Day 17 of Ostrander Point — Cross of Eric Prevost (MNR)
Report on April 25th ERT Hearing
by Paula Peel, APPEC
Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) employees Eric Prevost and Fiona McGuiness appeared before the Environmental Review Tribunal.
PECFN Cross-Examination of Eric Prevost
PECFN lawyer Eric Gillespie asked Mr. Prevost to explain how the Ostrander Point wind project was in compliance with government regulations when there is so little detail on the specifics of compliance. Mr. Prevost said he relied on the records review to determine compliance. However, he conceded that the records review gives guidance only on process. Such guidance is to assist the proponent. MNR does not do actual field work.
Mr. Gillespie asked Mr. Prevost to identify the wetland mapped by Stantec on the northern boundary of the project site. Mr. Prevost said it is part of the Provincially Significant South Bay Coastal Wetland. Mr. Prevost was referred to an MNR map on which the wetland extends down from Helmer Road well into the project site. He was unable to explain the discrepancy between the Stantec and MNR maps.
Mr. Prevost said that to the best of his knowledge wetlands at the north end and on the southeast part of the property are the only wetlands on Ostrander Point. Mr. Prevost accepted Mr. Cheskey’s earlier testimony that there was standing water near Turbine site 2, as well as the presence of water-type vegetation, two of the elements in determining wetland. However, he argued that just because Mr. Cheskey was standing in water it does not follow that the water table is close to the surface, and he suggested the possibility of an aquifer. Eric Gillespie clarified to the ERT Panel that the area is known to be alvar, and by definition the water table is in close proximity to the surface.
Mr. Gillespie noted that Mr. Prevost was not qualified to give testimony on alvar. Mr. Prevost said he guessed he was not considered an expert in anything for the purposes of this Tribunal. Robert Wright, one of the ERT Panel co-chairs, clarified for Mr. Prevost that he is qualified as having experience in reviewing reports for compliance with Ontario government guidelines and regulations.
Mr. Gillespie noted another inconsistency in mapping the wetland on the southeast part of the property. Mr. Prevost agreed that the wetland probably extends beyond what is shown on the map.
Mr. Prevost, as lead reviewer for the Wolfe Island wind project, was asked how many times Wolfe Island has been out of compliance for bird mortality. Mr. Prevost said he didn’t know the numbers off the top of his head, but he was aware of discussions about variability in mortality reports and was not concerned because the methodologies were consistent. Mr. Gillespie suggested the contrary: before 2010 Stantec conducted carcass searches at half the turbines twice a week and once a week at the other half, with weekly rotations; in May 2010 Stantec changed the schedule to once a week searches without rotation.
Mr. Gillespie asked Mr. Prevost about the presence of broken bottles and household waste he had seen during a trip around the site in his pickup truck. Mr. Prevost admitted that generally the responsibility for Crown Land falls on the MNR, but he knew of no program to look after the site. Asked to estimate how much garbage was at the 384 ha site, Mr. Prevost said it would probably fill a grocery bag.
Ministry of Environment lawyer Sylvia Davis asked Mr. Prevost to explain the change of search methods at Wolfe Island. Mr. Prevost replied that the changes reflected an adjustment in methodology as a result of discussions between the MNR and other agencies, including the Ontario Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources Canada. Ms. Davis asked Mr. Prevost how the MNR map would have been used in the natural heritage assessment process. He said it would be relevant to the records review but was not to be relied on instead of a site investigation.
ERT Panel’s Questions
Mr. Wright asked Mr. Prevost about his understanding of shoreline as it relates to this project. Mr. Prevost replied that his assumption is that a shoreline is where the water meets the land, but he was not sure whether this referred to the high or the low water mark unless it is stated in the report. Mr. Wright requested clarification of this important point at a later date by either Mr. Prevost or the appropriate person.
Mr. Wright asked Mr. Prevost to explain how a “Candidate” ANSI (Area of Scientific and Natural Interest) affects evaluation. He said that he considers the ANSI status as another piece of information, much the same as Important Bird Area.
ERT co-chair Heather Gibbs confirmed that the truck washing station is near a parking lot at the northern section of the project site. Mr. Prevost agreed that the station is within the zone of influence and, based on mapping, appears to be within 120 m of a Provincially Significant Wetland.
Qualification of Fiona McGuiness
Ms. McGuiness is the MNR fish and wildlife program advisor in renewable energy projects, a position she has held since 2005. She has a M.Sc. degree from Trent University in watershed ecosystems. At Mr. Gillespie’s request Ms. McGuiness clarified that her academic background is not in the area of birds and bats, she has no coursework in birds and bats, and she has not done any field work to speak of.
Ms. Davis sought to qualify Fiona McGuiness as an expert on the impacts of wind turbines on birds and bats and on MNR guidelines for wind power projects. All parties agreed that Ms. McGuiness has expertise in these areas, and she was so qualified.