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It begins: First hearing of Ostrander Point appeal on Friday

The Ministry of Environment’s review of the Ostrander Point wind energy development begins this Friday morning in a makeshift hearing room at the Town Hall in Picton.

Both the Prince Edward County Field Naturalists (PECFN) and the Alliance to Protect Prince Edward County (APPEC) are seeking to overturn the Ministry’s decision to approve the nine-turbine development on Crown land on the County’s south shore.

PECFN and APPEC will begin to stake out their arguments against the project at a preliminary hearing of an Environmental Review Tribunal that gets underway Friday morning at 11 a.m.

PECFN argues that the industrialization of this pristine shoreline will wreck the habitat for many animals and birds, and in particular the nesting grounds for two endangered species, the whippoorwill and the Blanding’s turtle. The Ministry of Environment doesn’t deny this project will likely destroy this habitat—but says that it has compelled the developer to take measures to minimize the harm and provide alternate nesting areas nearby.

Ontario Nature officials have described Ostrander Point as “one of the worst possible places to construct a wind farm.”

The PECFN appeal has been endorsed by an impressive array of conservancy organizations.

The developer, Gilead Power, has been advised by its consultants that a biologist should examine all work areas after road construction and vegetation has been removed to look for the Blanding’s turtle. Where they are observed all construction should stop until the turtle leaves the area “of its own accord.”

Gilead’s consultants are less concerned about the whippoorwill, suggesting that the amount of area cleared for the turbines is small and there is abundant similar habitat in southern Prince Edward County. The consultants acknowledge a lack of knowledge about the species and admit that “indirect impact to whippoorwill during the operation of the project, including avoidance impacts, are not known.”

APPEC is challenging the Ostrander Point project on the basis that the 400-foot turbines risk making nearby residents sick.

In a 2011 ERT decision in Chatham Kent, the panel ruled in favour of the developer but acknowledged that the issues around wind turbines and health of humans living remained an open question. The ruling was clear that it wasn’t good enough simply point to a gap in the protection; the appellants had to show that Ontario’s setback of 550 metres is not enough to protect people from harm from industrial wind turbines.

So the focus of APPEC’s appeal to Ostrander Point will centre on the real-life stories of folks living near wind turbines suffering adverse health effects.

Both the PECFN and APPEC need help funding their appeals. More information is available at their websites: saveostranderpoint.org and appec.wordpress.com respectively.

After the mostly procedural wranglings expected on Friday, the ERT gets under way in earnest on March 4 in Demorestville.