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Raptor kills exceeded by wind project

The 46-turbine Cedar Point wind power project in Lambton County killed more birds of prey during seven months of this year than allowed by its provincial approval.

The wind project is owned by Suncor and NextEra in Plympton-Wyoming, Lambton Shores, and Warwick Township, and began operating in 2015.

As part of its renewable energy approval, granted in August 2014 by Ontario’s Environment Ministry, the wind farm operator is required to conduct counts of bats, birds and raptors, also known as birds of prey, such as hawks and eagles.

“Post-construction monitoring for bird, bat and raptor mortality was conducted from May 1 to Nov. 30,” said Suncor spokesperson Nicole Fisher.

“Final calculations are still being confirmed, although the preliminary results indicate that we were within allowable limits for birds and bats, but we have slightly exceeded the limit for raptor kills.”

A final report on the monitoring results is expected in March and the information will be posted on the wind project’s website, Fisher said.

“Once we have a better understanding of what happened, we will do additional monitoring to determine the cause and effects of why we have exceeded that threshold.”

That will be in addition to monitoring already required by the project’s renewable energy approval, Fisher said.

“When post-construction surveys show that bird mortality thresholds are exceeded, operators are required to implement their operational mitigation plans and continue to monitor for negative environmental effects,” Jolanta Kowalski, a spokesperson with the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, said in an e-mail.

The citizens group We’re Against Industrial Turbines, Plympton-Wyoming, has raised questions about the raptor deaths at the Cedar Point project, as has Blue Point resident Kristen Rodrigues, who earlier this year asked the wind project’s operator for year-round monitoring of bird and bat deaths.

“Because it is a migratory bird path, and the project sits within five kilometres of Lake Huron, it warrants having supplemental monitoring,” she said.

Rodrigues said the community is a wintering area for raptors, and that migratory and shoreline birds travel through the region.

“They don’t wait for May 1 to do that,” she said.

Rodrigues said the first response she received back from the wind farm operators about her request came at a Dec. 6 meeting of a community liaison committee that the operator was required to establish as part of its provincial renewable energy approval.

She said the response was that the operator didn’t believe the additional monitoring she asked for is warranted based on environmental studies carried out for Suncor before construction began.

But Rodrigues has questioned the methods and conclusions of those studies.

“How is it that they’re killing more raptors than are allowed?”

Rodrigues said residents at the Dec. 6 meeting were also told it would be the final meeting of the community liaison committee.

“Which was kind of concerning as well, because there are still so many issues to be addressed, this one in particular,” she said.

“The reality is the turbines are up, they’re running. These birds exist. Now fix your mistake.”

Fisher said Suncor remains committed to keeping residents informed, and will work with them to determine “what the best way to stay connected in the future is.”

Nature Canada has been raising concerns about the impact of wind projects on birds, bats and other wildlife, although the national nature conservation charity says it supports renewable, green energy.

“We recognize we have to make the transition from the use of fossil fuels to the greater use of renewable energy,” said Stephen Hazeil, Nature Canada’s director of conservation and general counsel.

“Having said that, we do have a lot of concerns how wind energy projects are approved.”

A key issue is “how do we make sure that we get the siting of these projects right, so that they’re not causing undue numbers of bird deaths,” Hazeil said.

“And, we don’t think there has been nearly enough attention paid to that.”

Hazeil said Nature Canada is also concerned about wind projects that are already up and running.

“The wind energy industrial really has done virtually nothing in terms of mitigating the adverse impacts of turbines on birds in Ontario,” he said.

Hazeil said his group believes the industry can do more, but it has been resistant.

“I guess the industry feels they’ve got the wind in their sails and they don’t need to worry about what a few bird lovers want.”