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No Ostrander wind farm because access road bad for turtles

Bravo to the Environmental Review Tribunal for standing up for endangered species.  On July 3, after a 40-day hearing, the ERT revoked Gilead Power’s renewable energy approval (REA) to develop a wind farm on 324 hectares of Crown land in Prince Edward County’s Ostrander Point. But not because there was anything harmful about the turbines.See our earlier blog for a brief overview of the issues.

Turbines not harmful

In Alliance to protect PE County v Director MOE, the Environmental Review Tribunal again found that opponents of the project had failed to prove their claims about alleged harm from the wind turbines.  In particular, the Alliance to Protect Prince Edward County again failed to show that wind turbines cause adverse health effects to humans.

There was also no proof that the turbines would cause unacceptable harm to wildlife, including birds and bats. The ERT found that Prince Edward County Field Naturalists (PECFN) failed to prove that the turbines would cause serious and irreversible harm to birds or to their habitat, or to bats or Monarch butterflies. Nor did the PECFN show that removal of alvar vegetation (i.e., located on open areas with thin soil covering over limestone, which provides habitat for these vulnerable species) for turbine construction would cause serious and irreversible harm to the alvar ecosystem.

Road is harmful

However, the road that would lead to the turbines was another matter entirely. On a very small budget, the PECFN successfully proved that the road would cause serious and irreversible harm to the Blanding’s turtle, a threatened species in Ontario. The approximately 5.4 km of roadway, around 6 metres wide, would open the area to increased vehicle traffic, predators and poachers, significantly threatening the slow-moving turtles.  The ERT ruled that this danger could not be effectively mitigated by the conditions set out in the REA.

The REA was therefore revoked.

Congratulations to the Prince Edward County Field Naturalists for protecting the Blanding’s turtles. We are strong supporters of renewable energy, but that doesn’t mean that renewable energy projects belong everywhere, especially at the cost of endangered species. There are places that roads, and other developments, just do not belong. This was the right decision.

By Dianne Saxe and Jackie Campbell

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