Wind Concerns Ontario is a province-wide advocacy organization whose mission is to provide information on the potential impact of industrial-scale wind power generation on the economy, human health, and the natural environment.
Wolfe Island a killing field for birds, White Pines high-risk for wildlife experts testify
More stunning testimony yesterday at the White Pines appeal as an avian behavior expert spoke on reported bird fatalities at Wolfe Island, a few kilometres away from both Ostrander Point and the White Pines project areas.
Report on Environmental Review Tribunal Hearing on White Pines Wind Project
On Day 15 three experts testified at the Environmental Review Tribunal (ERT) that the White Pines wind project will cause serious and irreversible harm to birds and bats. All had concerns with the project location on a migratory path on Lake Ontario’s shoreline.
Dr. Michael Hutchins, Director of the American Bird Conservancy’s Bird Smart Wind Energy Campaign, was qualified as a biologist with specialization in animal behaviour and with expertise in the impact of wind energy projects on birds and bats. Hutchins told the ERT that one function of the Bird Smart Campaign is to educate decision-makers so turbines are properly sited. White Pines is in a high-risk location. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recommends three-mile setbacks from the Great Lakes.
Hutchins cited a recent U.S. study showing significant displacement of breeding grassland birds in mid-western states after turbine construction. White Pines will displace protected Bobolink, Eastern Meadowlark, and Eastern Whip-poor-will, and the impact could easily result in local extirpation.
Bill Evans has researched the impact of wind projects on birds and bats for 20 years. Evans was qualified as an expert in avian acoustic monitoring and nocturnal bird migration. He said that a number of species in Ontario, including the Purple Martin, have been in long-term decline, but Stantec did no surveys of Purple Martins during late summer when large numbers gather to roost. Evans noted that Purple Martin collision fatalities are increasing at Ontario wind facilities and made up 6.09% of all bird fatalities in 2014, higher than in 2012.
Dr. Shawn Smallwood was qualified as an ecologist with expertise in avian wildlife behaviour and conservation. In addition to 70 peer-reviewed publications Smallwood has done research at the Altamont Pass Wind Resource Area (WRA), a California wind project notorious for its high raptor mortality.
Smallwood told the ERT that impact monitoring at Wolfe Island indicates the highest avian fatality rates in North America other than at Altamont Pass WRA. Based on methods commonly used across the rest of North America, Smallwood estimates that Wolfe Island kills 21.9 birds per turbine per year. This is nearly twice the number reported by Stantec using searches only within a 50-foot radius, less than half of standard practice. Smallwood considers Wolfe Island one of the most dangerous wind projects on the American continent.
Smallwood predicts similar or higher fatality rates at the White Pines project because the peninsula is targeted by migrating birds as a stopover site and because the project is surrounded by wetlands and woodlands intensively used by birds. Moreover, many threatened and endangered species occur at the site. Stantec surveys for White Pines foster a high level of uncertainty because 19 hours of field work is so minimal that it’s impossible to know much about the large project area, and no surveys were done for migratory bats.
Smallwood recommends that serious and irreversible harm be assessed from a biological perspective, not from population analyses. Fatalities cause harm not only to the individuals killed but also to mates, dependent young, and social connections. Serious and irreversible harm should not be based only on body counts.
The ERT resumes Thursday, December 3, 10 a.m., at the Prince Edward Community Centre, 375 Main St., Picton.
This report from the Alliance to Protect Prince Edward County (APPEC), the appellant in the appeal of the White Pines wind power project approval, is just stunning: the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry staffer in charge of issuing permits was completely unaware that the power plant site was an important location for migratory birds and home to at-risk species. In other words, she just took the wind developer at their word, and did not investigate further. No oversight on this process at all, is the only conclusion one can come to.
Report on Environmental Review Tribunal Hearing on White Pines Wind Project
On Day Fourteen the Environmental Review Tribunal (ERT) of the White Pines wind project heard the testimony of Kathleen Pitt and Dr. Brock Fenton.
Ms. Pitt, summoned by APPEC and qualified by the Tribunal as “a biologist,” has a B.A. in Environmental and Resource Studies and is a manager with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forests (MNRF). She was responsible chiefly for assessing the Species-at-Risk report for White Pines, recommending Endangered Species Act (ESA) permits for the bobolink, eastern meadowlark, and whip-poor-will, and deciding not to recommend a permit for the Blanding’s turtle. She explained that ESA, or “overall benefit,” permits are issued when it is possible to compensate for harm through other activities like research or habitat restoration. Permits are not issued when avoidance and mitigation measures are considered sufficient.
Under examination by APPEC counsel Eric Gillespie, Pitt showed she was slightly familiar with the nearby locations of the Prince Edward Point National Wildlife Area, Point Petre Provincial Wildlife Area, and South Shore Important Bird Area (SSIBA), and was not at all familiar with the Prince Edward Point ANSI (Area of Natural and Scientific Interest) or the Miller Family Nature Reserve. She also admitted that she did not know the SSIBA has the highest concentration of migratory birds in eastern Ontario, has the highest concentration of migratory raptors and saw-whet owls, has high bat migration, and is a significant stopover site for migrating birds. Nor did she know that diversity of habitat is best for migrating birds, undisturbed sites are preferred, and migrating sites are unique in exposing ascending and descending birds to wind turbines. Consequently, perhaps, she did not agree that “the South Shore is a funnel for migration.”
For Blanding’s turtles, Pitt never consulted MNRF herpetology expert Joe Crowley. She said she did not know if the entire South shore was their territory but conceded that Ostrander Point turtles could move offsite. Though she had not read the entire ERT decision on Ostrander Point, she disagreed that it was necessary to exclude turbines. She felt that standard setbacks of 120m from wetlands as well as other avoidance and mitigation measures would provide protection.
Brock Fenton, Ph.D., a professor emeritus at Western University, was qualified as an “expert in bat biology.” He said it was well established that operating wind turbines kill bats. The mortality can be significant because bats have a low reproductive rate (one per female per year) and 60 percent of young perish in the first year. The little brown bat is especially vulnerable due to an estimated 90-percent population drop since 2009 from White Nose Syndrome. However, considering uncertainty about the size of bat populations, Dr. Fenton said that all species are a “grave cause for concern.”
In cross-examination Dr. Fenton disagreed with the condition in the White Pines Renewable Energy Approval that mitigation is necessary only if bat deaths total 10 per turbine per year. He said that even one dead bat should trigger a shutdown because it is possible to use acoustic monitoring for bats and to turn off turbines when they are present.
The ERT resumes Tuesday, December 1, 10 a.m., at the Essroc Centre, Wellington.
Writing in yesterday’s National Post and for Postmedia, Michael Den Tandt puts the climate change discussion into perspective and in particular, has some advice for the new federal government on “clean” energy:
The Liberals will also need to take pains to avoid the multi-billion-dollar waste and anti-democratic outrages of Ontario’s Green Energy Act, which foisted inefficient, hugely expensive and environmentally harmful wind turbines on rural communities that in many cases did and do not want them.
Actually harm the environment they are supposed to be saving—that’s the lesson to be learned from Ontario about wind turbines. Only Ontario hasn’t learned it, as the government contracts for 300 more megawatts of wind in 2015 (well, turns out we have to wait now until 2016 to learn which communities are on the chopping block), and another 200 megawatts in 2016.
Worse, Big Wind has convinced the Ontario government that the 3-megawatt machines are actually “quieter” and so, new regulations for turbine noise, to be released shortly, will have zero mention of low-frequency noise or infrasound, because Big Wind says it isn’t a problem. Meanwhile, anecdotal reports out of communities where the 3-megawatt behemoths have begun operating show that people are getting sicker, faster.
Analysts such as Tom Adams, Scott Luft and Parker Gallant repeatedly offer data that shows wind power is not only high impact on the environment it is for very little benefit, and is costing Ontario in terms of competitiveness, and standard of living.
Ontario has a lot to learn, not the least of which is how to protect its citizens.