Thursday, December 12, 2013

Ostrander Point Update

Gilead Power Corporation's Ostrander Point Wind Project was the first one to be rejected on appeal by the Ontario Environmental Review Tribunal (ERT).  This was not due to human health issues, or worries about the effects of nine proposed turbines on migratory birds, though the project is located near an Important Bird Area (IBA).  No.  It was due to the presence on site of a population of humble Blanding's Turtles:

...the problem lay with a road network that would have been built in order to construct and maintain [the project].  This network would have been smack dab in the middle of the turtle's habitat; the beasts would have been forced to cross these roads on multiple occasions and at multiple points during their life cycle.  Since the network would have been publicly accessible, more ATV and other traffic would have been drawn to the area.  Furthermore, available mitigation measures were judged ineffective.  Nobody obeys road signs, for example.  And culverts where the turtles might safely cross under the road depend on the species having crossing "hot spots"--preferred road crossing points--where these devices might be installed.  Unfortunately, Blanding's Turtles do not use their habitat in the appropriate manner.

Gilead Power has appealed the rejection, making what I thought were some rather weak arguments. However, now they are proposing some extra measures to protect the turtles:

On January 20 the developer will seek to present new evidence to the appeal hearing. Specifically it will ask the court to consider a plan to erect a series of gates securing access to the road network it wants to build on Crown land at Ostrander Point.

“Restricting public access to the access roads would also provide enhanced protection for wildlife, including species at risk, from traffic mortality,” wrote Mike Lord to the Ontario Ministry of Resources (MNR) in August.

In September a MNR official agreed it would issue a lease of the Crown land to the developer to enable it to build the fence, pending the approval of the project. The MNR also sought a “Project Access and Control Plan” for the access roads. That plan calls for six double swing gates to be erected at key points, one at the entrance and at five other locations where preexisting trails intersect with the proposed access road. The gates would be locked from May 1 to October 15. Gilead staff will monitor and enforce access restrictions.

I'm not sure this will do the trick.  It sounds from a cursory read that off-road vehicles coming from local trails will be able to avoid the gates and abuse the project's access roads, although Gilead Power staff will be monitoring the area.  Important to note, however, that the danger is not from the turbines themselves but from local Oiks and their ATVs.

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