A report released Tuesday morning by the Ontario environment commissioner hass called for new wind power rules to help protect birds and bats.
Gord Millerâ€™s report said no new wind farms should be constructed in the provinceâ€™s 70 designated Important Bird Areas (IBA). One of those IBAs is located on the south shore of the County.
Miller said there are two areas in which the government needs to improve guidelines to enhance protection for both birds and bats.
First, the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) should prohibit any new wind farms in the 70 â€śImportant Bird Areasâ€ť (IBAs) in Ontario, said the report. IBAs are a network of sites … that have been identified, using internationally agreed criteria, as being important for the conservation of essential bird populations and migratory corridors,â€ť he stated in the report. â€śMNR already acknowledges that location is a key factor in preventing bird deaths from wind turbines. It would just make sense to extend the logic to exclude new wind power development in IBAs, which represent some of the most significant bird habitat in the province and cover only about two per cent of Ontario.
â€śSecond, the province needs to increase protection for migratory bats, which are the bats most at risk of being killed by wind turbines. These long-distance travellers account for 75 per cent of all wind turbine deaths for bats. But the MNR guidelines focus instead on non-migrating populations, with rules preventing turbines near caves, abandoned mines, buildings and barns where local bats hibernate.â€ť
With a number of wind farm projects in the planning stages in Prince Edward County, opponents hope the government will use Miller’s report to put a halt to the proposed developments.
â€śWe are very pleased with what he had to say in his report,â€ť said PEC Field Naturalist Myrna Wood. â€śWe approached him when he was the speaker at the Ontario Nature AGM in 2010 and a resolution was made calling for a moratorium on wind turbines in IBAs and it passed unanimously. What (Miller) had to say in his report was very important and I would think the government will have to pay attention to that.â€ť
Wood pointed to two projects in the County â€“ Gilead Powerâ€™s Ostrander Point (nine turbines) and wpd Canadaâ€™s White Pines Project (29 turbines), saying they would both impact birds and bats along the southern shores of Prince Edward County.
â€śAll nine of the turbines for the Ostrander Point project are in the middle of the IBA and 12 of the wpd turbines are in there is well,â€ť she said. â€śWeâ€™ve been saying for years this is not the place for these projects and now the the environment commissioner is supporting that.â€ť
The County Sustainability Group has long supported wind energy in Prince Edward County and one of its members, Don Chisholm, said he feared Millerâ€™s report was penned without enough information.
â€śI have a great deal of respect for Mr. Miller, he says a lot of very sensible things, however I fear he may not have had enough information and what he did have, was likely very one-sided,â€ť said Chisholm. â€śWhen they talk about IBAs, they never talk about the new wineries, the new homes and all of the new development there, just wind turbines. If you look at statistics, the number of bird kills by turbines is almost trivial compared to these other things and Iâ€™m worried he didnâ€™t consider that.â€ť
Prince Edward-Hastings MPP Todd Smith said the report might mean the end of at least two of the developments in the County.
â€śI think Millerâ€™s report is another third-party endorsement for the people in PEC who are trying to keep the turbines off the south shore and out of the IBA,â€ť he said. â€śI personally feel the Ministry of Environment is looking very closely at both Ostrander Point and White Pines and with the mountain of evidence piling up, they will be looking at walking away from them because this (report) is one more bullet.â€ť
Calls to Gilead Power and wpd Canada were not returned.
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