September 13, 2016

Group opposing turbines appeals to federal environment minister

Group appeals to federal environment minister | By Elliot Ferguson, Kingston Whig-Standard | Monday, September 12, 2016 |

STELLA – The group fighting a proposed wind energy project on Amherst Island has appealed to the federal environment minister to intervene in the case.

In a letter to Catherine McKenna, the federal environment and climate change minister, the Association to Protect Amherst Island (APAI) asked her to launch a federal environmental assessment of the cumulative impact of wind energy projects on Lake Ontario on the Atlantic migratory flyway and to examine if the projects comply with the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

Last week, APAI launched an appeal of an Environmental Review Tribunal ruling that dismissed the group’s appeal of a 26-turbine energy project on the island.

In its appeal, the group argued its concern about the project’s potential impact on wildlife and the environment had not been properly considered by the tribunal.

“The proposed Amherst Island wind project was approved by the Ontario government in August 2015 and an appeal to the Environmental Review Tribunal concerning the impact on the health and the natural environment was recently dismissed,” wrote APAI president Michele Le Lay.

“This is not an issue of being for or against renewable energy,” Le Lay added. “It is to do with the placement of wind turbine facilities and how they impact migratory birds and other species at risk as international resources.”

The request cited a recent study by Michael Hutchins of the American Bird Conservancy, which he said showed “wind turbines on the Great Lakes pose an unacceptably high risk to migratory birds and other wildlife.”

The study suggested setbacks for wind turbines from the Great Lakes shores be extended to 16 kilometres.

APAI’s letter to McKenna included a map showing 13 existing and proposed wind energy projects on land and offshore between Prince Edward County and Cape Vincent, N.Y., that the group said would create an “impenetrable wall across the shore” of eastern Lake Ontario.

In addition to affecting migratory birds, the wind turbines would hurt populations of nesting ground birds, such as bobolink, eastern meadowlark, whip-poor-will and short-eared owls, as well as bald eagle and golden eagle, the letter stated.

“The government of Ontario has approved turbine projects which would blanket the entire northeast corner of the lake,” Le Lay wrote. “We understand projects are also proposed on land in New York state along the shore in this area. It seems clear that the cumulative effect of all these proposed installations has not been fully considered in the context on international agreements concerning migratory birds. Numerous declining populations of migratory birds would be significantly affected.

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