Wpd legal counsel Patrick Duffy questioned Kari Gunson, a Road Ecologist, on wpd’s mitigation to remove upgrades to the seasonal roads following construction of the wind project. Ms. Gunson testified that road upgrades will be in place for up to 18 months and will impact at least one active season for Blanding’s turtles. Road upgrades will facilitate use of the roads at increased volumes and speed during this period.
Ms. Gunson also provided evidence of degradation and destruction of Blanding’s turtle habitat due to the roadworks. In an attempt to disqualify that evidence, Mr. Duffy repeatedly referred Ms. Gunson back to the February 26, 2016 Tribunal ruling. Mr. Gunson agreed that the Tribunal ruling did not include construction, did not include the destruction of habitat, did not include alvar or any corresponding impact on Blanding’s turtles from the destruction of alvar and did not include hydrology.
However Ms. Gunson explained that this is a different case now. The Tribunal ruling was made before the mitigation to remove the road upgrades was known. At this point both the construction period and the construction impacts are changed from what they were before and it is now known that there will be more construction. With respect to alvar, for example, the Tribunal ruling was made before the impacts of having two construction periods in the alvar ecosystem was known. Ms. Gunson noted that the roads where the upgrades are to be removed are in alvar habitat, and that the impact will be worsened with the employment of the new mitigation measures. The same is also true with hydrology: the impacts on wetlands will be more severe with twice the amount of construction.
Ms. Gunson noted that removing road upgrades is highly experimental and not a lot of research has been done on this in contrast with the impacts of bringing heavy machinery into wildlife habitat, where there is a solid base of existing research.
Mr. Duffy noted that the mitigation to remove the road upgrades will be subject to the same conditions in the REA that limit construction to certain times of the year. Ms. Gunson replied that her understanding of the REA is that these conditions are to be taken into consideration wherever possible.
Ms. Gunson also indicated her support for APPEC’s report on wind project-related tourism and increased traffic on the municipal roads. (click here to view APPEC Tourism Report) Ms. Gunson agreed with Mr. Duffy that the report is not an expert analysis by someone with experience in tourism and that no independent traffic study has been done. Ms. Gunson noted that she did not rely solely on this report as she conducted her own website research and found similar results.