The Environmental Review Tribunal (ERT) of the White Pines wind project devoted Day Five to hearing six members of the public previously awarded status as Presenters rather than expert witnesses.
Christopher Currie also sought to be qualified as an expert witness because he would be commenting, as a professional land use planner, on WPD’s application reports. But the Tribunal denied the request because Currie’s focus was on water bodies and he has no credentials in hydrology or related subjects.
As a Presenter, nonetheless, Currie gave a detailed review of the deficiencies in WPD’s assessment of water bodies on the project site. He pointed out that two fisheries biologists, not hydrologists, had carried out all the field work from June to mid-October, never during the wet season of November through April, and had used assessment standards inappropriate for alvar. Due to these and other numerous flaws in methodology, the final report was incomplete and unreliable. Excavation, drilling, and hydrofracking for wind turbine bases would cause serious environmental harm to animals and plants by permanently altering the South Shore watershed.
Cheryl Anderson, president of Prince Edward Point Bird Observatory (PEPtBO), described how White Pines would jeopardize the millions of birds which migrate each year through the Prince Edward County South Shore Important Bird Area (PECSSIBA). Soaring birds like eagles, hawks and vultures are especially vulnerable, and a dozen species at risk breed in the project area. Moreover, PECSSIBA, which is globally significant for waterfowl and nationally significant for endangered bird species, meets all Environment Canada criteria for a location unsuitable for wind development. In light of high mortality at the nearby Wolfe Island wind project, Anderson called on the ERT to apply the Precautionary Principle.
Richard Bird of the Hastings and Prince Edward Land Trust (HPELT) told the Tribunal about the 490-acre Miller Family Nature Reserve on Hill Top Road in South Marysburgh. A 2013 Baseline Documentation Report completed for Ontario Heritage Trust identifies natural heritage features including plants, animals, wetlands, alvar and migratory stopover habitat, as well as the endangered Blanding’s turtle. Wind turbines T21 and T22 are on the lot directly adjacent to the Reserve. A proposed transmission corridor on Hill Top Road will require blasting and/or digging and leveling of trees and vegetation. Mr. Bird said that HPELT considers the Miller Family Nature Reserve a model for what should take place on the PEC South Shore. The ERT requested a copy of the Report.
Roxanne MacKenzie focused on the adverse effects of wind turbines on human health. She noted that sound travels in rural areas and the White Pines wind project is close to many homes. People living near wind turbines have suffered sleep disturbance, vertigo, and tinnitus. Shadow flicker is a serious concern, especially with children. MacKenzie also mentioned the negative impact of White Pines on the local tourism industry, property values, and even increased electricity rates due to high transmission costs and subsidized export sale of electricity.
Doug Murphy described his 200-acre century farm and its roots going back six generations to United Empire Loyalists. He told the Tribunal that Stantec data is inaccurate: T4 is 97m from his property line, and shadow flicker will be an ongoing issue between April and September. Murphy also noted the project location within Black Creek Valley Area of Natural and Scientific Interest (ANSI) and the prevalence of crevices up to one foot wide and 10 feet deep that in some cases go for miles. The crevices make the area potentially unstable and unsuitable for turbines. Any blasting and/or drilling will cause problems on other properties including effects on water supply. Murphy provided the ERT with a 2012 document from WPD indicating that it plans to put 80 more turbines on 4000 acres.
Brian Flack, who lives west of Lighthall Road where nine of WPD’s wind turbines are proposed, said that since the Renewable Energy Approval was granted there is increased stress in the community over property devaluation and potential adverse health impacts, including physical, physiological, and psychological harm. He noted that the Council of Canadian Academies found sufficient evidence of a causal relationship between exposure to wind turbine noise and the medical condition of annoyance. Mr. Flack asked the ERT to consider why the province did not expropriate land instead of denying responsibility for impacts on residents.
Since the Tribunal weights evidence on the basis of source and credibility, there’s no way of knowing what effect any of the non-expert Presenters will have on the ERT decision. The hearing continues next week on November 16, 10 a.m., in the Wellington and District Community Centre.