CLAYTON — Indiana bats are holding up Horse Creek Wind Farm.
The proposed 62-turbine wind farm in Clayton, as well as the proposed 65-turbine St. Lawrence and 140-turbine Cape Vincent wind farms in Cape Vincent, may be affected by the thousands of Indiana bats that have died because of "white nose syndrome." The syndrome kills bats and leaves a white fungus around the bats' mouths.
William M. Moore, director of development for Iberdrola Renewables, said the company is waiting on Horse Creek while the impact of white nose syndrome on bats is understood. Indiana bats are on federal and state endangered species lists.
"The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has asked us to postpone the filing of our application for an 'incidental take permit,' given the possibility that the local population of Indiana bats may also be impacted by this syndrome," he wrote in an e-mail.
For any project in which migratory birds or federally listed species could die by accident, the service must issue an incidental take permit. While it is not clear what effect turbines have on bats, developers must be prepared for at least a few bat collision deaths.
Laury A. Zicari, deputy supervisor for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said the service sent letters to all three northern Jefferson County wind developers "strongly urging them to look at other places."
But, she said, the service isn't near the point of saying the developer couldn't install the project.
"Studies are needed to know the impacts," Ms. Zicari said. "We've provided comments on the proposal to date."
As part of the state environmental quality review and the federal permitting process, studies are done on the potential impacts of any development. As part of necessary permits, state and federal agencies may add requirements for lessening or paying for those impacts.
"We don't know the cause and effect of white nose syndrome," Ms. Zicari said. The service has begun studies on the bats, which now are out of hibernation.
Thousands of Indiana bats have died over the past two winters of white nose syndrome. The deaths have occurred in eight hibernation sites in New York and Vermont, including one in Jefferson County.
Iberdrola, which took over PPM Energy, sent the town of Clayton a letter indicating it is waiting on the project.
"We got correspondence from PPM that they asked to temporarily suspend their application," town Supervisor Justin A. Taylor said.
Planning Board Chairman Roland A. "Bud" Baril said the agreement between the developer and the town to suspend the application allows the developer and board to return to the same spot when the project is restarted.
"It saves us backing up all the way to square one," he said.
Cape Vincent Wind Farm and St. Lawrence Wind Farm also are within 20 miles of areas where Indiana bats roost or hibernate. Calls to St. Lawrence Wind Farm representatives were not returned.
But James H. Madden, project manager for the Cape Vincent project by BP Alternative Energy, said the company is proceeding as planned.
"We are pursuing the process," he said. "We will work with the Fish and Wildlife Service to identify further studies and mitigation measures."