Day 4 of the Ostrander Point ERT appeal — Dr. Robert Barclay on bats
[Following is a report by Paula Peel. Another report by Myrna Wood of PECFN is available here .]
The hearing continued on March 7 at the ERT office in Toronto in order to accommodate Mr. Ian Dubin and the Prince Edward County Field Naturalists’ expert witness Dr. Robert Barclay. The morning proceedings ended after it was determined that Mr. Dubin did not qualify for presenter status.
The high point of the day was listening to Professor Robert Barclay give expert testimony on bats. Dr. Barclay, a professor of biological sciences at the University of Calgary, is Canada’s foremost expert on bats. He has co-authored numerous publications on bats and wind turbines and is a recognized authority in Canada and abroad. Only this past weekend Dr. Barclay was keynote speaker at a conference on bats and wind energy in Berlin attended by about 400 people from 30 different countries. Needless to say Dr. Barclay was readily qualified as an expert in bats.
Dr. Barclay began by noting the numerous deficiencies in the study that was done to monitor bat activity at Ostrander Point and in the consultant’s report of the study:
• According to the consultant the activities of long-distance migrating bats at Ostrander Point was not unusually high. Dr. Barclay noted that it was not clear how this conclusion was arrived at. The consultant implies that comparisons were made with other sites but Dr. Barclay could find no other comparisons.
• Data indicates a significant probability that the threshold of 10 bats per turbine per year will be exceeded.
• There was no microphone located near the lakeshore. Dr. Barclay noted that migratory bats often fly along the lakeshore. In Dr. Barclay’s expert opinion bat activity would have been higher and the estimated fatality is underestimated.
• The geography of Ostrander point suggests that it is likely to be used as migration route, a point of departure for migratory bats crossing the lake.
Dr. Barclay went on to note that 7.3 migratory bat passes per night may not seem to be a large number. But when that number is compared to other sites where pass rates and fatality rates have been recorded there is reason for concern. At three sites in Alberta where pass rates ranged from 3 to 8 per night the fatalities were between 22 – 32 bats per year, or two to three times the allowable number.
Sarah Kromkamp, lawyer for the Ministry of the Environment, touched briefly on a number of subjects. Ms. Kromkamp considered that it was important to know that Dr. Barclay has not seen the Ostrander Point site. Later, when asked about this by Eric Gillespie, Dr. Barclay explained that his views on potential risk can be attained from looking at a map and that he didn’t believe that seeing the site would influence his conclusion. He went on to mention that he had spent many years in Ontario along that lakeshore. Ms. Kromkamp also drew attention to the fact that Dr. Barclay did not read the mitigations set out in section i 6 of the Director’s approval of the wind project. It has yet to be explained how reading the mitigations that kick in when fatalities exceed the allowable threshold would have changed Dr. Barclay’s opinion.
Mr. Douglas Hamilton, Gilead’s lawyer, argued that the numbers of migratory bats passing through the Ostrander Point site were lower than Dr. Barclay’s numbers. Dr. Barclay’s response was simply: “So now we’re killing big brown bats instead of silver-haired bats”. Mr. Hamilton noted that the study at the three sites in Alberta dealt with migratory bats, so that trying to make comparisons between the Ostrander site and the three Alberta sites was like comparing apples and oranges. Dr. Barclay was not bothered in the slightest by Mr. Hamilton’s attempt to undermine one of the points in his witness statement. Later, when questioned by Eric Gillespie, Dr. Barclay pointed out that his views remain the same, the points that Mr. Hamilton was making would have very little impact as results are in line with other studies in addition to those in Alberta. Many studies have been done, particularly in eastern North America, and these studies inform his studies in Alberta and his understanding of bat mortalities at wind project sites.
Ms. Heather Gibbs, one of the panel members, noted that the consultant’s report states that no bats in Ontario are considered to be at risk by COSSARO. Dr. Barclay responded that this was the case when the report was written but that in January of this year two Ontario bats. Little Brown Bat and Northern Long-eared Bat, were determined to be at-risk because of high fatalities from white-nose. He noted that hibernating species such as these bats have been especially hard hit by white nose.
Dr. Barclay stated his concerns with the Ontario government’s bat guidelines. When the guidelines were drafted a variety of people were asked for input, including himself. Dr. Barclay said that he was troubled by the threshold set by the Ontario government of 10 bats per turbines per year and that he submitted two comments in this regard. Dr. Barclay considers that it has not been adequately explained how “10 bats per turbine per year” was arrived at. He went on to note his concern that it’s basically saying that the species are still around despite the fact that we’re killing 10 bats per turbine per year and so that number must be acceptable. Dr. Barclay noted that the number was arrived at with no consideration of cumulative effects. He asked what are the cumulative effects of this and all other wind projects around Ostrander Point? Dr. Barclay informed the tribunal panel that there are two to four projects with many more turbines around Ostrander Point and that the cumulative effect, when all these wind projects are allowed to kill 10 bats per year per turbine without any mitigation, would clearly make a difference than Ostrander Point taken in isolation.
Ms. Kromkamp and Mr. Hamilton had no further questions and the hearing was adjourned.
The next hearing date is tentatively scheduled for Monday, March 18 at 9:30 a.m. (confirmed time) at the Sophiasburgh Town Hall. However, the details are subject to confirmation.