WPD Canada’s CEO asks: What and where is Wolfe Island?
[Article by Pamela Stagg, a highly knowledgeable naturalist and County resident who is active in both PEPtBO and PECFN]
Notes from the [WPD Canada] White Pines meeting:
I attended last week’s White Pines meeting [Mar 22, 2012] at Prince Edward Collegiate Institute and was shocked by what I heard.
1. I asked a wpd representative,
“Why are you putting industrial wind turbines in an Important Bird Area?”
“To be honest with you, we’ll put them wherever anyone is willing to lease the land to us.”
“So it’s just about money?”
2. I asked the wpd representative from Germany,
“Why is it that you don’t put wind turbines in Important Bird Areas in Germany but you are willing to put them in Canadian Important Bird Areas?”
“I don’t think we avoid Important Bird Areas in Germany.”
“It’s my understanding that you do.”
“I don’t think we do, but I’m an engineer. I just deal with the engineering end of things. You’ll have to ask someone else”
(He was wrong. In Germany, wind turbines aren’t allowed in Important Bird Areas. Also, I was so often referred to someone else that I lost track of the number of times the buck was passed. The person to whom I was referred never knew the answer to my question.)
3. Stantec is the company doing the environmental assessment, so I asked a Stantec representative why wind turbines were being allowed in an Important Bird Area. His response:
“There’s no legislation protecting Important Bird Areas in Ontario but we are in compliance with all the applicable legislation. We even asked wpd to move the turbines so they would be back from the critical 400 metre area next to the shore.”
A few problems with that answer. The critical area for migratory birds is actually 500 metres from the shore – which I would expect a Stantec representative to know. And having wind turbines within 5 kilometres of the shore at a Great Lakes land bird migratory stopover area is in contravention to the guidelines of the Ministry of Natural Resources, so wpd’s proposal is not in compliance.
4. A couple of posters around the room mentioned there were going to be opportunities to undertake mitigation for wildlife, so I asked a Stantec representative,
“What kind of mitigation will be undertaken for wildlife?”
“We will site the turbines in an optimum position with regards to wildlife.”
“That’s all?” (Mitigation, in wind turbine-speak, normally means turning the angle of the blades or shutting the turbines down to protect birds and bats.)
“If you found that the site chosen was going to be disastrous for wildlife, could you recommend that the White Pines project be built somewhere else?”
“That’s not in our mandate. We deal with micro-siting issues, not macro-siting.”
5. I was standing next to a woman who lives in the area where White Pines wind turbines are proposed. She had just discovered that the map of the project mailed to her by wpd had omitted the industrial wind turbine closest to her house.
Another woman found that there was no aerial photograph of her area on display, just a gap where it should be.
Neither of these women received satisfactory answers. These situations were just ‘mistakes’ and mistakes do happen.
That’s not good enough. When local residents’ futures are at stake, wpd should be doubly diligent.
6. I spoke to wpd president Ian MacRae and made reference to Wolfe Island. He asked me what Wolfe Island was and where. A member of the Prince Edward County Field Naturalists (PECFN), who was standing beside me, said that it was an industrial wind project with the highest bird kill in Ontario at 13.4 birds per turbine. Ian MacRae said,
“That’s just your opinion, the 13.4 birds per turbine.”
“No, that was a study conducted by Stantec.”
There was silence from Ian MacRae. He simply hadn’t done his homework on the area. Later in the conversation, it also became obvious that he didn’t know this area was a major flyway and wasn’t aware of the numbers of birds involved.
I asked him why wpd was proposing industrial wind turbines in an Important Bird Area. He replied,
“There is no legislation governing Important Bird Areas. We are in compliance with all legislation regarding wildlife protection.”
I replied, “The Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources’ Significant Wildlife Habitat Technical Guide says that all migratory stopover areas must be preserved in their entirety and not reduced in area. Erecting industrial wind turbines in a migratory stopover area like the south shore of Prince Edward County will definitely reduce them in area.”
Another silence from Ian MacRae. White Pines was not in compliance with the Technical Guide and he couldn’t argue that it was.
7. As I was leaving the room, I bumped into another member of PECFN. She said Ian MacRae had told her he had relatives in the Milford area and was thinking of buying a house there. When she asked whether he would buy a house 550 metres from an industrial wind turbine, he was again silent.
And then there was that big poster near the entrance, touting the (temporary) job opportunities to be created by the project. There was no mention of the people needed to collect dead birds and bats from under the turbines.