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Nature groups warn turbines kill birds

PLAINFIELD, Ont. (22/09/12) Representatives from the east region naturalists group met on Saturday to discuss concerns that they have about the environment. Photo by April Lawrence.

By April Lawrence

East region naturalist groups are concerned about the wind turbine developments proposed for Eastern Ontario.

The turbines are proposed to be located in areas of high traffic for migrating birds. Some of these species are considered a species at risk, said Janis Grant, past president of the Kingston Field Naturalists.

Grant said they are concerned with the wind turbines proposed for Amherst Island and offshore near Main Duck Island.

Over the summer the Kingston field naturalists prepared a report addressing the potential affects of offshore wind turbines on migratory bird populations said Grant. The turbines offshore at Main Duck Island would be in the way of migrating birds some of which are considered endangered species.

“Our results show that about 2.5 birds are killed a year by individual wind turbines, so at that type of level wind power projects are not a sustainability concern for Ontario’s bird populations,” said Jolanta Kowalski, senior media relations officer for the Ministry of Natural Resources. “For example millions of birds are killed across North America by running into buildings every year. It’s a much, much greater risk to bird populations.”

If a development proposal has the potential to harm a species or a natural habitat, the developers must apply to the Ministry of Natural Resources for a permit from the endangered species act, said Kate Jordan, spokeswoman for the Ministry of the Environment.

“Ontario established clear rules that the wind power industry has to follow to protect birds and their habitat,” said Kowalski. “That includes environmental impact studies, protection of significant wildlife habitat, and importantly is mandatory post construction monitoring.”

Myrna Wood, the Ontario representative from the Prince Edward County Field Naturalists, also have concerns about turbine development at Ostrander Point.

Wood said the consultations held in the process of approving turbine developments aren’t working because the developers aren’t really listening.

“We don’t make any decisions until: one we’ve had public consultation and public feedback, and two we’ve discussed with the developer how they could address any outstanding concerns,” said Jordan. “That’s all kind of in vetted and it’s an integral part of the renewable energy application process.”

A developer is required to hold a minimum of two community meetings or open houses where they discuss the proposal with the community and the municipality, said Jordan. In the meeting, community members have the opportunity to ask questions and express concerns.

The developer is required to include complete documentation of the meetings in their application to the ministries.  Once the ministry receives the application, the public is given another opportunity to express concerns.

Wood said the government posted a review of Crown land policies, which she says if passed would allow the government to erect wind turbines where they formerly couldn’t.

Kowalski said, a review of the Crown land policies won’t allow developers to put “anything up willy-nilly.”

In order for developers to proceed they must conduct an environmental impact study, which determines if the development will reach or exceed the allowable mortality rate set by the Ministry of Natural Resources, said Kowalski. If the mortality reaches or exceeds the rate, the developer is required to modify their monitoring and operations so they minimize the impact on birds and bats.

Lisa Richardson, the nature network coordinator with Ontario Nature, said that they should raise the issue at the upcoming Ontario Nature board meeting in mid- October, to see if they will help the groups connect.  She said the groups should be aware there are varied opinions of what the issues with wind turbines are and have different opinions of what should be done about it.

“I’d go as far as to say get rid of the green energy act,” said Grant.

Laura Robson, staff ecologist at Ontario Nature, said the groups should push for something similar to the forest management plan. That would outline where it is suitable for the turbines to be developed.