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12 Million Migratory Birds at Risk from Lake Ontario Wind Turbines

According to an article by journalist Paul Schliesmann, in the Kingston Whig-Standard on Friday, August 24, 2012,  a recent report by the Kingston Field Naturalists states that an estimated 12 million migratory birds will be put at risk if two large offshore wind turbine projects are built in Lake Ontario.

Three members of the volunteer organization who conducted a year-long, unpaid study are particularly concerned about two offshore projects that would see the a total of 268 turbines planted to the north and south of Main Duck Island, a natural stopping off point for hundreds of species.

“We think 12 million is low because it’s based on birds being studied at Prince Edward Point. The ones which don’t stop at Prince Edward Point aren’t being included yet,” said Chris Hargreaves, who worked on the report with Erwin Batalla and Barrie Gilbert.

Read the rest of this informative article in thewhig.com

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Ostrander Point Decision: Chance to enhance Ontario’s Green Energy Policies

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Prince Edward County Field Naturalists, Nature Canada, and Ontario Nature have repeatedly urged the Ontario Government to protect Ostrander Point, and reject a proposed industrial wind energy project there. As a final decision on this project from the Ontario Ministry of the Environment is pending, it’s a good time to restate the key arguments for preserving this special place, and why the Green Energy Act would suffer a serious blow to its credibility if the project is approved.

The Green Energy Act has been successful in attracting industry and converting some of Ontario’s electricity generation from coal to renewable sources. It’s helped to create jobs. This is very good news.
However, by opening all Crown Land to development, an important government responsibility has slipped between the cracks: the protection of wildlife habitat.

The most blatant and acute example of this is the proposed wind energy plant for Ostrander Point in Prince Edward County. Ostrander Point is a Candidate Area of Natural and Scientific Interest in the centre of the Prince Edward County (PEC) South Shore Important Bird Area (IBA). This IBA and the adjacent National Wildlife Area were designated globally significant under the congregatory (water fowl) species category and nationally significant under the threatened species category. Millions of birds migrate through the PEC South Shore in spring and fall — in even more dense concentrations than famed Point Pelee.

In other words, this area is a super highway for birds, bats and monarch butterflies – the worst place to consider building 150 metre high wind turbines.

To approve this project, the Ontario government would need to ignore its responsibilities for species at risk and international agreements such as the Migratory Bird Convention Act.

However, denying the project would send a positive message confirming the government’s commitment to protecting the environment, which is is one of the primary reasons for the Green Energy Policy. It would show the Act is being implemented with regard to wildlife and in a responsible way.

Nineteen Species at Risk are found at Ostrander Point. Fourteen Priority Species (birds that are declining rapidly) listed by Ontario Partners in Flight breed there. The continued ability of federally and provincially listed species at risk – Blanding`s Turtle (Threatened) and Whip-Poor-Will (Threatened) – to breed at Ostrander Point are seriously threatened by the construction of access roads and turbines.

Ostrander Point meets 11 criteria of Environment Canada`s definition of a site of “Very High Sensitivity” where turbines should not be sited. As EC Environmental Assessment Officer, Denise Fell has said: “This is one of the most important landfall sites in Ontario. Unique about this particular site is that birds are ascending and descending during migrations, whereas normally they migrate over the landscape in a broad front above the typical height of wind turbines. Since birds on migration in this area can therefore be found at tower height, and are typically very tired and stressed when descending, they may be more at risk of collision with wind turbines.”

Within the same flyway, just a little east of Ostrander Point, the TransAlta Wolfe Island wind plant is already in operation, and its casualty rate of 13.4 birds per turbine per year is about seven times the industry average in Canada, according to CANWEA.

What’s more, the Wolfe Island turbines are very selective in the birds that they kill. Casualties are mainly swallows, including the rapidly declining Tree Swallow (70 percent decline in last 40 years) and Purple Martin (95 percent decline in last 40 years), as well as birds of preys such as Red-tailed Hawks. It is possible that the wind farm has killed off all of the local population of this species. Bobolink, a recently listed Species at Risk that has declined 80 percent in the last 40 years, has also been disproportionately killed.

That project’s thresholds for mortality rates are at the highest level recorded at any large wind facility inNorth America. Gilead proposes “adaptive management” thresholds for Ostrander Point at the same level. In other words, the highest casualty rate is the bar under which no mitigation is required.

Not only will the Gilead Project destroy two-thirds of the site’s significant wildlife habitat, it will be in place for 25-50 years, threatening the lives of birds and bats migrating through spring and fall, and permanently displace species that breed at Ostrander Point. Gilead states that it is a favourable site for their development because it “is in a relatively isolated part” of the County. This isolation from human use has created its value as wildlife habitat.

The decline of most species is primarily due to human encroachment on habitat but also exacerbated by the effects of climate change. All the more reason to preserve this site, which has evolved over millennia as a crucial staging area for neotropical migrants. The nearby Prince Edward Point Bird Observatory records more birds than any other migration monitoring station inCanada.

The government’s Wind Atlas shows that the available wind is no higher at Ostrander Point than at hundreds of other locations. Approval of the Ostrander Point project will pave the way for the addition of another 29 turbines by WPD-Canada White Pines. All the projects proposed to date could total 60 turbines in the South Shore IBA, many on Provincial lands, and many on the narrow bird funnel known as the Long Point peninsula on which Ostrander point and Prince Edward Point are located.

Gilead claims that the project has been “designed to be sensitive to the wildlife of the area”.

But they have applied for permits to kill, harm and destroy the habitat of two endangered species: Blanding’s Turtle and Whip-poor-will. Gilead’s “most aggressive mitigation measures in North America to protect local and migrating species” consist of:

Blanding’s Turtle – buying part of its significant wetland while destroying part;

Whip-poor-will – hiring a graduate student to study its declining use of the habitat;

counting mortality numbers of migrating birds and bats for 3 years.

Developing wind energy in Canada, coupled with conservation measures to reduce all forms of fossil fuel consumption, is a good thing. But wind energy must not be produced at the expense of wildlife.

Wind turbines and wind farms should not be located in places – like Ostrander Point – where birds congregate, migrate and breed. All wind farm proposals should be subject to an environmental assessment prior to development in order to evaluate their impact on all wildlife, including birds and bats. And regulators such as the provincial and territorial governments should adopt policies and guidelines that exclude wind energy projects from Important Bird Areas and other areas that are known to be of importance to birds and bats.

Let’s get wind power right in Ontario!

Ted Cheskey

 

 

Senate backs Runciman’s call for wind farm moratorium

Press release from the office of Senator Bob Runciman

OTTAWA, Nov. 30, 2011 – The Senate of Canada today unanimously backed a motion by Senator Bob Runciman calling on the province of Ontario to institute a moratorium on wind-farm development along eastern Lake Ontario until the impact on birds and bats can be studied.

Senator Runciman (Ontario– Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes) noted that the region from the eastern tip of Wolfe Island to the western end of Prince Edward County is a crucial route for migratory birds and bats. He is concerned about plans for wind energy projects on Amherst Island west of Kingston and at Ostrander Point in Prince Edward County – both of which would be located in internationally recognized Important Bird Areas. Both projects are in the final stages of approval by the Ontario government.

“Much of my concern flows from the bird and bat kill rates experienced with the development of the wind farm on Wolfe Island, east of the two proposed projects and also in a designated Important Bird Area,” Runciman said, noting that Nature Canada says Wolfe Island has a kill rate for birds and bats seven times the industry average in Canada primarily because it is located in the wrong spot.

Runciman lauded Nature Canada for its leadership on the issue, but noted that “they’ve been a voice in the wilderness, so to speak. Environmental groups one would expect to assist in protecting bird populations have been shockingly silent, in effect allowing green energy production to trump alarming bird and bat kill rates and even the threat to endangered species.”

Environment Canada describes Ostrander Point as one of the best areas for birds in southern Ontario, Runciman said. “It’s surprising that someone believes it is a good idea to put wind turbines on this spot. Hard as it is to believe, the landlord, the owner of the property, is the province of Ontario.”

“Clean renewable energy should help, not harm, wildlife,” Runciman told fellow senators, but the long-term cumulative effect of the current Ontario policy could pose a grave danger to several species, including species at risk.

 For more information, please contact:

Barry Raison, Office of Senator Bob Runciman

(613) 943-4020 (office) or (613) 297-2069 (cell)

raisob@sen.parl.gc.ca

Senator Runciman proposes IWT moratorium for eastern Lake Ontario

WIND PROJECTS POSE UNACCEPTABLE THREAT TO BIRDS: RUNCIMAN

Ontario Senator calls for moratorium along eastern Lake Ontario

 OTTAWA, Nov. 28, 2011 – There is an urgent need for a moratorium on wind energy projects along the shores of eastern Lake Ontario until ways can be found to better protect birds and bats, Senator Bob Runciman told a news conference on Parliament Hill this morning.

Runciman was joined at the event by Ted Cheskey, manager of bird conservation programs for Nature Canada, Rosemary Kent, president, and Cheryl Anderson, vice-president of the Prince Edward Point Bird Observatory. Runciman is introducing a motion in the federal Senate this week calling for a moratorium in the area from the east end of Wolfe Island to the western edge of Prince Edward County– a major migratory route for birds and bats.

“Under current Ontario government policy, green energy trumps everything, including threats to bird and bat populations, their habitat and their migration corridors, the Planning Act and the Environmental Protection Act,” Runciman said. “It is a reckless, damn-the-consequences approach that we don’t want to see happen at Ostrander Point and Amherst Island. It’s time for the government to step back and assess the implications of what they are doing.”

Wind energy projects are planned for both of those locations, although final approval has not yet been granted by the provincial government.

Nature Canada has long argued that industrial wind energy developments should not be located in internationally recognized Important Bird Areas such as Ostrander Point and Amherst Island. Cheskey cited the experience with the Wolfe Island project, which he said is “one of the most destructive for birds and bats in North America.”

 “We believe in good things in good places,” said Cheskey. “To achieve wind energy’s greatest promise – a clean, renewable energy source that helps, not harms wildlife – wind turbines should not be located in Important Bird Areas.”

Kent and Anderson talked about the long-term threat to vulnerable species posed by the project planned for Crown land at Ostrander Point, which has been cited by experts as one of the best places for birds in southern Ontario.

For more information, please contact:

Barry Raison, Office of Senator Bob Runciman

(613) 943-4020 (office) or (613) 297-2069 (cell)

raisob@sen.parl.gc.ca

News release courtesy of the Office of Senator Bob Runciman

Comment and vote on CBC News wind turbine poll

A recent CBC story has raised serious concerns about noise from industrial wind turbines and resulting lower property values.  Many comments on their webpage have been critical of the facts they reported. In response, the CBC has set up a poll:

http://www.cbc.ca/news/yourcommunity/2011/10/would-you-live-near-wind-turbines.html

 The question is: “Would you live next to wind turbines?”

Unfortunately, the CBC article does not address the serious environmental damage caused by irresponsibly placed industrial wind turbines, such as the ones proposed for Ostrander Point. 

However, we do have an opportunity to comment as well as to vote, and this may provide the CBC with an impetus to cover the environmental aspects of IWTs, including the disappearance  of short eared owls from their former breeding  grounds on Wolfe Island.

Please comment and vote as soon as possible.  You can also contact the writers at john.nicol@cbc.ca and dave.seglins@cbc.ca

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.

Wolfe Island wind turbines kill 3,800 bats annually

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Trans Alta’s 86 industrial wind turbines on Wolfe Island are responsible for 1,500 bird and 3,800 bat casualties per year, says Ted Cheskey of Nature Canada in an article by journalist Richard Blackwell.

 In “Call to reduce wind farm bird, bat deaths” which appeared in the Globe and Mail’s Report on Business section Wednesday August 3, 2011, Cheskey states the mortality rates are “consistently high” and recommends that Trans Alta shut the turbines down during migration season.

 Blackwell also notes that Nature Canada calls the Wolfe Island wind turbines “among the most destructive of wildlife in North America.

Read the rest of Blackwell’s article.