Birders warily watching how federal decision impacts shorebirds

Written by Ben Allen, General Assignment Reporter | Apr 17, 2015 1:24 PM

Photo by Wikicommons user Villarosevi

The Susquehanna River.

(Harrisburg) -- A recent federal decision lets an energy company raise the water level along part of the Susquehanna River, but some are concerned about the impact on shorebirds.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission recently signed off on the deal with Brookfield Renewable Energy, owner of the Safe Harbor Dam in Lancaster County.

Some birders, like Jerry Brook, are wary of the decision saying it could cover mud flats where migrating birds often stop.

He says even though Brookfield has to leave mud flats exposed, he fears they'll be fragmented.

"Shorebirds don't like to be backed up against woods. You're always going to find them out, usually in exposed areas. One thing is they don't want a predator sneaking out and grabbing them," says Brook.

"You could have 25 areas the size of a baseball diamond that would be far less attractive that if you had one or two areas that created the same mass," he adds.

Brook has been monitoring the area near the Safe Harbor dam for years.

He says when the firm tried the change a couple years ago, shorebird numbers plummeted.

Brookfield declined an interview, but in a statement, says it's committed to the environment and the community.

Brook has appealed Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's decision. 

The full statement from Brookfield is below:

As approved by FERC in its Order from March 16, 2015, we will be temporarily increasing the level of Lake Clarke from April 15 to October 15 to the same levels as 2012 and 2013.

At that time, we will also be conducting annual spring mudflat surveys, which in the past have demonstrated that the total area of mudflats remained above the minimum required by our license.

This approval by FERC did take into consideration habitat preservation, and as with operational changes at all hydropower facilities, the safety of local communities.

Brookfield Renewable is committed to understanding, minimizing, and managing the potential environmental impacts associated with our operations and activities and strive to be an active partner of our surrounding communities.

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