Eagles have ‘imminent domain’

Published 10:25 am Thursday, May 19, 2016

Pair of bald eagles shut down turbines

The eagles have landed, and a few turbines have shut down.

A pair of bald eagles recently built a nest about 150 yards away from turbine 17 of the Pleasant Valley Wind Farm near Waltham.

The pair of eagles has been living with an eaglet next to the intersection of Minnesota State Highway 56 and Mower County Road 1.

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Another nest is near turbine 1, which is about 1.2 miles north and 1 mile west of Waltham.

Xcel Energy, the company that owns the 100-turbine Pleasant Valley Wind Farm completed last year, has taken steps to prevent the animals from being injured. Once they were discovered, the three turbines closest to the nest were shut down.

A Turbine from the Pleasant Valley Wind Farm near Sargeant. Herald file photo

A Turbine from the Pleasant Valley Wind Farm near Sargeant. Herald file photo

“Xcel has a clear stance to be good stewards of the nature around us,” Xcel’s Manager of Water and Remediation Pat Flowers said. “The eagles have imminent domain.”

Xcel worked with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services to make sure they took the right steps, which the wildlife service confirmed they did.

Why the eagles decided to nest near turbines has Xcel Energy officials, Department of Natural Resources and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials perplexed.

“We’re mystified,” Flowers said. “There’s no large water bodies in the area. A few small streams are there, but not close by.”

They are speculating the eagle population is blossoming and prime habitat, normally along rivers, is over occupied, so eagles are starting to move into second tier property. It’s a not a preferred location, but doable, Flowers said.

He added the eagles are being monitored weekly to see if they fly around other turbines. It that happens, other turbines can be turned off.

Once the eaglet leaves the nest, Xcel can consider relocating the nest to another area or just take it down and hope the pair rebuilds a nest in another area away from the turbines.

“We will continue to work with them to figure out a proactive way to let them not nest there, so they aren’t on top of the turbines,” Flowers said.

Pleasant Valley has about 100 turbines and generates electricity to the power grid for the Midwest independent system, which serves mostly Minnesota, eastern parts of North and South Dakota and parts of Wisconsin.

Flowers said the three turbines that are off would not affect distribution that much because other facilities can take on the extra load.