AMHERST – A controversial wind project near Amherst has been granted environmental approval by the province and site preparation work should begin in the coming weeks.
Environment Minister Randy Delorey announced Tuesday that he has given approval to Natural Forces’ project between the John Black Road and Pumping Station Road that will see three turbines erected.
The three turbines will generate six megawatts of electricity, enough to power approximately 1,500 homes.
“It’s good news to receive and all the conditions look good, they’re pretty standard conditions,” Natural Forces’ vice-president of development Andy MacCallum said. “Overall we’re really happy with it.”
In his letter, the environment minister said he’s satisfied that any adverse effects or significant environmental effects of the project can be adequately mitigated through compliance with attached conditions.
Among the project’s conditions are that it must be started within two years and must report all mitigation and monitoring it has done to the department within a year of its completion.
It must develop and implement a program to monitor for birds and bats, must submit a plant protection plan and that deforestation, clearing and grubbing must occur outside of the breeding season for most bird species (April 15 to Aug. 31), it must provide a sound modeling and shadow flicker assessment prior to clearing operations and must ensure noise doesn’t exceed 40 decibels.
Conditions also restrict building a turbine within 30 metres of a wetland, must do pre-blast surveys for water wells within 800 metres of the point of blast, must develop a Mi’kmaq communication plan, must cease work upon the discovery of an archeological site or artifact unearthed during construction and must supply a decommissioning and site reclamation plan.
MacCallum said Natural Forces is gearing up to begin some pre-construction and construction activities during the winter including tree clearing and geotechnical work. Other work will include determining where the three turbines go.
Construction will begin in the spring after weight restrictions are lifted and continue through the summer. He expects the turbines to be in place by the fall with commissioning in late 2015 or early 2016.
The project is expected to cost as much as $18 million and is a partnership with the Assembly of Nova Scotia Mi’kmaq Chiefs.
MacCallum said he hopes the environmental assessment answered most of the questions that have been raised, but he added there are always unanswered questions that need follow-up.
“Now that we got approval, by no means does that mean we plan to stop community consultations,” he said. “We are staying in touch with the community and we’re still open to having meetings to address as many issues as possible.”
The project was opposed by a group of neighbours living near the John Black Road. They suggested last fall that the project is not community based, which is a requirement of the provincial COMFIT program.
They also expressed concern with how the project would impact their property values.
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