I have lived on Monhegan Island for 30 years. Monhegan is a small island (1 mile x .75 mile) located 13 miles off of the coast of Maine, and is a stop-off for many species of birds traveling the Eastern/Atlantic Flyway route north in the spring and south in the fall. For many northbound species, the island is the first land they see in the spring after flying over large expanses of water, from the Caribbean, South or Central America, or southern states. They arrive on the island in huge flocks in May to rest and eat for several days before continuing their journey farther north to breed. They come back to the island in the fall to eat as much as they can before heading back south over the water. Hundreds of thousands of birds migrate through Monhegan seasonally, and every year, people come from all over the world to witness it.
I am writing today as a concerned citizen and as a fellow bird lover/bird watcher, to make you aware of an impending situation that I fear could have catastrophic implications for all bird populations that use the Atlantic Flyway and migrate up the Eastern seaboard of the U.S. Many people are unaware of plans to install wind-turbines in the waters only 2½ miles southwest of Monhegan. The consortium behind the turbines has changed an original plan from being a “small test site” to the current plan of putting two of the world’s largest wind turbines in the water, with a plan to eventually add 18 more in future years. The turbines will be two times the height of the Statue of Liberty. It would undoubtedly have a tragic impact on the migrating birds traveling the Atlantic Flyway, and would kill masses of them as they instinctively fly toward the island to land in the spring/fall. Additionally, the numbers of dead birds would not be countable as the bodies would be quickly washed away by the sea.
Monhegan residents have hired a lawyer and are getting many donations to attempt to have this huge project moved to a new, more appropriate location, but we are fighting an uphill battle.
As sad as I am for this island community, too small in population (only 60 year-round residents) to stand up to the Goliath that is upon us, and the changes it will mean for those who live here, I am frightened at the potential this project and those huge turbines would have to harm the birds that use the Eastern/Atlantic Flyway, and the capacity for the machines to wipe out whole flocks of tired, hungry, and instinct-driven birds.
I am reaching out to you because the potential impact of this project is more far reaching than it may appear. Some of the birds that fly up the Eastern seaboard and land on Monhegan are species that are rarely found in Maine—they are simply on their way to their breeding territory, and as I mentioned, this is the first or last piece of land they see after or before flying a long distance over water. Many bird clubs and photographers from across the U.S. and beyond come to witness the spring and fall migrations here. Monhegan is well known in many birding-watching circles as one of the best locations in the world to see birds of so many species and in such large numbers in such a small area. The birds are easily photographed especially during the spring migration, as they are so tired when they arrive here; it’s easy to get close to them.
The wind-turbine project is planned to begin as soon as possible, and I would encourage all bird clubs and nature groups, conservation organizations, national and international, and other concerned bird lovers to become informed of what is happening here, and the potential impact it will have on so many species. This project will affect bird populations from Mexico to Canada if construction begins so close to Monhegan Island. I am hoping there may be a way to protect them before that happens.
Any help, whether it be letters to political representatives or bird clubs sharing this information, would be appreciated. I am not opposed to wind power, but there are other locations where this project would better be suited for experimentation with sea-worthy wind turbines. Wind power is obviously a resource we need to explore, test, and develop, but there are countless other locations far from flyways where these tests of floating turbines can be conducted with much less risk to migrating birds. Our hope is that through education and advocacy, decision makers will decide to move the turbine project further away from the Atlantic Flyway. That’s all we’re asking.
For more information about the specifics of the turbine project and what islanders are doing to try to get the project moved to another location, please visit this link: https://www.facebook.com/ProtectMonhegan/?ref=page_internal – anyone on the committee would be more than happy to talk with you.
Thank you for your consideration and any help you can give,
Cynthia Charles, Monhegan, Maine
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