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Monthly Archives: September 2011

Postive response to South Shore Conservancy’s press conference

 To date we have only had positive responses to our press conference and to our media release.  The local media outlets that covered last Wednesday’s event at Milford Hall include the Belleville Intelligencer,CountyLiveand the Kingston Whig Standard.  As this is still breaking news we expect to see more coverage over the ensuing weeks. We do not expect that all of it will be positive but this has certainly been a good start. 

In County Weekly News this week Parker Gallant (Bloomfield) pointed out that the blade sweep area of a 1.5 MW GE turbine is almost a full acre.  Gilead Power’s 2.5 MG XL (Extra-Large) turbines each have a blade sweep of 1.9 acres.  Gilead’s nine wind turbines at Ostrander Point would have a total sweep area of over seventeen acres.  The spectre of turbine blades moving at 165 mph and covering over seventeen acres of sky at Ostrander Point, directly in the way of critical flight paths and a major migratory route is a horrifying prospect.  

SSC’s goal is to protect the IBA and to not repeat the ugly example set at WolfeI sland where wind turbines have scored the most fatalities on the eastern side of North America. Last Wednesday’s Press Conference was an important first step in gaining protection for our South Shore IBA.

Expert says Ostrander Point Blanding’s turtle habitat now damaged

Comments on habit disturbance activities (UXO removal site preparation) on Ostrander Point August/September 2011 by Frederic Beaudry, Ph.D. Assistant Professor of Environmental Science,  Alfred University, Alfred, New York, September 8, 2011

The original Word document appears below.

 “The following comments refer to activities observed on the site of a wind farm proposed by Gilead Power Corporation on Ostrander Point,Ontario. It appears that site preparation for unexploded ordnance removal has been conducted in the last week of August 2011. The activities documented on photos show site preparation consisting in clearing land of grass, forbs, shrubs and small trees using a Brushcat rotary mower pushed by a Bobcat skid steer.

These activities are of serious concern for the viability and persistence of the local population of Blanding’s turtles. Two main threat mechanisms were at play because of those activities:

 1)     Direct damage to Blanding’s turtle habitat is evident from the photographs and the maps situating the mowing activities. The mowing occurred in areas turtles use to conduct upland movements between foraging and nesting sites. More importantly, without proper prior wetland delineation procedures, damage may have occurred in spring / early summer foraging areas that would most likely be dry at this point. Damage in these foraging areas would affect their suitability for pond-breeding amphibians, a significant source of food for Blanding’s turtles. Finally, the use of gas- or diesel-powered vehicles in turtle habitat is risky, as highly polluting fuel, oils or lubricants can easily leak into the environment.

 2)     A greater threat to the Blanding’s turtle population is the risk of injuries or mortality from the mower.  At this time of year, the air temperature is still high enough to allow for relatively frequent overland movements as adult turtles seek new foraging areas, search for deeper waters as wetlands dry out, or make movements back towards the wetlands where they will overwinter. The mower can inflict mortal wounds to the turtles that are located upland, a threat that has long been recognized and usually associated with agricultural mowing equipment such as disk mowers. This risk is of great concern as Blanding’s turtle populations are extremely vulnerable to any additional mortality of adults. Their delayed sexual maturity, low annual reproductive output, and low egg and hatchling survival rates need to be offset by a high longevity. Because of this the adults’ annual survival rate needs to be between 94 and 96%; the loss of just a few individual adults, as little as one or two in small populations, is enough to drive local extinctions. For this reason the operation of motor vehicles or machinery that can kill adults is the greatest threat to their persistence.”

Frederic Beaudry, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor of Environmental Science

Alfred University

Alfred, New York

beaudry_comments_on_UXO_activities

Expert opinion on UXO removal from Ostrander Point

Letter from Dr. Charles R. Smith, Ph.D. to Mr. Charles Birchall Fogler, Rubinoff LLP – September 9, 2011. 

The original letter appears as a pdf. doc below.

 I’m writing in response to your enquiry of earlier today, regarding current activities to remove unexploded ordinance (UXO) from the Ostrander Point Site. I was able to visit the site on 4 and 5 September 2011, spending 8 hours in the field and walking 3.8 miles on the site, except in an area where I was excluded by workers removing UXO on the site (near Munitions Response Site 1 on the map you provided). I was not able to see personally any of the work depicted in the pictures you’ve provided by e-mail. I must say, however, given what I’ve seen in the pictures, that I am incredulous that work of the kind depicted would be undertaken without first having an environmental impact assessment of the potential effects of such work on plants and animals.

Specifically, the work is being conducted during the peak period of fall migration for many songbirds and birds of prey, including endangered, threatened, and sensitive species. Ostrander Point already is identified as an Important Bird Area and significant stopover location for migrating songbirds and birds of prey. From my own recent observations at the site, it is rich with food sources for migrating songbirds, including the fruits of two juniper species (Eastern Red Cedar, Juniperus virginiana, and Common Juniper, Juniperus communis), along with substantial amounts offruits from multiple species of shrub dogwoods (Cornus spp.), and seeds from multiple species of asters and goldemods. All of these foods are essential to providing nutrition and energy to allow migratory songbirds to continue their migrations. In addition, birds of prey time their migrations to take advantage of the abundances of their songbird prey. Habitat disturbance not only disrupts the movement and feeding patterns of migratory songbirds, but also the birds of prey which depend upon the songbirds for food during migration. The work currently ongoing at Ostrander Point is destroying plants that provide important foods and cover for migrating songbirds. Clearing the areas within the circles outlined in red on the map you provided will adversely affect a significant percentage of the habitats at the Ostrander Point wind turbine site. Read the rest of this entry

Department of National Defence EA Report for Ostrander Point

Due Diligence Environmental Assessment Screening Report for the Proposed EO Assessment and Clearance in Ostrander Point , Prince Edward County by the Department of National Defense March 2011

The South Shore Conservancy hosted a successful press conference this morning.  Most impressive was the number of people who attended, given the extremely short notice.  As well as four members of the local press, Leona Dombrowski, Todd Smith and Treat Hull were there with Michael McMahon representing the NDP candidate.

Garth Manning, an SSC member and a former Queen’s Counsel during his illustrious legal career, stood in for our legal council, Charles Birchall, whose letter is attached.   We were fortunate to have Garth with us.

 Many of the documents from the press package will appear on our site, including the Department of National Defense document;  below. Please note that it is a 40 page document for those with limited internet access.

 Thanks for all your support!

20110322 Ostrander Point EA Signed

South Shore Conservancy Press Release Sept. 14, 2011

ONTARIO GOVERNMENT REFUSES TO APPLY ENVIRONMENTAL LAW

   Places endangered species of Ostrander Point in jeopardy

 Picton,ON/ September 14, 2011- The Ontario government has suspended application of its environmental laws to a globally recognized Important Bird Area at Ostrander Point,Prince Edward County. That is the legal opinion obtained from a leading Canadian environmental lawyer and announced today at a news conference in Prince Edward County by the Prince Edward County South Shore Conservancy. The legal opinion states “there is no legal basis for the Province’s refusal to apply provincial environmental laws at Ostrander Point”. Ostrander Point is home to millions of migrating birds and a significant number of endangered species.

 Gilead Power Corporation has proposed building an industrial wind development at Ostrander Point. The controversial project is being strongly criticized locally and internationally by naturalists, bird experts and ecologists. The Gilead proposal includes an application under the Endangered Species Act to “kill, harm and harass endangered species and destroy habitat” of the rare Blanding’s Turtle and the Whip-poor-will. No approvals have been granted for this project.

 However, without any advance public notice or consultation, contractors hired by Defence Construction Canada (DCC) suddenly commenced clearing large swaths of wildlife habitat last week at Ostrander Point looking for unexploded ordnance from the 1950’s. The site had been used by the Royal Canadian Air Force.

 According to DCC documentation, the unapproved Gilead industrial wind development proposal prompted DCC actions; although, the site had previously been cleared of unexploded ordnances in the 1960’s.

 The Ontario government has repeatedly stated no work at Ostrander Point would take place until proper review and approvals are given. It now claims however that provincial environmental protection laws do not apply to federal activities on provincial crown land. The South Shore Conservancy legal opinion states that the destruction of endangered or threatened species habitat is prohibited under the Ontario Endangered Species Act. The result of the Province’s position is that the endangered and threatened species of Ostrander Point are not receiving environmental protection.Ontario’s refusal to apply its environmental laws at Ostrander Point has serious implications for other provincially owned lands including AlgonquinPark. 

 Ironically, last week Premier Dalton McGuinty published a letter to the editor of The Wellington Times in Prince Edward Countyin relation to the Ostrander Point project in which he states, “We have a responsibility to protect our wildlife, and are doing so through the Endangered Species Act… Each renewable project must comply with key environmental rules under the Renewable Energy Approval regulation process…” Despite this public assertion by Mr. McGuinty the endangered species at Ostrander Point have not been protected under the Endangered Species Act.

 The South Shore Conservancy is calling on the Province to:

(i) apply its environmental laws, particularly the Endangered Species Act, (ii) order the full repair and restoration of Ostrander Point, (iii) appoint a task force of independent experts to oversee remediation and make recommendations for the future protection of Ostrander Point and the South Shore Important Bird Area, and (iv) declare an immediate moratorium on any further work at Ostrander Point.

 While a full environmental assessment of the damage done at Ostrander Point this past week has yet to be made, it is clear that habitat has been destroyed and endangered species such as the Blanding’s Turtle and the Whip-poor-will may have already been killed, harmed and harassed without a permit.

 The South Shore Conservancy was established in 2001. It is committed to protecting the flora, fauna and habitats encompassed by the South Shore Important Bird Area including species at risk, both breeding and migratory.

 Documents available online at www.southshoreconservancy.wordpress.com                    

Contact:Prince Edward County South Shore Conservancy at

southshoreconservancy@kos.net

Legal opinion – Environmental Protection of Ostrander Point

Charles J. Birchall (FOGLER, RUBINOFF LLP) letter to South Shore Conservancy September 13, 2011

” Dear Members of the Conservancy:

 Re: Environmental Protection of Ostrander Point

 You have requested our opinion on whether there is a legal basis for the Province of Ontario’s refusal to apply provincial environmental laws to protect the endangered and threatened species of the Ostrander Point Crown Land Block (“Ostrander Point”) during the course of work conducted at Ostrander Point by a private contractor to Defence Construction Canada (“DCC”).

 We have reviewed this matter in detail and concluded that there is no legal basis for the Province’s refusal to apply provincial environmental laws. Further, we have concluded that any destruction of endangered or threatened species habitat at Ostrander point without a permit is illegal under the provincial Endangered Species Act (“ESA”). Due to the Province’s failure to apply its own laws, it has a clear obligation to the public to use all legal tools at its disposal to ensure that any habitat destruction caused by the DCC contractor to Ostrander Point is remedied.

 As it is too late to stop any damage that has occurred at Ostrander Point, one way to address the situation is for the Province to assemble an independent multi-disciplinary task force to conduct a scientific assessment of the extent of the damage done to Ostrander Point and the steps necessary to remedy the damage. The task force should also undertake an assessment of how to ensure the ecological diversity and vitality of Ostrander Point can best be preserved for future generations. A moratorium on any new land uses, site alteration or other activities at Ostrander Point should be declared until such time as the findings of the task force are released and implemented.

 1.0 Background

Ostrander Point is public land owned by the Provincial Crown and managed by the Ministry of Natural Resources (“MNR”). We understand that it is one of Ontario’s most ecologically rich and biologically diverse areas. It has been designated an Important Bird Area and is home to a significant number of endangered and threatened species.

 Ostrander Point was used as a munitions training site for the Royal Canadian Air Force in the1950’s. Ostrander Point was subsequently cleared of unexploded ordnance (“UXO’s”) in the 1960’s, according to the DCC document titled “Due Diligence Environmental Assessment Screening Report for the Proposed EO Assessment and Clearance in Ostrander Point (“EO Assessment Document”).

 Despite having already been cleared of UXO’s, we have been informed by the Conservancy that over the past week a contractor for DCC cleared parts of Ostrander point for the purposes of reassessment and re-clearing of UXO’s. We have been informed by the Conservancy that this has resulted in damage to the habitat of the endangered and threatened species of Ostrander Point. We have been provided with a series of pictures to support this information. The re-assessment and re-clearing took place under a 2005 Federal government program that provides funds to private contractors to reduce safety risks posed by UXO’s at properties formerly owner or leased by the Department of National Defence (“DND”).

 The EO Assessment Document states that the reason for the re-assessment and re-clearing is “recent changes to the intended land use have prompted the need for further investigation and EO risk assessment of the area prior to undertaking any subsurface excavations.” The change in intended land use referred to appears to be a proposal by Gilead Power Corporation (“Gilead”) to build a 24 MW wind turbine development at Ostrander Point. The EO Assessment Document states that a part of the mandate of the DCC contractor will be to provide “construction support” for Gilead.

However, Gilead has not received the required provincial approvals necessary to proceed with a renewable energy project under the Environmental Protection Act and therefore any reassessment and re-clearing operations for the purpose of ensuring safe construction of the wind turbine development was premature. We also understand that as of the date of this letter, no confirmed UXO’s were found as a result of the DCC contractor’s activities.

 According to the EO Assessment Document, MNR and the Ministry of the Environment    (“MOE”) were consulted prior to DCC contracting for any work to be done at Ostrander Point and DCC was informed that provincial laws did not apply and that no permits were required for DCC to enter onto provincially owned land inhabited by endangered and threatened species to conduct the planned work.

 We have been advised by the Conservancy that the Province’s position has since been confirmed by the MOE, as well as by the MPP for the area, the Honourable Leona Dombrowsky, the former Minister of the Environment and current Minister of Education. Ms. Dombrowsky stated in the email you have provided to us dated September 8, 2011:

 The Department of National Defence (DND) does not require approval (or permits) from the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) for the Proposed Exploded Ordnance (EO) Assessment and Clearance at Ostrander Point. The explanation for this is based on the Intergovernmental Immunity Doctrine, which states that provinces lack the authority to bind the federal Crown, or federal Crown agencies. As a result, provincial laws generally do not apply to the federal Crown or to federal Crown agencies. Read the rest of this entry