concern is with birds taking off and landing in the area for feeding. The tallest flying bird in North America, the whooping crane takes long distances to reach flying altitude.

Petrowsky also contends the company has failed to obtain an “incidental taking permit” that would allow the incidental killing of some birds.

“Technically, until they get all these permits they cannot put up the wind farm,” he said.

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Information from: The Hutchinson (Kan.) News, https://www.hutchnews.com

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