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Opponents of turbine project appeal to environment minister to protect turtles

STELLA – Opponents of a wind energy project on Amherst Island are appealing to the provincial government to enforce a condition designed to protect an endangered turtle population.

In a letter to Ontario Environment and Climate Change Minister Chris Ballard, the Association to Protect Amherst Island asked for the provincial government to enforce work stoppages meant to protect the Blanding’s turtle during its nesting and reproduction period.

In August 2016, the Environmental Review Tribunal dismissed an appeal of the project’s approval.

Central to APAI’s appeal was the argument that the turbine project would harm the population of Blanding’s turtles.

At the time the ERT issued its decision, it required the company building the project, Algonquin Power’s subsidiary Windlectric Inc., to take steps to limit potential damage to the turtles.

The ERT required construction of portions of the project closest to the coastal wetland to take place between Nov. 1 and March 31. Construction of the other areas of the project is to take place between Sept. 1 and March 31.

The stoppages are meant to “ensure that construction takes place outside the period during which turtles are active outside of their resident wetlands.”

“Indeed construction of turbines closest to the wetlands is in the initial stages and the company has failed to comply with the ERT decision and with their own commitments to protect the endangered Blanding’s Turtle,” APAI president Michele Le Lay wrote in the letter to Ballard.

Le Lay stated the company’s current construction schedule projected continued work until late May.

The company’s schedule for Saturday and Monday, posted on its social media sites, included construction traffic, road maintenance and component movement on Front Road, Lower 40 Foot Road, South Shore Road, Stella 40 Foot Road and the 2nd the 3rd Concession roads.

In an email, island resident Brian Little said the contractor, Pennon Ltd., has continued to work, with construction work also taking place this past Sunday.

“No flagmen, no water trucks to control dust and no concern for speed limits on the first day of nice weather that might entice the Blanding’s turtles to start looking for nesting areas along the roadsides,” Little wrote. “Lord knows there are plenty of breaks in the silt fencing to allow them easy access to the roadway.”