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Comments on Great Lakes Protection Act Bill 100

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Great Lakes Protection Act BILL 100

Comments submitted to:

Ministry of Environment

EBR 011-6461

by Prince Edward County South Shore Conservancy

  The Honourable Jim Bradley

Minister of the Environment

77 Wellesley Street West

11th Floor, Ferguson Block


M7A 2T5

 August 7, 2012

 Dear Minister Jim Bradley,

 Re: Bill 100 comments to EBR 011-6461

 The South Shore Conservancy greatly appreciates the opportunity to comment on the Ministry of Environment Bill 100 Great Lakes Act including the Great Lakes Strategy.

The Prince Edward County South Shore Conservancy is a volunteer organization committed to protecting the flora, fauna and habitats encompassed by the South Shore Important Bird Area (IBA) inside the south shore peninsula. The IBA includes species at risk, both breeding and migratory. The Conservancy was founded in 2001.

 Bill 100 – PART I



1. (1) The purposes of this Act are,

(a) to protect and restore the ecological health of the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin; and

(b) to create opportunities for individuals and communities to become involved in the protection and restoration of the ecological health of the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin.

2.The purposes set out …include the following:

1. To protect human health and wellbeing through the protection and restoration of the ecological health of the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin.

2. To protect and restore wetlands and beaches and other coastal areas of the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin. Page | 3

 3. To protect and restore the natural habitats and bio-diversity of the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin.

4. To advance science relating to existing and emerging stressors, such as climate change, that improves understanding and management of the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin.

5. To enrich the quality of life in communities in the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin through support of environmentally sustainable economic opportunities, innovation and environmentally sustainable use of natural resources.

The Conservancy wishes to address Part I, Section2, numbers 2, 3 and 4 of Bill 100 in this comment submission.

2. To protect and restore wetlands and beaches and other coastal areas of the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin

The Conservancy wishes to share information regarding the south shore of PrinceEdwardCounty including the South Bay Coastal wetland.

Prince Edward County‟s entire south shore peninsula consists of:

1. 28 km undeveloped shore; one of the longest undeveloped stretches of shoreline on the lower Great Lakes

2. a globally recognized Important Bird Area

3. a globally recognized migratory flyway (i.e. the route migrating birds – songbirds, waterfowl and raptors like hawks and owls — follow between their nesting grounds in the northern boreal forest and areas to the south)

4. a major staging area for migrating birds rest and feeding

5. a breeding territory for over 40 species of birds

6. a breeding territory for Species at Risk, including Blanding‟s Turtle, Whip-poor-will, Short-eared Owl, Least Bittern, King Rail and Black Tern

7. a migration staging area for bats, Monarch butterflies and dragonflies

8. sites of sensitive rare limestone alvars which support vegetation essential to rare species, migrating birds

Comments reported by Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources in the report Life Sciences of Natural and Scientific Interest in Site District 6E-15 (2001): A Review and Assessment of Significant Natural Areas in Site District 6E-15, researchers support the Conservancy’s position. The extensive LakeOntario shoreline with its associated dune, beach and coastal marsh, provides habitat for many coastal plant species such as meadow spikemoss, beach grass, little bluestem, seaside spurge and various sedges to name only a few. The landform / vegetation features associated with the coastal shoreline environment are very well developed and greatly surpass those occurring elsewhere on the northern LakeOntario coast. Of particular note are the superb sand dune and panne complex features of the Sandbanks Coastal Sand Bar Dunes. PrinceEdwardPoint to Ostrander Point (Provincially Significant) presents a diverse Page | 4

 combination of grassland, forest, shrub and wetland communities on a limestone plain.

The South Bay Coastal Wetland is recognized as a Provincially Significant Wetland.

 The Prince Edward County south shore wetland is described by Stantec Consulting as “undisturbed” and “Similar undisturbed marshes are increasingly rare along the Great Lakes.”

Ostrander Point Wind Energy Park Natural Heritage Assessment and Environmental Impact Study by Stantec Consulting Ltd, May 2011

 According to Prince Edward County Field Naturalists, “Wetlands are some of the most productive habitats on earth. They‟re often full of plants and wildlife; water-loving reeds, shrubs and flowering plants thrive in these habitats. The unique conditions of wetlands make them an important home for songbirds, fish, reptiles and amphibians. Wood ducks prefer the shallow water of wetlands, particularly those surrounded by trees. Frogs, salamanders, fish and dragonflies raise their young in these areas. Migrating ducks find refuge and food in wetlands. Many endangered species depend on wetlands for their survival.”

 “Other breeding amphibians and migrating birds can also be found in the wetland. The Ministry of Natural Resources‟ Significant Wildlife Habitat Technical Guide says migratory bird stopovers should be preserved in their entirety.”

 Concerns for the protection of wetlands are international in scope. “Wetland birds could be acting as dispersal agents for many wetland plants that do not use abiotic agents, such as wind, for dispersal into new areas. The importance of birds as dispersal agents will likely increase with loss and fragmentation of remaining wetlands because of the ability of birds to use landscapes at large scales.”

 Loss of Wetlands: How Are Bird Communities Affected? Fletcher, Robert, Ph.D., Research Associate, University of Montana (October 2003)

 In addition to birds, the endangered Blanding‟s Turtle nests near the shore in undisturbed wetlands.

1. “The Blanding‟s turtle is cold-blooded and has a helmet-shaped carapace and a bright yellow neck, which makes it easily distinguishable. Its lifespan is 75 years or more. Adults can be found in open areas and juveniles prefer wetland areas near the water‟s edge that are heavily vegetated.

2. They also prefer shallow water that is rich in nutrients and spend much of their time moving between wetland sites. In one season, a Blanding‟s turtle has been known to travel up to seven kilometres.

3. The species is considered to be aquatic, but will spend much of its time on land in order to find the perfect nesting site.

4. The species is vulnerable to degradation and alteration of its wetland habitat. Road

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  mortality is also a serious threat to the species.

5. The nesting females prefer the gravel on the side of the road and this obvious risk leads to fatalities. In general, Blanding’s turtles are attracted to roads because of their heat properties and will do their best – even if there is a fence – to get on/near it.”

 3. To protect and restore the natural habitats and bio-diversity of the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin.

 Loss of habitat, habitat fragmentation and loss of biodiversity have become increasingly serious concerns for the environmental science community.

“Overall, it has been estimated that 3-5% of the area of commercial wind turbine development is habitat loss due to construction, while 95-97% of the impact area is from fragmenting habitats, species avoidance behavior, and issues of bird and bat mortality (McDonald et al. 2009).”

“Expert opinion and some studies indicate that concentrations of migrating birds occur on peninsulas and islands but additional work is needed to show the patterns all across the Great Lakes region.”

Ewert, D.N., Cole, J.B., and Grman, E.( 2011). Wind energy: Great Lakes Regional Guidelines, The Nature Conservancy Lansing, Michigan

 The entire south shore peninsula of Prince Edward County contains a number of alvars, each with their own rare habitats and inhabitants Alvars are irreplaceable habitats growing on a limestone base. The Prince Edward County south shore supports three of the five kinds of alvars: pavement (limestone), meadow and shrubland alvars.

 “Alvars are important as sites for (1) the protection of biodiversity including threatened plant communities, rare and threatened species of flora and fauna, and germplasm of crop relatives; (2) biological research and environmental monitoring; and (3) ecotourism. Approximately 85% of alvar sites and more than 90% of alvar landscape area in the Great Lakes region is in southern Ontario.”

 A review of the alvars of the Great Lakes region: Distribution, floristic composition, biogeography and protection, Catling, PM | Brownell, VR Canadian field-naturalist. OttawaON [CAN. FIELD-NAT.]. Vol. 109, no. 2, pp. 143-171. 1995.

 According to Nature Conservancy Canada, “The unique geological, post-glacial historic and physical stress characteristics that define an alvar set the stage for interdependent biological communities which simply cannot exist elsewhere.”

 Page | 6

 Nature Conservancy Canada 2010 added its assessment of the PEC south shore as a significant area for conservation by stating:

“In 2010 Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) completed a Natural Area Conservation Plan for the Eastern Lake Ontario Coast (Ecodistrict 6E-15) which includes Prince Edward County. Among the conservation values recognized by NCC in its plan is the importance of the area to migrating birds, bats, and insects. NCC has identified a number of priority lands within the area, in particular the coastline and near-shore environments of PEC, and especially the southern shore of Prince Edward County. NCC‟s focus on the Eastern Lake Ontario Coast as one of their priority areas speaks to the biological importance of this landscape.”

 Personal communication from Nature Conservancy Canada, February 2011

Nature Conservancy Canada

Map of Biodiversity Targets Migratory Corridor Habitats,

Prince Edward County 2009

 The Environmental Commissioner of Ontario (2011) states: [the] “…key purpose of the Environmental Bill of Rights 1993, is the protection and conservation of biological, ecological and genetic diversity. The Government of Ontario has a public duty to pursue this goal for the benefit of present and future generations. While the government has the primary responsibility for achieving this goal, all Ontarians should have means to ensure that it is achieved in an effective, timely, open and fair manner.”

Special Report: Biodiversity: A Nation‟s Commitment, an Obligation for Ontario, December 7, 2011

 In their report for the proposed Ostrander Point Wind Park, Stantec Consulting Limited also acknowledges the diversity that exists inside this area which is a candidate ANSI (Area of Scientific Interest).

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 Stantec Consulting notes in its Natural Heritage Assessment of Ostrander Point states:

“2.2.2 Areas of Natural and Scientific Interest (ANSIs)

The entire Subject Property is situated within a Candidate Life Science ANSI, the Prince Edward to Ostrander Point ANSI. This Candidate ANSI is shown on Figure 1 (Appendix A) and extends from PrinceEdwardPoint to approximately Petticoat Point, encompassing 2000 ha. As noted by the MNR (2008) ―the combination of size, extent of shoreline, known species diversity and special features make this site unique in the Site District. “

Ostrander Point Wind EnergyPark, Natural Heritage Assessment and Environmental Impact Study File: 160960369 Prepared by Stantec Consulting Ltd., August, 2010

 Ostrander Point lies within the Prince Edward County south shore peninsula and IBA and is home to the Endangered Species, the Whip-poor-will:

1. “…the main threat to the species is likely habitat loss and degradation. The habitat loss is a result of natural changes when open fields and thickets become closed forest.

2. The Whip-poor-will is a threatened species and receives automatic species protection under Ontario‟s Endangered Species Act, 2007. General habitat protection also protects the species‟ habitat from damage and destruction. A recovery strategy and a species-specific habitat regulation are being developed.

3. The Whip-poor-will was assessed as a threatened species nationally by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC). Status: threatened provincially and designated threatened federally”

 Fact Sheet: Whip-poor-will (Caprimulgus vociferus) June 2010

 Ostrander Point is a selected site by Environment Canada for the recovery of Henslow‟s Sparrow. Henslow‟s Sparrow has disappeared from most of its former limited range in Canada. In 2000, there were fewer than 10 pairs remaining in the country. Habitat loss and degradation have largely induced the population decline. (COSEWIC Species Assessment Information)

 “In 1998, Environment Canada initiated an adaptive habitat management project at Ostrander Point. Approximately one third of the area identified for treatment was mowed and cleared of brush. In 1999, bird surveys were conducted to determine if the mowing and clearing of brush had had a positive impact on Henslow‟s Sparrow. Several singing males were heard in 1999 and again in 2000, indicating that with careful habitat management, this species may again breed at this site.”

Environment Canada, 2010. Recovery Strategy for the Henslow‟s Sparrow (Ammodramus henslowii) in Canada. Species at Risk Act Recovery Strategy Page | 8

 Series, Environment Canada, Ottawa vi+23 pp. (n.b. section 1.5 Actions Already Completed or Under Way).

Henslow‟s Sparrow was assessed by COSEWIC as endangered in April 1993 and its endangered status was confirmed in November 2000.

Environment Canada, 2010. Table 5, pp17

Bird Studies International has declared Ostrander Point on the PEC south shore a globally recognized Important Bird Area.

“Ostrander Point is a globally recognized Important Bird Area (IBA). IBAs are priority areas for the conservation of globally threatened, range restricted and congregatory birds. Our data demonstrates IBAs are also excellent indicators of biodiversity richness and are therefore also important for a wide range of species. A site qualifies as an IBA if it holds species that trigger one or more of the following criteria:

a. Globally Threatened Species: based on IUCN Red List criteria

b. Range Restricted Species: with distribution of 50,000 km2 or less

c. Biome Restricted Species: found only within a particular biome, and or habitat

d. Congregations of significant numbers of birds: Sites with a high concentration of seabirds, shorebirds, aquatic and migratory birds based on global population estimates.”

The vegetation found on the Prince Edward County south shore peninsula matches the very elements and conditions ideal for habitat for the Whip-poor-will.

”The habitat preference rank from the compositional analysis directly correlated with the amount of ground cover found in each habitat, which is supporting evidence that ground cover may be an important factor in selecting habitat. Low amounts of ground cover may allow Whip-poor-wills to detect and capture prey more easily, as well as provide open area for an easy escape route from potential predators. Land management techniques…are recommended treatments to increase habitat quality for Whip-poor-wills.”

Garlapow, Ross M., “Whip-poor-will Prey Availability and Foraging Habitat: Implications for Management in Pitch Pine / Scrub Oak Barrens Habitats” (2007).

 The vegetation found on the Prince Edward County south shore peninsula matches the elements and conditions necessary for many other species at risk. Ostrander Point alone supports specialized habitat for 19 species at risk. If Environment Canada‟s recovery strategy for Henslow‟s Sparrow at Ostrander Point is implemented at a future time many of the species at risk already at Ostrander Point would be expected to benefit as well. Species at risk that Environment Canada expects to benefit from recovery activities directed at Henslow‟s Sparrow, and that are already present at Ostrander Point including: Garter Snake, Eastern Foxsnake, Milksnake, Loggerhead Shrike, Monarch Butterfly and the Short-Eared Owl. Page | 9

 4. To advance science relating to existing and emerging stressors, such as climate change, that improves understanding and management of the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin.

According to the article “The costs of chronic noise exposure for terrestrial organisms, “Noise commonly elevates low frequency ambient sound levels by 40 dB or more, so small amounts of spectral „leakage‟ can be significant. Laboratory studies should be complimented by field studies that can identify the potential for informational or attentional effects.”

The costs of chronic noise exposure for terrestrial organisms, Barber Jesse R,. Crooks, Kevin R and Fristrup, Kurt M., Eslevier (November 2, 2010)

 A US Fish and Wildlife Service Report (2011) identified issues regarding noise created by wind turbine blades and the impact on decline in wildlife density of species in the vicinity.

“Turbine blades at normal operating speeds can generate significant levels of noise. Based on a propagation model of an industrial-scale 1.5 MW wind turbine at 263 ft hub height, positioned approximately 1,000 ft apart from neighboring turbines, the following decibel levels were determined for peak sound production. At a distance 300 ft from the blades, 45-50 dBA were detected; at 2,000 ft, 40 dBA; and at 1 mi, 30-35 dBA (Kaliski 2009). Declines in densities of woodland and grassland bird species have been shown to occur at noise thresholds between 45 and 48 dB, respectively; while the most sensitive woodland and grassland species showed declines between 35 and 43 dB, respectively. Songbirds specifically appear to be sensitive to very low sound levels equivalent to those in a library reading room (~30 dBA)1 (Foreman and Alexander 1998). Given this knowledge, it is possible that effects to sensitive species may be occurring at ≥ 1 mile from the center of a wind facility at periods of peak sound production.”

 The Effects of Noise on Wildlife, US Fish and Wildlife Service, 2011

 Based on European experience, the risks to migratory birds from wind turbine installations are well understood.

The Bern Convention report Wind Farms and Birds, 2003 states:

“There should be precautionary avoidance of locating wind farms in statutorily designated or qualifying international (eg Natura 2000 – SPAs & SACs, „Ramsar sites‟, Emerald Network and Important Bird Areas (IBAs)) or national sites for nature conservation, or other areas with large concentrations of birds, such as migration crossing points, or species identified as being of conservation concern.

The favourable conservation status of habitats and species in these areas is a central tenet to their designation, requiring demonstration of compatibility with this aim by any proposed development. The weight of evidence to date indicates that locations with high bird use, especially by protected species, are not suitable for wind farm development.”

Convention On The Conservation Of European Wildlife And Natural Habitat, Page | 10

 Report by BirdLife International on behalf of the Bern Convention, Strasbourg, 1-4 December 2003

 The Conservancy has filed comments to the EBR #011-5239 on the serious impact of cumulative effects of industrial wind installations concentrated in the south shore IBA.

It included reports that the Wolfe Island ecoENERGY Park wind project of 86 wind turbines is also located in the same migratory bird corridor to the east of the Prince Edward County south shore IBA. Since operations began at WolfeIsland wind project in Fall 2009, the environmental impact has resulted in the complete disappearance of the Short-Eared Owl in that location and has resulted in an extremely high number of kills to birds, bats and raptors.

“Recent data from the controversial WolfeIsland wind plant near Kingston, Ontario, has raised concerns that it may join the ranks of the most damaging wind plants in North America (TransAlta Corporation.2010).”

What birders in Ontario think about wind energy in relation to birds (2010), Cheskey, E. and Zedan, A.,

  The alarm was sounded by environmentalists and naturalists within the first year of operations.

In a report in The Globe and Mail (2010) Ted Cheskey of Nature Canada stated that, “Shockingly high” numbers of bird and bat deaths caused by one of Canada’s biggest wind farms should serve as a warning to planners of other projects that may be built in crucial wildlife zones, one of the country’s key conservation groups says.”

Wind farm turbines proving deadly for birds, bats by Richard Blackwell, The Globe and Mail, June 2010

Identifying habitat loss from varying threats which are acknowledged as contributors to extinction is acknowledged globally. Anthropogenic noise is acknowledged as a key contributor.

“Habitat destruction and fragmentation are collectively the major cause of species extinctions [1,2]. Many current threats to ecological integrity and biodiversity transcend political and land management boundaries; climate change, altered atmospheric and hydrologic regimes and invasive species are prominent examples. Noise also knows no boundaries, and terrestrial environments are subject to substantial and largely uncontrolled degradation of opportunities to perceive natural sounds. Noise management is an emergent issue for protected lands, and a potential opportunity to improve the resilience of these areas to climate change and other forces less susceptible to immediate remediation.”

1 Wilcove, D.S. et al. (1998) Quantifying threats to imperiled species in the United States. Bioscience 48, 607–615

 2 Crooks, K.R. and Sanjayan, M., eds (2006) Connectivity Conservation, Cambridge University Press

 The costs of chronic noise exposure for terrestrial organisms By Jesse R. Barber, Kevin R. Crooks and Kurt M. Fristrup, Eslevier (November 2, 2010)

 To conclude, it is the position of the South Shore Conservancy that the Prince Edward County south shore peninsula is an area of uniqueness. Its fragile ecosystem, location as a natural heritage asset as well as its globally recognized Important Bird Area and ANSI replete with biodiversity, and vital international bird migration stopover location, indicate that it is no place for industrial development of any kind.

 To protect the shores of eastern Lake Ontario, conserving the last 28 km stretch of undeveloped shoreline for scientific research and natural environment must be a principal component for consideration in the Great Lakes Act Bill 100 as well as the Great Lakes Strategy.


Janice Gibbins, President

PrinceEdwardCountySouthShore Conservancy


Wendy Ren Manager Ministry of the Environment Integrated Environmental Policy Division Land and Water Policy Branch Land Use Policy


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