Amherst Island appeal resumes

Amherst Island is a favoured spot for owls, and other birds
Amherst Island is a favoured spot for owls, and other birds

Community alleges wind power project will harm environment and wildlife, and impact residents’ health

Kingston Whig-Standard, January 25, 2016

by Elliot Ferguson

STELLA — After more than a month-long hiatus, the Environmental Review Tribunal’s hearing into the Amherst Island wind energy project resumed Monday.

The tribunal began three days of hearings in Stella this week and included a tour of 16 points around the island.

Read the story here

Ostrander Point wind farm developer stuns appeal hearing Friday

On last hearing day, developer alleges bias and asks Tribunal panel to step down. Then the MOECC demands new criteria be used for the decision

January 16, 2016

The multi-year saga of the appeal of a wind power project approval at Ostrander Point on the South Shore of Prince Edward County continued yesterday in Toronto, at what was supposed to be a hearing of final oral submissions.

The day began slowly with the usual formalities.

Appellant lawyer Eric Gillespie said at the outset of the day that the purpose of the hearing was to review the proposed remedy to avoid killing endangered turtles. The developer needed to prove that the remedies will work, Gillespie said, and they have not.

Lawyer Chris Paliare said that the wind power project at Ostrander Point will be a costly experiment, with wildlife suffering as a result.

Then, counsel for the power developer Doug Hamilton stunned the audience and panel with his assertion that the panel was biased and should recuse itself. While both lawyers for the appellant and Intervenor objected, Chris Paliare said that this was the result of a “sinister plot” by the developer who saw that “things aren’t going their way.” It was preposterous to bring up such an unfounded and serious motion at this stage of the proceedings, Mr Paliare asserted.

Stunning tactics by lawyers for the developer, MOECC
Stunning tactics by lawyers for the developer, MOECC

Even more amazing was the introduction of the concept of “public interest” into the decision process, by Ministry of Environment and Climate Change lawyer Sylvia Davis. “It’s OK to kill turtles,” Ms Davis told the panel, if it’s for wind power because the project will reduce greenhouse gases and that is in the public interest.

“Are you saying that ‘public interest’ trumps everything?” asked panel chair Robert Wright.

“I’m not saying that,” Ms Davis answered, then said she didn’t have any further information.

Eric Gillespie said that in light of the issues now raised by the MOECC, he would be asking for an adjournment of the Amherst Island, White Pines, and Settlers Landing appeals until the issues were resolved.

Lawyers were directed by the panel to file final submissions by Wednesday January 20th.

Here is a report from the appellant, Prince Edward County Field Naturalists.

 

The drama continues

by Cheryl Anderson, Prince Edward County Field Naturalists

On Friday Jan 15 Heather Gibbs and Robert Wright of the Environmental Review Tribunal (ERT) panel, convened yet another day of hearings into the Prince Edward County Field Naturalists’ (PECFN) appeal of the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change (MOECC) Renewable Energy Approval (REA) of the Gilead Power Industrial Wind turbine project at Ostrander Point Crown Land Block.

This hearing was held to hear final oral submissions from Eric Gillespie, representing PECFN, Chris Paliare representing the South Shore Conservancy or SSC (intervenors supporting PECFN), Douglas Hamilton, representing Gilead Power and Sylvia Davis, representing MOECC.

This so-called re-hearing was brought about by the Court of Appeal decision last year which confirmed the original ERT decision, but sent the matter back to the ERT for consideration of Gilead’s proposed remedy to serious and irreversible harm to the Blanding’s Turtle — that is, to install gates on the turbine access roads. Arguments about this issue were heard throughout the late summer and fall and were remarkable for the admission from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) Blanding’s Turtle expert, Joe Crowley, admission that he had recommended against the project when it was first proposed due to the danger it would cause to the population of Blanding’s Turtles at the site.

The final submissions of the Gilead Power legal team included two issues that began the hearing. One was the assertion that the time for making any decision about the remedy to the project had expired. The other was that the panel, specifically Mr. Wright was biased and that as a result the panel should recuse itself. This assertion was based on the fact that after giving the decision on Ostrander, Mr Wright was on the panel for another appeal where the ruling quoted from the Ostrander decision. On that panel with him was the ERT vice chair Jerry DeMarco, spouse of Anne Bell, Ontario Nature’s director of Conservation and Education.

In contrast to the usual, Ms. Davis did not agree with Mr. Hamilton in these two matters. Eric Gillespie and Chris Paliare spoke, also disagreeing with Mr. Hamilton. The panel reserved their decision (they will let us know later what they have decided).

We then came to the main arguments for the day which were oral presentations which essentially set out again all the reasons that PECFN (Eric Gillespie) and SSC (Chris Paliare) had for denying the remedy. This evidence relied on and reiterated the information given by Dr. Fred Beaudry and Ms. Kari Gunson at the hearings in the fall. Arguments were presented against the position of the approval holder (Gilead) and the MOECC that gates on the roads would save the turtles from serious and irreversible harm.

After lunch Mr. Hamilton and Ms. Davis had their turns to respond to the arguments presented by PECFN and SSC. This was, as expected, a reiteration of the written material which was sent before Christmas. Both commented that by installing gates serious and irreversible harm to the Blanding’s Turtle will be reduced to merely ‘universal’ harm and therefore the project should be approved.

However, in her written submission Ms. Davis had introduced a new issue which she now emphasized. That is, the MOECC is asserting that it was acting in the public interest by approving the Gilead power project because it involves renewable energy. There ensued a “discussion” between Mr. Wright and Ms. Davis regarding the MOECC’s Statement of Environmental Values (SEV). Mr. Wright has required Ms. Davis (and all other legal representatives) to submit to the Tribunal by Wednesday January 20 the arguments she is using to support her contention that approving the Ostrander Point project satisfies (or doesn’t) the Statement of Environmental Values of the MOECC.

Eventually the Tribunal will issue a decision on the issue of timing and bias. The final decision on the remedy issue will follow.

For more information and for a link to help out with fundraising in this important legal action, please go to: http://savethesouthshore.org/overview-of-issues/#sthash.b2k6ItFm.dpbs

Wainfleet Council protests changes to Niagara wind power project without public consultation

Newer turbines proposed will actually increase sound power levels, Alderman says. “They’re walking all over us.”

Erie Media, January 10, 2016

Ald. Betty Konc has requested a letter to be drafted from the Township of Wainfleet and sent to the Ontario Minister of Energy and the Deputy Minister of Energy.

“They need to hear from the municipalities,” Ald. Konc said in a later interview. “We need to stand up and fight for ourselves.”

This action is in response to a letter that was submitted to Wainfleet Township council from Shiloh Berriman, Project Coordinator – FWRN LP and J.A. (Al) Leggett, Project Manager – Stantec Consulting Ltd. The letter was in reference to proposed changes to the Niagara Region Wind Farm Renewable energy project.

“They are asking to change the entire project,” Ald. Konc said in the Jan. 5th Wainfleet Township Council meeting. “The whole 77 turbines, they’re asking to be switched out from E101’s and E82’s from a height of 135m down to 124m.”

“That may sound like it’s a win, but, it really isn’t,” she said. “It does have to do with sound power levels.”

“The province has stated in their EPR registry that taller turbines are quieter,” she said. “Though that’s not true, but that’s what they believe.”

“So this if particular project is allowed to go forward with these changes, which are massive, they have not submitted documentation for these changes,” she said. “It this is what they wanted to do why didn’t they ask for that when they were going through the REA process (Renewable Energy Approvals: http://www.ontario.ca/page/renewable-energy-approvals ).”

“So when they put the 135’s down to 124, you are actually increasing the sound power levels which means that people who are going to be closest to these turbines and affected by them are going to be listening to over 40dB of sound power which is against their own rules,” she said.

“We need to stand up as a community and stop being run over by these people,” she said.

According to the article Noise Pollution: A Modern Plague from Medscape  by Lisa Goines, RN, Louis Hagler, MD, “It is known, for example, that continuous noise in excess of 30 dB disturbs sleep.”

The article goes on to say “Long-term psychosocial effects have been related to nocturnal noise. Noise annoyance during the night increases total noise annoyance for the following 24 hours. Particularly sensitive groups include the elderly, shift workers, persons vulnerable to physical or mental disorders, and those with sleep disorders.”

The article also draws this conclusion regarding low frequency sound and vibration: “Other factors that influence the problem of night-time noise include its occurrence in residential areas with low background noise levels and combinations of noise and vibration such as produced by trains or heavy trucks. Low frequency sound is more disturbing, even at very low sound pressure levels; these low frequency components appear to have a significant detrimental effect on health.”

According to an article in  Environmental Health Perspectives, Wind Turbines: A Different Breed of Noise?  by Nate Seltenrich, “Multiple recent studies, including one coauthored by Daniel Shepherd, senior lecturer at New Zealand’s Auckland University of Technology, have demonstrated that sleep interference gets worse the nearer residents are to turbines. ‘Sleep is absolutely vital for an organism,’ he says. ‘When we lose a night’s sleep, we become dysfunctional. The brain is an important organ, and if noise is disturbing its functioning, then that is a direct health effect.’”

According to this article “Wind turbines generate lower frequencies of sound than traffic. These lower frequencies tend to be judged as more annoying than higher frequencies and are more likely to travel through walls and windows. Infrasound, or sound frequency lower than 20 Hz—inaudible to the human ear—has been associated in some studies with symptoms including fatigue, sleeplessness, and irritability, as well as with changes to the physiology of the inner ear that have poorly understood implications.”

“Because I work so closely with Mothers against Wind Turbines and the West Lincoln Wind Action Group (wlwag), they notified probably about a month-and-a-half ago that the changes were being requested,” Ald. Betty Konc said in a later interview. “I just saw red when I saw this in our correspondence package because we’re one of the municipalities that are going to be affected by the proposed changes and we are one of the last to find out.”

“This is so typical of wind developers, they have been given ‘carte blanche’ to come in and walk all over the municipalities,” she said.

“When I saw this, I thought ‘Really you want to wait till the last minute to tell one of the three municipalities you are working in that you want these changes?,’” she said. “They aren’t little changes, they’re huge!”

“It’s a whole new project,” she said.

“What’s the motive behind the company wanting to change the turbines from 135m down to 124m? I don’t know, it’s probably cheaper to produce for them or something like that, we will probably never know,” she said. “They will also change the output level as well from 3 megawatt to 2.9, only .1 difference.”

“So they are changing the whole project, if this what they wanted to do, why didn’t they submit the paperwork in the original REA process?” she said.

“In my mind and in the minds of the Mothers against Wind Turbines and wlwag, this is a whole new project and it needs to go through the REA process and the current one needs to be null and void,” she said.

“According to the rules that are coming out for 2016 with regards to the next intake of projects this (if started as a new project) would not be allowed under the new rules this year, so they are trying to slide it in,” she said. “So they submitted their paperwork for these changes back in October but, still, we didn’t get the notice until Dec. 16.”

“Because of the way they’ve done this, there’s no real formal comment time,” she said. “With an REA, the public and the municipality get 60 days to comment on the project.”

“I agree with you (Ald. Konc),” Mayor April Jeffs said in the council meeting when drafting the letter was discussed. “It’s been verified and there are other people concerned, I think this is a good idea.”

At the conclusion of the issue it was voted unanimously that officially Wainfleet Township council will be drafting and sending a letter to the Ontario Minister of Energy, the Deputy Minister and the Region of Niagara (on the Mayor’s suggestion) and copies will be sent West Lincoln and Lincoln as they too will be affected by the proposed changes.

“We’re standing up and saying ‘Look this is a whole new project, they’re walking all over us and we don’t want to see this happen,’” Ald. Betty Konc said.

 

Final evidence presented in White Pines appeal

Blandings turtle: clearly at risk
Blandings turtle: clearly at risk

Report on Environmental Review Tribunal Hearing on White Pines Wind Project‏‎

December 15

On Day 21 the Environmental Review Tribunal (ERT) heard the last witness in the appeal of the White Pines wind project.

APPEC tried to call three Reply Witnesses: Dr. Shawn Smallwood, an expert in avian wildlife behaviour and conservation; Robert McEwen, P. Eng., a structural engineer; and Kari Gunson, a road ecologist. Mr. McEwen and Ms. Gunson were intended to respond to WPD’s witness Shawn Taylor, who had done a survey of municipal roads on the day before he testified. Eric Gillespie, counsel for APPEC, asked the Tribunal either to disallow the new evidence collected at the eleventh hour or to allow APPEC an opportunity to respond. Mr. Gillespie argued that each party should have an equal opportunity to reply to the full submission of the other. 

Both MOECC counsel Andrew Weretelnyck and WPD counsel Patrick Duffy objected to the admissibility of Mr. McEwen and Mrs. Gunson as Reply Witnesses. The Tribunal agreed with their submissions and found that of the three witnesses only Dr. Smallwood’s evidence was proper reply.

Dr. Smallwood told the ERT he disagreed with WPD witness Dr. Strickland that pre-construction bat surveys have no value. He directed the Tribunal to graphs showing a plausible correlation between pre-construction bat activity and post-construction bat mortality. He noted that when more data is added the more the relationship is strengthened. This suggests there is value in doing pre-construction surveys to estimate bat fatality rates.  

Dr. Smallwood also noted that avoidance is not the same as displacement. While avoidance on a large scale will equal displacement, it might just as well involve manoeuvres to evade turbine blades, wind turbines, or an entire wind project. Repeated avoidance that leads to habitat loss is displacement. 

Today was the last day for evidence. The ERT will next hear submissions of the parties as follows:

Appellant Written Submissions – January 5, 2016
Respondent Written Submissions – January 15
Reply Written Submissions – January 19
Oral Submissions – January 20 in Prince Edward County 

ERT co-chair Marcia Valiante noted that this schedule leaves insufficient time for the Tribunal to meet the regulatory six-month deadline. As a result the Tribunal found that stopping the clock on the proceedings is required. Following the oral submissions the ERT will adjourn for four weeks and issue a decision on February 19, 2016. 

 –Paula Peel

Alliance to Protect Prince Edward County

White Pines appeal schedule announced

The remaining dates for the White Pines appeal in Prince Edward County was announced at the hearing in Toronto yesterday, December 15.

  1. Final submission scheduled for January 5th.
  2. Responding submission scheduled for January 15th.
  3. Reply January 19th
  4. Oral submission January 20th
The Tribunal also decided to allow themselves additional time to write the decision.  They have adjourned the hearing to allow for an extension of the deadline from January 29 2016 to Feb. 19, 2016.
For more information on the power project and to donate to this legal action please go to the website for the Alliance to Protect Prince Edward County.

Google Earth good enough for research by White Pines environmental consultants

What? We don't show up on Google Earth? [Photo: Prince Edward Point Bird Observatory]
What? We don’t show up on Google Earth? [Photo: Prince Edward Point Bird Observatory]

Wind power developer wildlife consultant never visited Prince Edward County, used Google Earth to inspect the site, and dismisses “Important Bird Area” designation (that’s for bird-watchers, he says in testimony)

Report on Environmental Review Tribunal Hearing on White Pines Wind Project

December 11 

On Day 20 the Environmental Review Tribunal (ERT) on the White Pines wind project heard APPEC witness Rick James and an expert witness for developer WPD, Dr. Dale Strickland.

Mr. James, qualified previously as an acoustician, presented new evidence in reply to Denton Miller, witness for the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change (MOECC).  Following new ministry guidelines and omitting disallowed wind turbines T7 and T11, he calculated that 13 “points of receptions” (i.e., homes) would suffer noise above 40 dBA.

Both MOECC counsel Andrew Weretelnyck and WPD counsel James Wilson questioned Rick James on 40 dBA as a measure of serious harm.  James said the MOECC had set this compliance limit and the World Health Organization (WHO) had found health effects, specifically annoyance and sleep disturbance, start at 40 dBA.

In re-examination APPEC counsel Eric Gillespie confirmed with James that WHO had reported noise complaints during nighttime begin at 35 dBA.

Dale Strickland, Ph.D., founder and president of Western EcoSystems Technology, a Wyoming consulting firm with business and government clients, has published over 150 scientific papers and technical reports during a 40-year career.  The Tribunal qualified him as “a zoologist with expertise in ecological research and wildlife management, including assessing the impacts of wind turbines on wildlife.”

WPD counsel Patrick Duffy asked Dr. Strickland about the appropriate scientific measure for serious and irreversible harm.   He said it is based on the overall genetic and demographic status of a species’ population.

According to Dr. Strickland, the White Pines surveys of birds and bats are “adequate,” conform to established methods and published guidance, and are similar to those for other wind projects.  Bats would not be high in number without the presence of hibernacula.  Acoustical surveys are not necessary because they record bats at ground level and the results do not correlate with bat deaths at wind turbine rotor level.

Dr. Strickland also said the effects on habitat would be minimal.  Loss from access roads and other construction is relatively small, and displacement from habitat would not be significant because of the project size.

Regarding collisions, Dr. Strickland predicted 5-15 bird deaths annually per turbine, the same as at other North American sites.  He defended the Wolfe Island monitoring records, stating the mortality rates are reasonable for a searched radius of 50m, an area commonly used at other wind projects.  Considering the project location and size, he concluded that White Pines would not cause serious and irreversible harm to wildlife.

In cross-examination Eric Gillespie confirmed that Dr. Strickland had not visited the White Pines site but had based his opinions on WPD’s reports and on Google Earth images.  Although aware of Prince Edward Point National Wildlife Area and Point Petre Provincial Wildlife Area, he did not know their proximity to wind turbines.  However, he dismissed the “globally significant” South Shore Important Bird Area because the IBA designation reflects convenient public access and use of the site for bird-watching.

Dr. Strickland did not know of an “activity report” by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forests finding five threatened bird species and three bat species in the White Pines area.  He agreed with Mr. Gillespie that such information might have influenced his opinions.  Similarly, he conceded that if there had not been adequate surveys for karst, then one needed more information to estimate the bat population.  He also admitted that the cumulative effects of wind projects must be considered to determine local impacts on birds.

When asked by ERT co-chair Marcia Valiante about a proposed 31ha compensation property, Dr. Strickland said it would have little measurable effect on the populations of displaced bobolinks and eastern meadowlarks.

-by Henri Garand, APPEC

Ontario turbine setback A-OK with wind industry-paid physician

Report on Environmental Review Tribunal Hearing on White Pines Wind Project

December 8

 

On Day 19 the Environmental Review Tribunal (ERT) of the White Pines wind project heard the testimony of Dr. Robert McCunney, an expert witness for developer WPD.

Robert McCunney, MD, has a Boston clinical practice and is a research scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.   Funded by the Canadian and American Wind Energy Associations, he headed teams in both 2009 and 2014 that produced status reports such as the recent “Wind Turbines and Health: A Critical Review of the Scientific Literature.”   Though not licensed to practice medicine in Ontario, Dr. McCunney has testified on behalf of the wind industry at other ERT hearings.

The Tribunal qualified Dr. McCunney as “a medical doctor specializing in occupational and environmental medicine, with the particular implications of noise exposure.”

WPD counsel James Wilson asked Dr. McCunney to comment on wind turbine sounds.  He said that noise is characterized by loudness and pitch, low frequency is associated with vibrations, and infrasound is inaudible below 107 db(A).  The last feature also occurs in the natural environment (e.g., wind and waves) and in actions of the human body such as breathing.  Turbine infrasound cannot be distinguished beyond 300m.

Dr. McCunney’s 2014 literature review, based on 162 published papers, concluded that “(1) infrasound sound near wind turbines does not exceed audibility thresholds, (2) epidemiological studies have shown associations between living near wind turbines and annoyance, (3) infrasound and low-frequency sound do not present unique health risks, and (4) annoyance seems more strongly related to individual characteristics than noise from turbines.”   Nothing Dr. McCunney has read since publication changes his opinions.

In cross-examination, APPEC counsel Eric Gillespie established that Dr. McCunney has never treated anyone complaining of turbine-related symptoms or conducted any original field research. Though he lives near a wind turbine, his home is 1500m away.

Mr. Gillespie asked Dr. McCunney to confirm the findings in several studies cited in his literature review that turbine sounds annoyed 7-18 percent of nearby residents.  But Dr. McCunney said this is similar to other environmental noise.  Moreover, he does not accept the concept of “wind turbine syndrome,” in which a number of symptoms are associated with wind turbines and disappear in their absence.

Dr. McCunney was then asked to consider the 2015 Australian Senate inquiry, which received almost 500 worldwide submissions on wind turbine noise.  He said he had not read it, but he was critical of its reliance on a range of unverified reports rather strictly published studies.  He did accept, however, the finding that the “distinction between direct and indirect effects is not helpful.”

Finally, Mr. Gillespie asked at what distance from turbines complaints would cease.  Dr. McCunney expressed confidence in Ontario’s 550m minimum setbacks.

In re-examination WPD’s Wilson asked about sleep anxiety and deprivation, which can lead to serious medical conditions.  Dr. McCunney said no study shows a causal relation between these symptoms and wind turbines.   His 2014 literature review identifies “longitudinal assessments of health pre- and post-installation” and “enhanced measurement techniques to evaluate annoyance”—but not sleep problems—among “further areas of Inquiry.”

Henri Garand, APPEC

Amherst Island appeal begins: significant impact on birds

Amherst Island is a favoured spot for owls, and other birds
Amherst Island is a favoured spot for owls, and other birds

The Whig-Standard, December 7, 2015

BATH — The appeal of the approval of a controversial wind energy project on Amherst Island is underway.

The Association to Protect Amherst Island is appealing to the Environmental Review Tribunal the decision by the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change to approve Windlectric’s application to build 26 turbines on Amherst Island.

In late August, the provincial government approved the project subject to more than two dozen conditions.

The appeal began on Friday and is to include a series of hearings between then and Dec. 22.

The association has hired environmental lawyer and University of Toronto adjunct professor Eric Gillespie to represent it.

On Friday, the tribunal heard testimony from Tom Beaubiah from the Cataraqui Region Conservation Authority, who spoke about potential impact on Owl Woods, wintering raptors and avian habitat.

Beaubiah requested that if the appeal is rejected and the project goes ahead, that additional conditions be placed on it to further investigate wildlife areas, relocate turbines and include the conservation authority in post-construction monitoring.

Island resident Amy Caughey also provided comment about health and safety concerns related to locating industrial components of the project, including a cement plant, laydown area, transformer station, mobile fueling, a maintenance building and construction office close to the Amherst Island Public School.

Bill Evans testified on behalf of the Kingston Field Naturalists about the project’s potential impact on bobolinks, of which there are about 2,800 on the island.

The Amherst Island project would kill more than 32 bobolinks each year, casualties that, when combined with loss of breeding habitat, would seriously threaten the bird’s population in Ontario.

Among the experts still to be called upon to testify for the association are epidemiologist Carl Phillips and biologist Christina Davy, who are to be backed by experts in hydrology, hydrogeology, ecology and biology.

The appeal comes in the wake of Ontario auditor general Bonnie Lysyk’s annual report that showed deficiencies in the province’s electricity system that have cost taxpayers billions of dollars.

Lysyk’s report showed the long-range plans from the Ontario Power Authority have not been reviewed and approved by the Ontario Energy Board.

Between 2006 and 2014, the electricity portion of the hydro bills of residential and small-business consumers increased by 70 per cent, according to Lysyk’s report. Included in that cost are fees paid to power-generating companies over the market price that cost consumers $37 billion over that time period. Those fees are expected to increase to $133 billion between 2015 and 2032.

Between 2009 and 2014, Ontario’s average annual electricity surplus was equivalent to the power-generating capacity of Manitoba, and the Independent Electricity System Operator predicts the power-generating capability of Ontario will exceed the province’s demand by an amount equivalent to Nova Scotia’s power needs for about five years.

 

“Serious environmental impact if White Pines proceeds” : witness

Report on Environmental Review Tribunal Hearing on White Pines Wind Project

December 7

 

On Day 18 of the Environmental Review Tribunal (ERT), APPEC expert witness Dr. Daryl Cowell testified that there is substantial evidence of karst in the White Pines study area and that serious and irreversible impacts will occur if this project proceeds.   WPD witness Ronald Donaldson and Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (MOECC) witness Mark Phillips disputed this.

Dr. Cowell told the ERT that he has appeared as a karst expert witness before eight Ontario Municipal Board hearings, done work for municipalities across Ontario, and authored or co-authored hundreds of technical documents, including peer-reviewed papers.  He has spent 40 years studying karst, with the past 20 years focused on hazard assessment.  Dr. Cowell was qualified as a professional geoscientist with expertise in karst.

Dr. Cowell said that a major karst area runs through Black Creek Valley ANSI (Area of Natural and Scientific Interest).   Physical evidence of karst includes sinkholes and crevices (as identified earlier by area resident and presenter Doug Murphy), an artesian-like stream, year-round springs that go underground, dry wells, and extensive limestone pavements.  Turbines would be located in epikarst, the upper boundary of a karst system, close to the edge of the valley.  The access road to wind turbines T02 and T03 crosses Black Creek and proceeds through a zone of karst features including crevices one foot wide and ten feet deep.

However, none of WPD’s Renewable Energy Approval reports identified karst features, assessed potential impacts, or even surveyed water bodies except in September and October, known to be low-flow periods.

Dr. Cowell noted that mapping the watershed in a karst aquifer is extremely difficult when vertical and horizontal fractures make water flow unpredictable and boundaries are always in flux.  A storm water management plan is out of the question because it is impossible to determine the high water mark, a basic requirement for construction activities.

According to Dr. Cowell, blasting and trenching for 16 kilometres of new access roads, collector lines, and turbine bases will cause serious and irreversible harm to shallow karst areas.  Blasting and backfilling through the upper metre of bedrock will dam and divert flows resulting in permanent impacts to the surface water/groundwater regime.

WPD witness Ronald Donaldson was qualified by the Tribunal as a hydrologist.   His testimony focused on potential interference with the quality and quantity of the local water supply aquifer and groundwater.

Donaldson reviewed aerial photographs, maps and literature that show no conclusive evidence of karst in Prince Edward County.  He considers the Black Creek Valley a sub-glacial tunnel formed long ago by glacial melt-waters.  Though predicting impacts such as sediment in shallow water wells and wetlands, he said there are mitigations for the temporary effects as well as for sinkholes or fractures opened during construction.   Donaldson agreed with APPEC counsel Eric Gillespie, however, that alterations to the top three metres could impact wetlands.

Mr. Gillespie referred Donaldson to a 2013 study cited by Dr. Cowell, “Evaluating karst risk at wind power projects.”  While agreeing that karst evaluations should be done early, Donaldson said he was not qualified to speak to the study’s number one mitigation—to move the turbines.

Mark Phillips, of the MOECC, was qualified as a surface water specialist with expertise in identifying risks to and mitigation of surface waters.  Starting in October 2014, Phillips raised a number of issues about the lack of detail on project impacts on wetlands in WPD’s Construction Plan Report, the risk of impacts during construction on surface water, and the timing of surveys for water bodies.  However, WPD chose to rely on existing MOECC records rather than carry out additional field work. 

Nonetheless, Phillips considers that risks from erosion and sediment can be fully managed by the “mitigation toolbox” and the effects will be temporary.   He confirmed with Mr. Gillespie that he did not review the wetlands near turbines T27, T28, and T29 or, indeed, the Natural Heritage Assessment on wetlands.

-Paula Peel, APPEC