Category Archives: Impact on: Natural environment
Impact of wind turbines on the natural environment
[Here is a media release from PECFN, the Appellant regarding the natural environment in the Ostrander Point ERT appeal.]
ERT continues — PECFN continues fund raising; Celebrates award
For immediate release
Contact: Cheryl Anderson, 613-471-1096
May 14, 2013
After two months of hearings on the environmental effects of wind turbines construction at Ostrander Point, the emphasis now is shifting to effects on human health. “It is amazing to me”, says PECFN president Myrna Wood, “how many people have stayed with us through these past two months”. Day after day people would turn out to sit in the uncomfortable chairs at Demorestville Town Hall. Some of the legal wrangling was almost unintelligible to the layman, but the testimony of our expert witnesses was riveting. Expert after expert testified about potential damage to the sensitive alvar and wetlands, the danger to migrating birds, bats, butterflies and endangered species. Deficiencies in the proponent’s environmental impact statements were highlighted and MNR officials were exposed as poorly qualified for the requirements of their positions.
The final summing up of the PECFN case will be heard on June 7. Until that time the small local group will concentrate on raising funds. “We are so grateful to the people of Prince Edward County who have supported us to the tune of more than $50,000” Woods commented. “Unfortunately, our legal bills are over twice that amount and so we need to find other people as committed to saving Ostrander Point as we are.”
In other news this week, PECFN is honored to be notified as recipients of the W.E. Saunders Natural History Award from Ontario Nature. In the past the awards have never been announced in advance of the Ontario Nature AGM; however,an exception has been allowed for PECFN due to the importance of the issue and the need for additional funding. PECFN was nominated by Kingston Field Naturalists and Quinte Field Naturalists – two groups that have joined in the fight to save Ostrander Point. The nomination citation reads in part:
“Appealing against the Ostrander Point approval is a David versus Goliath task! The difficulty is immense, but the significance is enormous. – If wind turbines cannot be stopped at Ostrander Point in the heart of an IBA, they are unlikely to be stopped on environmental grounds anywhere in Ontario.
“The leadership qualities demonstrated by the PECFN are amazing. In the face of a giant, this dedicated group analyzes the issues and formulates well organized plans to move forward, always communicating well, and recruiting many skilled people to support its cause. PECFN’s campaign has educated many people about the value of caring for our natural environment. They are truly environmental heroes!”
PECFN is grateful for this recognition and pledges to continue the fight – after all, David won!
[Donations to PECFN can be made on the CCSAGE website -- see the right side of any page.]
It was one year ago today that I sent my first e-mail to a group to explain why I had suddenly become an outspoken advocate against “green” energy as the Ontario government is delivering it.
If you know me at all, you know that I am a person who holds strong opinions but generally doesn’t preach or lecture. All of that changed in the past few years as my way of life in the County came under siege from the threat of wind turbines. I started an e-mail campaign and have sent about an e-mail a week throughout the last year to this group.
Report on May 3rd ERT Hearing
by Henri Garand, Chair, APPEC
The Environmental Review Tribunal heard the testimony of Dr. Dale Strickland, another of Gilead Power’s expert witnesses on birds.
Qualifying of Dr. Strickland
Dr. Strickland holds a Ph.D. in Zoology. He was a head scientist with the state of Wyoming’s Fish and Game Department before becoming Senior Ecologist and CEO of Western Ecosystems, an environmental consulting firm with 85 full-time staff and 150 field technicians on contract. Since the mid-1990s he has worked on over 100 wind power projects, including a proposed 2000-MW project.
PECFN lawyer Eric Gillespie established that Dr. Strickland has not consulted on any Canadian projects.
Sam Rogers, a new (and third) Gilead Power lawyer, sought to qualify Dr. Strickland as an “expert on the impacts of wind farms on birds.” There were no objections, and Dr. Strickland was so qualified.
Examination of Dr. Strickland
When studying wind projects Dr. Strickland said he looks for a biologically significant impact on bird populations with respect to habitat loss, behavioral responses like displacement, and fatalities. His conclusions are that the Ostrander Point site is not large enough to support demographically viable breeding populations and that the project size would not affect populations through collision fatality. Considering cumulative effects, he said there would be no impact on bird populations from even the other wind projects planned in the region.
Dr. Strickland said the mandatory thresholds of 14 birds per turbine per year, with a total of 2 raptors for the project, were “extensive mitigations,” and the mitigations restricting the construction schedule and providing compensatory habitat were “excellent”. The project would not affect Henslow’s Sparrow, which was not likely to occur, or the Whip-poor-will because of mitigations for this species.
Comparing Ostrander Point with Wolfe Island, Dr. Strickland said that Stantec studies had detected lower numbers of birds, and the low passage rates for night migrating birds would result in a low impact on populations. Radar data does not indicate an “exceptional use” by birds, and passage rates are not as high as at some other wind projects. The Important Bird Area status is based on waterfowl, which are not susceptible to wind turbines.
Cross-examination of Dr. Strickland
Eric Gillespie questioned Dr. Strickland on the subject of bird populations and population variability analysis. Dr. Strickland said that as few as 50 breeding pairs are required for the gene pool of a species, and that 4,169 individuals generally constitute the demographic minimum. Population variability analysis examines species survival to the 100th generation (about 2-300 years for songbirds and perhaps 1000 years for Golden Eagles) and is used only for species with survival concerns or for game management. The approach for “non-consumptive use of wildlife” (like bird watching) is to mange habitat. If a recovery strategy is necessary for threatened and endangered species, the target is a demographic number that will sustain a population.
After a series of pressing questions Dr. Strickland conceded that “serious harm” would result if a population dropped below the required demographic number, but this would still not be “irreversible harm” because of possible mitigations. He said that population variability analysis considered all geographic areas in which a species carried on its life cycle, and it could not be limited to Ontario unless the species bred and overwintered exclusively in Ontario. Nor can variability analysis be calculated for birds on the endangered and threatened species list because the population figures are simply estimates.
Mr. Gillespie asked whether the turbine-caused death of a single Carolina Wren, a species with an estimated Ontario population of 4000, would be significant. Dr. Strickland said the population really depends on factors outside Canada. Mr. Gillespie asked whether the turbine-caused death of any single individual would be significant if it reduced the population below the level of demographic variability. Dr. Strickland declined to answer a hypothetical question.
Asked what it would take to reach irreversible harm, Dr. Strickland said it would be the point at which no human remediation is possible.
Mr. Gillespie asked whether the “serious” test is limited to population. Dr. Strickland said that if a nine-turbine project killed hundreds of birds, it would be a serious “situation,” but “it would not be serious harm because the populations are viable.”
Turning to mortality monitoring, Mr. Gillespie asked about differences in methodology and results. Dr. Strickland said that, regardless of methods, monitoring gives only an estimate of fatalities— it can’t determine the actual numbers. But the data is useful for comparative purposes. The same is true for bird surveys. Risk calculations, based on the data available, indicate a low probability for a Purple Martin or a Kirtland’s Warbler hitting a turbine blade at Ostrander Point.
ERT Panel Questions
Co-chair Robert Wright asked how large an area was required for a viable breeding population if Ostrander Point’s 324 ha are too small. Dr. Strickland said it would depend on the habitat and a species’ breeding characteristics, but it could be 100,000 km2.
Report on May 2nd ERT Hearing
by Paula Peel, APPEC
The Environmental Review Tribunal heard the cross-examination of Gilead witness Dr. Paul Kerlinger on birds and the complete testimony of Gilead witness Dr. Fraser Shilling on access roads.
Cross-examination of Dr. Kerlinger
PECFN lawyer Eric Gillespie asked Dr. Kerlinger whether Ostrander Point is his first project within an alvar and an Important Bird Area (IBA). He said it was the first alvar and, to the best of his knowledge, possibly the first IBA. As a former director of research for the National Audubon Society, he was asked about Audubon policy on siting wind power projects, specifically within IBAs and migratory bird corridors. He said he was unfamiliar with the details.
Dr. Kerlinger was referred to a feasibility study (2007) in which he had recommended exclusion from IBAs and setbacks of 400 m from Lake Erie. He said he had been working for Green Energy Ohio and was trying to find a compromise due to the existing three-mile setbacks from lakeshore.
Mr. Gillespie reminded Dr. Kerlinger of his obligation as an expert witness to provide information fully and of his testimony on Golden Eagle fatalities. Why had he not reported the 75-100 annual deaths in California wind projects? He said the eagles had not been killed in eastern North America. Mr. Gillespie drew his attention to Stantec observations at Ostrander Point of Golden Eagles flying at turbine height. Dr. Kerlinger said the California deaths occurred in a year-round feeding area, not a migratory route.
Asked to compare mortality data at other wind projects, Dr. Kerlinger argued that while small projects may kill a disproportionately large number of birds, they kill a small absolute number. With respect to Wolfe Island, he conceded that taller turbines may increase mortality rates slightly for night migrants.
Qualifying of Dr. Shilling
Dr. Fraser Shilling received his Ph.D. in biological sciences from the University of Southern California. Dr. Shilling is co-director of the road ecology centre at UC Davis, where he researches impacts of roads and movement of animals and habitat fragmentation.
Dr. Shilling confirmed for Eric Gillespie that this is the first time he has done work in Ontario and in regard to alvar habitat and the Great Lakes. He has one work experience with Blanding’s Turtles.
Doug Hamilton, Gilead Power’s lawyer, sought to qualify Dr. Shilling as an expert in assessing the impacts of roads on wildlife and ecosystems. There were no objections, and he was qualified by the ERT panel.
Examination of Dr. Shilling
Dr. Shilling does not believe the roads at Ostrander Point will have any significant fragmentary effect. However, roads and traffic can disrupt habitat intactness and therefore require mitigation, such as the proposed signage and reduced speed limits.
Although Blanding’s Turtles bask on roads, they are most likely to use water for thermal regulation between June and September. On his April 30th site visit Dr. Shilling observed marshland along the shoreline and areas adjacent to the site as well as wetlands.
Dr. Schilling noted that there is some risk in developing the site. However, the proposed mitigations, if followed, are sufficient and will reduce the risk.
Eric Gillespie asked Dr. Shilling how many Ontario turtles are threatened or endangered, and then clarified that 7 of Ontario’s 8 species fall into these categories.
Mr. Gillespie noted Dr. Shilling’s testimony that turtles will be comfortable using roads at the site. Would this expose them to more predation? Dr. Shilling said there is insufficient information on road usage. He agreed that Blanding’s Turtles will use roads for nesting and their nesting behaviours can extend over a month.
Mr. Gillespie referred Dr. Shilling to a 2007 article in which as the lead author he had concluded that evidence on the effectiveness of mitigation remains sparse. Dr. Shilling said that this is still true. However, there was success when speed limits were reduced and enforced at an Australian national park. In the current situation, a speed limit can be advised and enforced.
Dr. Shilling agreed that this project will increase the road network and that habitat loss is a major concern in addition to road mortality. He said that the adjacent property acquired by the developer is suitable for Blanding’s Turtle, but he did not know whether it was currently used.
Mr. Gillespie referred to a study Dr. Shilling had relied on that stated Blanding’s Turtles use water, when warm enough, for thermoregulation. He noted that one of the features of alvar is that it dries out in summer. Dr. Shilling agreed that the study was done in Algonquin Park, but this only means that these sites differ.
Dr. Shilling agreed that serious and irreversible harm would occur if there are 3 Blanding’s Turtles at the site and 1 is killed. Mr. Gillespie suggested that there is no way to draw the conclusion of serious and irreversible harm when the number of Blanding’s Turtles at the site is unknown. Dr. Shilling agreed that “serious and irreversible” depends on populations and that the population at the site and within 10k of the site is not known. However, Dr. Shilling said that “3” is not realistic: The Natural Heritage Assessment cites 6 or 7 observations of Blanding’s Turtles.
Re-examination of Dr. Shilling
Dr. Shilling said speed bumps are effective at controlling speed; drivers reduce speed out of concern for damage to their vehicle.
Dr. Shilling said that according to the Algonquin Park study the Blanding’s Turtle shows a preference for being in water. He added that this would be assuming water is present for them.
ERT Panel Questions
Co-chair Robert Wright asked Dr. Schilling whether there is any aspect of connectivity that we should be concerned about. Dr. Shilling replied that functional separation has to do with the way the peripheral roads could be used.
Report on May 1st ERT Hearing
by Henri Garand, Chair, APPEC
The Environmental Review Tribunal heard the cross-examination of Dr. Doug Larsen on alvars and the initial testimony of Dr. Paul Kerlinger on birds.
Cross-Examination of Dr. Larsen
PECFN lawyer Eric Gillespie established that Dr. Larsen’s opinions are based on the Alvar Management Plan (AMP), Dr. Catling’s comments, and a 5-hour visit to Ostrander Point. Dr. Larsen conceded that he had not seen everything, but he saw successional growth trees and woody plants, and had found signs of significant disturbance, perhaps a series of events (though not fire), 40-90 years ago.
Dr. Larsen argued that the AMP would improve conditions on site, though it was not possible to return to a pre-construction state. He acknowledged that the roads and turbine bases would destroy 5.2 ha of alvar, while the proposed recovery of alvar from cultural meadow would provide only 4.2 ha if the recovery process worked. In general, he supported the AMP except the restoration targets and the 4-year monitoring period. “Good restoration projects,” he said, “monitor for 10-25 years.”
Dr. Larsen was reluctant to describe Ostrander Point as an alvar, saying it was all a matter of scale whether to recognize homogeneous or heterogeneous plant communities.
ERT Panel Questions
Co-chair Robert Wright asked about the presence of red cedar and prickly ash. Dr. Larsen said these invasive species show the “power of Nature to come back from a disturbance.”
Qualifying Dr. Paul Kerlinger
Dr. Kerlinger holds a Ph.D. in Ornithology and has worked as a consultant for the wind energy and communications industries since 1994. He has assessed avian impacts at 75 wind projects in 25 states and two Canadian provinces.
Neither the Ministry of Environment’s nor PECFN’s lawyer had questions. The ERT panel qualified Dr. Kerlinger as “an expert on impacts of wind farms on birds.”
Examination of Dr. Kerlinger
Dr. Kerlinger said that wind turbines cause two types of avian impacts: displacement and collision. The former occurs due to habitat removal and the presence of a tall structure. Not all bird species respond the same way. Savannah sparrows, for example, nest near wind turbines as densely as in fields without turbines, while fewer bobolinks nest within 75-100 m. of turbines.
Based on reports for 50 wind projects, collisions average 4-7 birds per turbine per year. A couple of projects, like Wolfe Island, are near 15. Most collisions involve a dozen common species, specifically in eastern North America of night migrating songbirds. Mortality, however, is not significant because the populations of such birds as the red-eyed vireo and the golden-crowned kinglet are in the many millions. Despite differences in the collection and calculation of bird fatalities at wind projects, Dr. Kerlinger defended the credibility of the data because the reports are peer-reviewed.
On a walk along the adjacent roads and through the middle of Ostrander Point, Dr. Kerlinger said he had found habitat suitable for brush nesting birds. The site has poor grassland, no woodland, and not much wetland for shorebirds or waterfowl; and it is not optimal habitat for migrating songbirds. Gilead’s newly-acquired nearby property has more deciduous trees, and Prince Edward Point has a larger area and more diversity of deciduous trees and is a better stopover site for migratory birds. Consequently, Dr.Kerlinger argued that the bird records of Prince Edward Point Bird Observatory did not apply to Ostrander Point.
With respect to Important Bird Areas (IBA), he said that projects adjacent to IBAs did not record higher fatalities, and this was also generally true for 10-12 projects located on Appalachian mountain ridges, a migratory flyway.
Dr. Kerlinger’s risk assessment for Ostrander Point took into account these factors:
· A mortality threshold of 14 birds has seldom been exceeded,
· A small project reduces mortality because of easier avoidance,
· A 200-m turbine setback from the lake allows birds to pass along the shore as well as land and takeoff from the water, and
· Limitations on the construction schedule reduce displacement.
He therefore concluded that serious and irreversible harm would not occur.
Dr. Kerlinger explained population variability analysis, which considers reproductive rates, longevity, range dispersal, and estimated population of a species in order to determine how many individuals can perish before the population as a whole declines. He then said such analysis was unnecessary for Ostrander Point because of the low overall number of predicted fatalities.
Finally, Gilead’s lawyer Bryn Gray led Dr. Kerlinger through a long list of breeding and migratory birds, including species at risk. In each case Dr. Kerlinger said there would be no serious and irreversible effect for a number of reasons: the species population is large, the species is not vulnerable to turbines, the species would not linger at the site because of poor habitat, or the species is unlikely to be present because it is so rare.
Throughout the testimony Dr. Kerlinger had referenced numerous American wind projects to support his conclusions.
Addressing the ERT panel, Eric Gillespie noted that Dr. Kerlinger had commented on 25-40 bird species and on projects from Appalachia to California. Much of this was new information undisclosed in the witness statements. He asked the panel to either strike the last part of the testimony or adjourn the ERT because it was not possible to research the facts and cross-examine the witness before his scheduled departure by noon the next day.
Mr. Wright directed counsel for all parties to discuss a solution to the problem so the ERT could proceed.
[Here is a copy of a letter to MOE and a news release explaining APPEC's objection to the wpd / White Pines open house held on April 29, 2013.]
Alliance to Protect Prince Edward County
April 30, 2013
Ms. Doris Dumais, Director
Environmental Approvals Access & Service Integration
Ministry of Environment
Subject: wpd Canada’s Non-compliance with REA Process
The Alliance to Protect Prince Edward County objects to the Open House staged by wpd Canada on April 29in Picton, Ontario.
Due to numerous deficiencies, the Open House does not qualify as genuine public consultation on wpd’s White Pines project. The news release below identifies the range of information the public did not receive. Consequently, it is impossible to comment with credibility on the proposed construction. The facts are not available for review and criticism.
Please require wpd to hold a new Open House once it has completed the studies needed for a full assessment of the project.
Report on April 29th ERT Hearing
by Henri Garand, Chair, APPEC
Two Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) employees, Melissa LaPlante and Andy Baxter, provided the bulk of testimony at the Environmental Review Tribunal on Monday.
Before Ms. LaPlante and Mr. Baxter testified, two County residents made presentations. Neither was qualified as an expert or technical witness. The Ministry of Environment’s (MOE) lawyer and Gilead Power’s lawyer asked no questions.
PECFN lawyer Eric Gillespie, in questioning, clarified that Ostrander Point, when used by the Canadian military, had never been bombed with any device except dummy or practice bombs, which emit smoke upon impact. He also established that a newspaper article written by one presenter referring to “delusion thinking and irrational hatred of windmills” was considered “tongue in cheek”.
The Ostrander Point ERT hearing, Phase 1 on the natural environment, will continue on all business days between Monday, April 29 and Tuesday, May 7 inclusive at the Sophiasburgh Town Hall in Demorestville.
The start time each day will be at 09:30, except for April 29 which be at 10:30.