Blandingâ€™s turtle is in trouble again: An Ontario court has cleared the way for a wind farm that an environmental tribunal says will threaten the turtleâ€™s habitat.
The modest reptile had stood in the way of a wind farm at Ostrander Point in Prince Edward County.
But a divisional court panel ruled Thursday that the environmental tribunal made six errors of law in reaching its conclusion that the wind farm would cause â€śserious and irreversible harmâ€ť to the turtle.
The court restored the decision by provincial officials, allowing Gilead Power to proceed with the project, which would erect nine big wind turbines on the site.
It was a bitter blow to local nature and conservation groups. They had argued the wind farm â€“ and the increased traffic associated with it â€“ would harm not just the turtles, but also birds, bats and the rare â€śalvarâ€ť ecosystem at Ostrander Point.
The court sided with Gilead.
â€śThatâ€™s very disappointing,â€ť was all Cheryl Anderson of the Prince Edward County Field Naturalists Club could say on hearing the news.
The court found many reasons to dispute the findings on the environmental tribunal.
The judges said the tribunal had made its ruling despite a â€ścomplete absence of evidenceâ€ť of the population of turtles, either in the Ostrander Point area, or in the province as a whole.
The court also noted that the tribunal could have laid out further conditions for protecting the turtles â€“ such as ordering access roads closed to the public. The tribunal had said it lacked that powers, and therefore had to consider the proposal strictly as presented.
Eric Gillespie, lawyer for the field naturalists, said his client is â€śexpressing some concernâ€ť about parts of the ruling and is considering whether to take the divisional court ruling to Ontario Court of Appeal.
One factor in launching an appeal could be money. Several environmental and community groups had banded together to raise money for the original appeal to the tribunal.
According to the Save Ostrander Point website, they have raised about $135,000 toward the $220,000 in legal costs run up to date.
Gilead Power couldnâ€™t be reached for comment late Thursday.
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