White Pines Wind Project ERT Hearing – November 4, 2015

W.P. ERT_Nov2_15Report on the ERT Hearing on the White Pines Wind Project – Nov. 4, 2015
By Paula Peel, APPEC

On Day Three of the Environmental Review Tribunal (ERT)  John Hirsch, one of the appellants, and Jim Bowlby, a Participant in the appeal testified that the White Pines Wind Project will cause serious and irreversible ​harm to the ​environment.

Opening Statement and Presentation of Mr. John Hirsch
Mr. Hirsch told ERT co-chairs Marcia Valiante and Hugh Wilkins of his long-time active community involvement and interest in environmental stewardship.

Mr. Hirsch informed the ERT panel that the government’s conclusion that no serious and irreversible harm would result from the White Pines Wind Project is based on incomplete, outdated and faulty information. The following issues were identified by Mr. Hirsch in his presentation:

  • No accurate accounting of bird and bat mortality as the prescribed method has been proven to dramatically understate the numbers;
  • Overall Canadian global population levels are used by WPD / Stantec as opposed to local or regional counts. The harm needs to be adjusted to the local project area;
  • Cumulative effects are not considered;
  • Lack of consideration of over lake migration route;
  • The siting of the White Pines Wind Project goes against documented MNRF and Environment Canada guidelines;
  • No remedies when mortality thresholds are exceeded;
  • No evidence provided by the MOECC (Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change) of independent verification of environmental facts;
  • There is no basis in fact that avoidance measures (read: “mitigations”) by WPD to prevent serious and irreversible harm to Blanding’s turtle as this matter is still before the ERT hearing on Gilead Power’s wind project at Ostrander Point.

No questions were raised to Mr. Hirsch by Sylvia Davis, counsel for the MOECC, Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change or Patrick Duffy, counsel for the approval holder / wind developer WPD.

Presentation of Mr. Jim Bowlby
The Tribunal accepted Mr. Bowlby as qualified to give evidence as a fisheries biologist. The Tribunal noted Mr. Bowlby’s employment with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) as a Fisheries Assessment Biologist and more recently as a Coordinator for the Lake Ontario Management Unit.

Mr. Bowlby gave evidence of the presence of spawning runs of White Suckers and Northern Pike in the Black Creek tributary, which is known as an exceptionally high quality spawning habitat. White Suckers spawn within 120 m of a proposed access road and transmission line.   Northern Pike migrate downstream of the REA area but these pike are dependent on streamflow that originates within the REA area.  Mr. Bowlby gave his opinion that if road and transmission line construction disrupts the aquifer supplying water to this stream and reduces streamflow, then the fish habitat and fish spawning in the stream will suffer serious and irreversible harm.

Mr. Bowlby also advised the Tribunal of five fissures or cracks in the ground within 120 m of Turbine 2. Some of the fissures are more than 2 m deep and form caves that are consistent with the MNRF descriptions of bat hibernacula. According to REA regulations the presence of potential bat hibernacula triggers requirements for further study before approvals can be made.

While Mr. Duffy might contend that the White Pines Wind Project is totally different than the Ostrander Point Wind Project and not only with respect to size, the process that ended with the approvals of these projects hasn’t changed. As Mr. Hirsch summed up today: “Quite simply, the entire conclusion by the MOECC that serious and irreversible harm will not be caused. . .is based on four MNRF (Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry) sign-off letters and highly questionable and biased reporting by the approval-holder’s consultant, Stantec.” This statement is as accurate now as it would have been three years ago.

Plans for next week

  • Monday, November 9 – Site Visit (not open to the public)
  • Tuesday, November 10 – ERT starting at 10:00 in Essroc Centre, Wellington – Summonsing of Joe Crowley, MNRF expert on  reptiles
  • Thursday, November 12 -ERT starting at 10:00 in Essroc Centre, Wellington – Testimony by the Presenters
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