Wind turbines and birding areas do not mix.
This is the message Prince Edward County Field Naturalists members Myrna Wood and Cheryl Anderson brought to council last night.
The best wind power is offshore on Lake Ontario, said Wood, but there is a moratorium on offshore turbines. She added there are a lot of other appropriate areas in the County and other parts of the province that would not disturb significant wildlife and would have just as much wind power. “We support the Green Energy Act and wind energy but it has to be put in the right place,” said Wood. “Ostrander Point is the wrong place.”
“Prince Edward County is the penultimate refuelling refuge for birds migrating from South and Central America on their way to and from the boreal forest,” Anderson said. “In the spring they can be seen on Doppler radar massing on the south shore of Lake Ontario waiting for an appropriate time to cross over to the closest land – which is Prince Edward County. When they arrive they are tired and hungry.”
Anderson explained the data of the Prince Edward Point Bird Observatory confirms millions of birds use this flyway. “If the plans of the Ontario government and Gilead Power are allowed to go forward, millions of birds will have to confront another obstacle when they arrive at their refuge. Nine wind turbines on the Ostrander Crown Land block and a further 20 proposed turbines in the PEC South Shore Important Bird Area, part of the WPD proposal, will have to be negotiated by the already exhausted and famished birds. There is no doubt that the mortality will be significant.”
She added that Ostrander Point is a refuge for threatened and endangered species such as Blandings Turtle and the Whip-poor-will – and that the two have been cited in a recent Environmental Bill of Rights permit to allow development of nine turbines. There is a long list of threatened species that have traditionally used the area, she said.
“The ideal that Ontario needs to destroy important natural habitat to provide the electrical power generated by nine turbines is ridiculous,” said Anderson. “As is the idea that the Ministry of Natural Resources can support the destruction of a valuable and important natural resource.”
The PE County Naturalists were asking council to endorse their responses to the wind turbine project under the Environmental Bill of Rights and deny permission to Gilead Power to build.
When asked if members had met with MNR representatives to discuss their concerns, Anderson replied “We have met with our MPP, but we are concerned with the birds, not turbines.”
Councillor Brian Marisett said a staff report on the ramifications of council endorsing the birders’ request would be necessary before any action be taken. Councillor Bev Campbell agreed that council does not want to do something “at odds with our initial comments to the MNR.”
“I give it full support,” said Councillor Robert Quaiff. “We should endorse this and get our position out there.” Quaiff said he and his family visited the bird observatory over the Victoria Day weekend and saw “species of birds I had never seen before. This is an area of scientific interest. Why would the province allow turbines to be set up in the middle of it?” he said.
No majority of County residents are opposed to wind turbines, said Councillor Jamie Forrester. “We have to learn to deal with them. Everybody wants green energy, but not in their backyard,” he said. “When are we going to look at finding solutions for our children’s future?”
Mayor Peter Mertens agreed with supporting the naturalists.
“If the matter goes to staff for a report, these are the experts they will likely consult,” he said. “This is one of the largest migration routes in North America,” said Mertens, noting wind turbines in the wrong place could negatively impact the County’s eco-tourism. He pointed out that the naturalists do not oppose green energy when it is in the right place.
In a recorded vote of 13-3 council endorsed the comments of the Prince Edward County Naturalists to the MNR regarding species at risk habitat at Ostrander Point. Dissenters were councillors Marisett, Forrester and Keith MacDonald.
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