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Year-round bird and bat monitoring sought

Blue Point resident Kristen Rodrigues wants the owners of the Cedar Point Wind project to monitor, year-round, how its turbines affect birds and bats.

Rodrigues said the current plan to only conduct bird and bat monitoring between May 1 and Oct. 31 doesn’t allow for the wind energy project site’s unique characteristic as a wintering bird area, as well as the annual migration of Tundra swans, along with fluctuating weather patterns.

“Birds and bats, in general, they don’t follow the calendar,” Rodrigues said.

“They follow the weather patterns, and those weather patterns, as we all know, fluctuate greatly.”

She’s scheduled to make a presentation during a Cedar Point Community liaison committee meeting Tuesday, set for 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., at the Royal Canadian Legion on Albert Street in Forest.

The 46-turbine wind project, owned jointly by Suncor and NextEra in Plympton-Wyoming, Lambton Shores and Warwick Township, began operating in October.

According to minutes of a community liaison committee meeting held that month, three years of bird and bat monitoring is scheduled to begin in May, following requirements of the province’s renewable energy approval for the wind energy project, and Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forest guidelines.

The potential impact the wind project could have on wildlife and natural environment has raised concerns in the community, said Rodrigues, a 23-year resident of the lakeshore neighbourhood of Blue Point in Plympton-Wyoming.

“We have four seasons here, we don’t only have three,” she said.

“That fourth season (winter) is actually when we see an increase in populations of birds that we might not normally see during those other three seasons,” she said.

She pointed to the annual visit by migrating tundra swans that traditionally stop at the Thedford bog, and other areas of Lambton County, to rest on their northern migration each winter.

“Saturday morning I watched a whole flock of tundra swans flying over from the fields they were grazing in, across from Blue Point.”

The swans traditionally move through Lambton in the early winter before the Cedar Point monitoring program is set to begin, she said.

Several other species also migrate outside of the monitoring threshold, according to Rodrigues.

“This is a very busy corridor, being adjacent to the lakes,” she said.

Along with those migrations, many birds winter in the Lambton area, Rodrigues said.

“Bald eagles come from many jurisdictions in Ontario to this area to spend their winters,” she said.

“It’s a very unique situation.”

That’s why she believes Cedar Point should be monitoring all through the year.

“Suncor, in particular, needs to be accountable for the associated risks they took on when they decided to put those industrial turbines in that location,” Rodrigues said.

As well as counting birds found dead near turbines, the monitoring can show how species, overall, are being affected by the project, including changes to their breeding and other habits, she said.

“Will we lose the tundra swans,” she asked, “because they’re going to avoid the area now?”

Rodrigues is scheduled to give a summery presentation at Tuesday’s meeting of a report she has submitted with her request.

Rodrigues said she’s hopeful she can convince the project’s owners to run the monitoring program year-round.

“It just makes sense,” she said.

According to the minutes of the October committee meeting, the renewable energy approval for the Cedar Point project outlines thresholds of bird and bat deaths recorded during monitoring that, if exceeded, could lead to mitigation, including periodic shutting down of select turbines.