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Turtle wins the day in wind fight

The winds have calmed in southern Prince Edward County after the Environmental Review Tribunal (ERT) upheld one of two appeals of the Ostrander Point wind project.

In a surprise move, the ERT released its decision late Wednesday evening – a full week earlier than anticipated – upholding an appeal of the project by the Prince Edward County Field Naturalists, while dismissing another filed by the Alliance to Protect Prince Edward County (APPEC) based on a submission of harm to human health.

The tribunal ruled the project posed serious risk to wildlife – namely Blanding’s turtles – on the Crown land.

The Ministry of Environment issued an approval to Ostrander Point GP Inc. (formerly Gilead Power), for the nine-turbine Ostrander Point project on Dec. 20, 2012.

Opponents were given 15 days to launch appeals and both the Field Naturalists and APPEC did so before the Jan. 4 deadline.

In Wednesday’s decision ERT stated, “The Tribunal finds that mortality due to roads, brought by increased vehicle traffic, poachers and predators, directly in the habitat of Blanding’s turtle, a species that is globally endangered and threatened in Ontario, is serious and irreversible harm to Blanding’s turtle at Ostrander Point Crown Land Block that will not be effectively mitigated by the conditions in the (Renwable Energy Approval).”

The decision marks the first time an appeal of a wind turbine project has been upheld in Ontario.

“Of course we’re thrilled with the decision, but not surprised,” said Field Naturalists’ president Myrna Wood. “We always thought the ERT would recognize the importance of our south shore here in Prince Edward County and this confirms it.

“The importance of winning this appeal will have implications province wide. One of the things the provincial government failed to do when they passed the Green Energy Act, opening up Crown land to development, is consider the significant wildlife in these areas. It’s not just the turbines either, other development is just as destructive, but now the government will be forced to deal with this.”

While the Field Naturalists appealed on environmental issues surrounding the property, APPEC’s appeal was based on harm to human health.

The tribunal denied that appeal stating, “The evidence in this proceeding did not establish a causal link between wind turbines and either direct or indirect harm to human health at the 550 metre set-back distance required under this REA. The evidence in this hearing did not establish that engaging in the Ostrander

Point wind turbine project in accordance with the REA will cause serious harm to human health. For these reasons the Tribunal finds that the Appellant has not established that engaging in the project in accordance with the REA will cause serious harm to human health, and dismisses APPEC’s appeal. ”

The decision came after four months and 40 separate hearings which began in March at the Sophiasburgh Town Hall.

“It’s certainly been a long haul, but given yesterday’s decision – it’s certainly been worth it,” Wood said.