Day 15 of Ostrander Point — Nicole Kopysh (Stantec) and Andrew Taylor (Stantec)
Report on April 12th ERT Hearing
by Henri Garand, Chair, APPEC
The Environmental Review Tribunal heard from Nicole Kopysh and Andrew Taylor, both Stantec employees who testified as a panel.
Examination of Nicole Kopysh and Andrew Taylor
Gilead Lawyer Doug Hamilton led Ms. Kopysh and Mr. Taylor to a half dozen tables and summaries in several bulky documents describing the natural features within 120 m of the project site, assessing the impacts of development, and recommending mitigations. Ms. Kopysh and Mr. Taylor said that 780 hours of field work had taken place from 2006 to 2010 spread over four seasons. The field work involved an ecological land classification, vegetation survey, and wildlife monitoring (birds, bats, reptiles, etc.), with special attention to species at risk such as Henslow’s Sparrow.
Mr. Taylor was asked to comment on a list of plant species native to Ontario but not found in Stantec surveys. He discussed five plants from a total of 27. He said each was easy to recognize in the field, but he had not seen them and there no records of their presence at Ostrander Point or, for some, in the County.
Hamilton asked Mr. Taylor to comment on the Blanding’s Turtle study. But PECFN lawyer Eric Gillespie objected that Mr. Taylor had explicitly not been qualified as an expert on the Blanding’s Turtle.
Mr. Taylor continued his testimony by describing two mitigations in the Draft Alvar Management Plan. Cultural meadow totalling 4.2 ha would be converted to alvar in order to compensate for the 5.2 ha destroyed by access roads and turbine bases. The remaining alvar on site would be “enhanced” through control of buckthorn, an invasive species.
Ms. Kopysh was asked how the property Gilead had purchased north of Ostrander Point would provide compensating habitat for displaced Blanding’s Turtles and Whip-poor-will.
The testimony of the two witnesses lasted barely an hour.
Ministry of Environment Cross-Examination
Lawyer Sylvia Davis asked Mr. Taylor about signs of human usage on the Ostrander site. He described three roads, ATV tracks, a lakeshore campsite, and some dumping. Co-chair Robert Wright intervened to question how Davis’s line of inquiry related to cross-examination rather than introduction of new evidence.
PECFN lawyer Eric Gillespie queried the ERT panel about what was now in evidence. Stacking up the binders which contained Stantec’s reports, he asked whether such brief testimony had indeed introduced the foot-high pile of documents or were reports like the bat study off the table. He said there was no scientific evidence in support of Ms. Kopysch’s opinions about the likelihood of recreating habitats and relocating species. Nor was there any scientific basis for Mr. Taylor’s opinions, especially since he was not a qualified expert.
Gilead’s Doug Hamilton replied that all the documents were “proven in evidence.” He pointed out that PECFN’s witnesses had commented on Stantec data.
The ERT panel asked Hamilton to identify specific documents, of which he listed half a dozen.
Mr. Gillespie asked whether the material before the Tribunal included the scientific references cited in Stantec reports.
The ERT panel ruled that the references were not part of the record unless they were written by witnesses.
Mr. Gillespie then proceeded to cross-examine Ms. Kopysch and Mr. Taylor, limiting his questions to the Natural Heritage Assessment, the only report which they had signed. He drew attention to an Environment Canada letter identifying Ostrander Point as “one of the best habitats” and a Level 4, or “high risk,” category of concern for the potential impacts of wind turbines on birds. He asked Mr. Taylor to agree on the uniqueness of Ostrander Point as a peninsula.
Turning to Mr. Taylor’s report on raptors, Mr. Gillespie questioned the comparisons with well-known “hawk watch” sites, specifically Cranberry Marsh near Oshawa, where a high number of raptors have been recorded during fall migrations. Taylor’s report compared the records for only 12 days’ observations in 2006 and 2009. For the 2006 period there were 591 birds at Ostrander Point and 1732 at Cranberry Marsh; however, 1240 birds at the Marsh were seen on a single day due to species like Turkey Vulture travelling in “kettles,” or large flocks. Mr. Gillespie argued that a more realistic comparison was 591 to 492.
Mr. Gillespie also pointed out there were fewer hours of observation at Ostrander Point. Then he asked Mr. Taylor to consider seasonal comparisons, based on extrapolating the data, which showed that Ostrander Point could have totals of 15-16,000 raptors during each fall migration. Mr. Taylor objected to the mathematical calculation but conceded that the longer time spent in field observation, the higher the totals.
Mr. Gillespie asked Mr. Taylor whether he was familiar with the classification standards for Important Bird Areas. He confirmed he did not know that the presence of 10,000 or more raptors justifies a classification of “national significance.”
Mr. Gillespie then turned to Ms. Kopysch to confirm the presence of swallow and grassland species at Ostrander Point. She agreed that these included Purple Martin, Tree Swallow, Rusty Blackbird, Eastern Meadowlark, and Bobolink. All are species with declining populations.
Mr. Gillespie abruptly terminated the cross-examination in mid-afternoon, announcing that he was “saving the balance of his questions for other witnesses.”
Gilead Power’s Re-Examination
Doug Hamilton asked Mr. Taylor to agree that the “passage rates” for raptors at Ostrander Point were similar to those at Cranberry Marsh. Mr. Taylor added, however, that more hours for surveying resulted in more birds recorded.
ERT Panel’s Questions
Co-chair Heather Gibbs asked who was reviewing the Alvar Management Plan for the Ministry of Natural Resources.
Co-chair Robert Wright asked whether only the Consultation Report dealt with Cumulative Impacts. Mr. Taylor explained they were not in the Natural Heritage Assessment because the Renewal Energy Approval process does not require it.
With no other witnesses available, the ERT panel adjourned the hearing until Wednesday, April 24, 10 a.m.