The Norman Transcript

September 3, 2013

Osage Nation battles construction of new wind farm

Associated Press
The Associated Press

PAWHUSKA — Construction on a wind farm in Osage County has been temporarily set back.

The Osage Nation is arguing that the farm could kill eagles that nest nearby, the Tulsa World reported Monday. Eagles are an important bird to the Osage culture.

Wind Capitol Group, a St. Louis-based energy organization, says construction of the 94 turbines will begin by the end of this year. Wind Capitol Group officials previously said they hoped to begin construction this summer.

The group says it is working closely with local officials on required authorizations and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on a voluntary eagle take permit, which would allow for up to three eagles to be killed each year by turbines with no penalty to the wind farm owners.

The Osage Nation, however, is now pushing for full archaeological research in the wind farm’s acreage, saying the area is some of the densest in all of Oklahoma for culturally significant tribal sites, such as camp sites and burials.

“We’re sitting and waiting on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to make a decision on whether they are going to enforce federal law ... and order an archaeology study, which they did but never brought the tribe in for consultation,” Osage Nation Assistant Chief Scott BigHorse said.

“Right now we feel like we’re guinea pigs. We are going to be the first tribe ever that’s going to have a wind farm receive an eagle-kill permit in their back yard.”

He said the fight against the wind farm would not involve court action until possibly after the agency issues the permit.

Jerry Thompson, the service’s chief of the Southwest Region Migratory Birds Permits office, is in charge of issuing the bald eagle kill permit.

He said an environmental impact study that addresses cultural issues will soon be sent to the Osage Nation and several other tribes that may be affected. The agency also plans to meet with representatives from the Osage Nation and Wind Capitol Group on Sept. 12.