I am writing in response to a recent article by birding columnist Bruce Mactavish, “Surprise bird spottings during autumn trip to Codroy Valley area.”
I’ve been following the development of the World Energy GH2 project on the west coast of Newfoundland with great concern since its announcement in July 2022. The second proposed wind turbine site at the Anguille mountains in the Codroy Valley was a late addition to the project.
The people there – and around the province – are only beginning to come to terms with what this will mean for that region. Mr. Mactavish describes the many delightful avian encounters he’s had this fall while spending time in the lovely Codroy Valley, which included over 50 white-throated sparrows, over 200 sharp-shinned hawks, “clouds” of robins, and some rare bird sightings at Cape Anguille including a blue-winged warbler and a white-eyed vireo.
Mr. Mactavish says he went in the fall to expand his knowledge of the autumn bird migration, the extent of which is not very well known and ends the piece with noting his sense of excitement and his feeling that “anything is possible in the Codroy Valley.”
I kept waiting for him to mention the threat to bird populations from the proposed WE GH2 project, which includes 164 massive, 200-metre tall turbines with associated roads and transmission lines to be situated along the Anguille Mountains on one side of the valley, around tributaries which feed into the Grand Codroy Estuary. This is perhaps the most important wetland in the province and has two internationally recognized Important Bird Areas.
The significance of the Grand Codroy Estuary was recognized in 1987 by the Ramsar Convention and is the only area in the province to have this recognition. The American Bird Conservancy (ABC) notes that “Wind turbines and their associated infrastructure – notably power lines and towers – are among the fastest-growing threats to birds and bats in the United States and Canada.” They also explain that this threat can be reduced through proper siting of turbines.
“When it comes to wind energy, site selection is everything. The risks are, of course, much greater when wind turbines are placed in areas attracting large concentrations of birds and bats. When wind energy projects are located in or near major migratory routes, stopover sites, or key breeding or foraging areas, the losses are expected to be great. ABC believes that such high-risk areas should be avoided at all costs.”
It is inconceivable to me that our government would allow this project to proceed in the most important area for birds in the province and in one of the most beautiful places on the island. And this for a mega project whose technology is untested at this scale anywhere in the world except for one in China – how is that one going by the way? Does anyone know?
One of the notable omissions in the Environmental Impact Statement submitted by WE GH2 is a study for fall bird migration in the Codroy Valley. How informed a decision can the Department of Environment be making without this information? Surely the many folks around this province who value and study birds in the valley have similar concerns?
While extolling the birding delights of the Codroy Valley, Mr. Mactavish fails to mention the proposed development and the threat it poses to migratory bird populations. The writer obviously cherishes what the Codroy Valley has to offer. My concern is that if the turbines are installed in the Anguille mountains as proposed, rather than counting birds in flight on his next visit, Mr. Mactavish will be counting bird corpses.
Co-Chair, Enviro Watch NL
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