Often times we talk about the Green Spectrum, particularly with respect to projects that are green in general, or appear to have no sustainability aspect, when, in actuality, all projects have a sustainability element. This time, weâ€™ll look at a project that is Green by Definition, but is scrutinized through a sustainability lens. And, it is a very,very interesting concept.
As part of the â€œSmart from the Startâ€ (that sounds like a good phrase for sustainability in projects, too) initiative by Secretary of Interior Salazar, there is a proposal for a 200 mile-wide wind energy corridor stretching from Canada to the Texas coast of the Gulf of Mexico.
While we donâ€™t know yet about the other sustainable aspects being considered, we do know, at this point, that the US Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) will write an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). â€œWind energy is crucial to our nationâ€™s future economic and environmental security. We will do our part to facilitate development of wind energy resources, while ensuring that they are sited and designed in ways that minimize and avoid negative impacts to fish and wildlife,â€ said Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe. â€œThis EIS process gives us an opportunity to evaluate impacts to dozens of imperiled species at a landscape level to ensure that wind energy development occurs in the right places in the right way.â€
The reasoning behind the EIS is that in order to accomplish the project, an Incidental Take Permit (ITP) needs to be granted. Section 9 of the Endangered Species Act and its implementing regulations â€œprohibit the take of animal species listed as endangered or threatened.â€ It doesn’t allow the harassment, harm, pursuit, hunting, shooting, wounding, trapping, capturing, or collecting or, an attempt to engage in those practices when it comes to endangered or threatened species. However, Under Section 10 of the Act, it allows for people to obtain an ITP as long as they are pursuing otherwise legal activities. The permittee is then provided â€œincidental takeâ€ authorization.
The applicant must submit a Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) containing the measures that it will take to minimize, avoid, or mitigate incidental take. The Service will then review the HCP and issue an EIS that considers the impacts. The Service will also identify â€œpotentially significant impacts on biological resources, land use, air quality, water quality, water resources, economics, and other environmental/historical resources that may occur directly or indirectly as a result of implementing the proposed action or any of the alternatives. Various strategies for avoiding, minimizing, and mitigating the impacts of incidental take will also be considered. Sounds like risk management to me!
â€œThe proposed Permit Area is defined as a 200-mile wide corridor determined by defining the center line of the whooping crane migration based on the database of confirmed whooping crane observations from the Cooperative Whooping Crane Tracking Program and buffering that line by 100 miles on either side. This corridor spans the Gulf Coast of Texas north to the Canadian border and encompasses such cities as Houston, TX; Oklahoma City, OK; Wichita, KS; Bismarck, ND; Grand Island, NE; and Aberdeen, SD. In addition, the permit area includes the current and a large part of the historic range of the lesser prairie-chicken which extends the covered area beyond the 200-mile wide whooping crane migration corridor to include parts of Kansas, Colorado, Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Texas.â€
â€œSpecies currently considered for inclusion under the permit include the following: the endangered whooping crane (Grus americana); endangered interior least tern (Sterna antillarum athalassos); endangered piping plover (Charadrius melodus); and lesser prairie-chicken (Tympanuchus pallidicinctus), a candidate species.â€
There are two important points here for a project manager. The first is that this will be one heck of a program, involving a huge amount of projects, wind energy projects including; the wind power generators themselves, transmission, distribution, support facilities, etc. Secondly, it involves looking at the project through a sustainability lens. In above case, a very narrow view because of regulatory issues (specifically the Endangered Species Act) one of the â€œdriversâ€ in our book. There will be more and more of these opportunities for the project manager who is not only aware of sustainability issues, vocabulary, and problems and drivers, but also uses that knowledge and considers greenality* when approaching any project.
* The degree to which an organization (project manager) has considered environmental (sustainable) factors that affect its projects during the entire project life cycle and beyond.