IMPORTANT NEWS: The public comment period for Rocky Forge has ended. Apex must now produce a document containing all of the comments and their responses. When that document becomes available, we will post it on our site. Click here to view the application documents provided by Apex to the DEQ.
Impacts on Local Fauna
In the vicinity of the proposed Rocky Forge project, there are four species classified as endangered by both federal and state governments, two species classified as endangered by the state government, and more than thirty Tier I and Tier II species of greatest conservation need.
According to Mr. Craig Koppie with the Chesapeake Bay Field Office of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, direct threats to the eastern golden eagle population in Canada and the eastern United States include incidental capture (leghold traps), shooting, poisoning, environmental contaminants (lead/mercury) and collision with tower structures. The demands for industrial-scale wind energy facilities along the higher elevations of mountainous regions in the eastern United States will likely exacerbate declines in the eastern golden eagle population. Please see the letter from the American Bird Conservancy addressing these concerns.
Wind-project siting is another factor. Many wind projects, including Rocky Forge, are constructed in the middle of important migratory routes and are surrounded by prime raptor habitat. As shown on the American Bird Conservancy 10 worst sited industrial wind facilities, the Laurel Mountain wind facility in West Virginia (located in the the same mountain range as the proposed Rocky Forge site), it was the site of one of the largest single songbird mortality events ever recorded in North America. In 2011, nearly 500 birds representing at least 30 species—including many Blackpoll Warblers and a number of Connecticut Warblers—were killed within a few hours when colliding at night under foggy conditions with lighted energy-storage units and communication towers near the turbines.
Also of interest is that Apex is currently pursuing another wind project in Niagara County, NY near the town of Somerset. This site is also listed by the American Bird Conservancy on the same page as the Laurel Mountain wind facility with the following statement:
“This proposed location on the southern shore of Lake Ontario boasts one of the greatest bird migrations in North America. Up to 71 turbines are planned for an area along the south shore of Lake Ontario. These 570-foot-tall turbines will extend 4.5 miles inland from the lake along a 12-mile stretch. Vast numbers of songbirds and raptors concentrate within six miles of the shoreline during spring and fall of each year. This area also has pockets of key habitat for sensitive grassland birds, which could be displaced by the wind turbines. Federally protected Bald Eagles from a nearby wildlife refuge are also at risk.
FWS has expressed serious concern about this project, warning the developer that this is an area of extremely high avian use. However, the developer appears to be going ahead with its plans, conducting its own studies, disputing previous work done by other researchers, and ignoring the concerns of local residents.“
Impacts on Ecosystem Integrity
The land on which the project will be sited has been ranked by the Virginia Department of Conservation and Natural Resources as “Ecological Core 1 – Highest Integrity Score.” This ranking reflects the key positive role played by the site in regards to ecosystem services such as wildlife and plant habitat, biodiversity conservation, open space, recreation, water resources protection, erosion control, sediment retention, protection from storm and flood damage, crop pollination, and carbon sequestration.
The Buffalo Creek Purgatory Mountain Special Project Area is one of the few remaining intact rural east-west connections between the Allegheny and Blue Ridge Mountains. This undeveloped corridor provides critical habitat connectivity and safe passage between the ridge systems. The Buffalo Creek Corridor is recognized by the Nature Conservancy as a biodiversity hot spot. The Rocky Forge Utility Wind Turbine project would bisect and destruct this Special Project Area Corridor.
Impacts to Water Quality
The proposal for the Rocky Forge project includes the construction of a five-acre operations and
maintenance facility; the clearing, grading, and blasting of 11 miles of roads; and the clearing, grading and blasting necessary for 25 turbine sites. This land disturbance activity, which will be conducted on steep, mountainous land, has the potential to cause excessive sedimentation in streams that are currently high quality waters. These streams are part of the James River basin which discharges into the Chesapeake Bay.
The proposed site is underlain by karst geology, which is a fragile system characterized by water-soluble rock such as limestone and features such as cave networks and sinkholes. The proposed project would violate the VA Wildlife Action Plan 2015 for Roanoke Valley – Allegheny Planning Region priority to protect karst geology. The clearing, grading, and blasting required for construction would likely result in altered hydrology and degraded water quality.