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Confident design is best for birds: NextEra could “turn off” turbines for tundra migration period: spokesperson

THEDFORD – Steve Walker has been working for four years to restore an 11 acre plot of land near the Thedford Bog.

He’s planted thousands of native plants, trees and prairie grasses, all the while watching the wildlife in awe.

In March, the Courtright man watched as the majestic tundra swans swooped over his land to land in the nearby bog.

Now that NextEra Energy has revealed where it will place some of its 92 turbines for the Jericho wind Energy project in Lambton Shores, he’s worried about those swan.

There are a number of turbines which could be placed near the Thedford bog and the draft report shows more than a dozen sites along the Ausable River which Walker believes the swans use to find their migration resting spot.

“The number one concern I have is the tundra swans; to me their almost like a big 747 coming in for a landing and then you put up all these CN towers -you wouldn’t do that at end of the runway,” he told Sarnia Lambton This Week. “I was very surprised they put two of them right tight to their northern border.”

But NextEra Spokesperson Josie Hernandez says the company has been very careful in placing the turbines with wildlife in mind. “The closest one is 920 meters away from the bog,” says Hernandez adding the company’s plan “meets and exceeds the requirements by the province.”

Walker talked to NextEra representatives about his concerns who suggested the company could turn off the turbines during migration to avoid any bird strikes. Hernandez says that would be possible, but doesn’t think it would be necessary.

“There is a possibility that we could do it…if there was a shift in the way the swan migrate and they want to nest somewhere else in the future – sure. But our goal is to design a project…that doesn’t create any problems in the future.”

Hernandez says the company’s engineer consultants did desktop exercises and visited the site to make sure the turbines would not be in the way. She wasn’t able to say immediately whether the consultants had visited the site during the bird’s migration period.

Hernandez adds homeowners in the area have been helpful giving the company pointers on where exactly the birds are going.

She hopes more members of the public will be able to help further during public information meetings in February after the final report is issued to the public.

For his part, Walker will be watching to see exactly where the turbines end up. He says if they are too close to his lot, he won’t be building a home on the land, as he planned.