On September 24, 2009, the public comment period ended for one of Lake Ontario's largest and newest wind development projects: SkyPower Corporation’s Proposed Byran Wind Project. The Byran Project would add up to forty-three wind turbines to Prince Edward County, one of the last rural areas on the north shore. In our comment, Waterkeeper recommended that a full, independent environmental assessment be conducted so that the potential environmental impacts of the project can be properly identified, and then prevented.
As an environmental organization, we support clean energy and we want to support wind turbine programs. We also monitor the potential impacts of every development proposal on swimmable, drinkable, fishable water - and for this reason we fear that Prince Edward County is headed for trouble. The Byran Project is just one of six wind development projects slated for "The County", as the region is known. If each project is approved, we could see close to 300 turbines onshore and offshore in a few years' time. Because the Province of Ontario exempted its electricity plan from the environmental assessment process, and because the Ontario Energy Board's review of the plan is on indefinite hold, there has been no study of the combined impacts of all these different energy developments.
The self-assessment that Skypower completed (known as an "Environmental Review Report") offered lip-service to environmental protection, but few guarantees. In the name of "green" power, the company plans to build on or near three Provincially Significant Wetlands. Three-quarters of the project area overlaps with an Important Bird Area. Construction will avoid wetlands and bird habitat "where practical" or "where feasible".
In order to ensure that all wind projects in Prince Edward County are truly green, Waterkeeper submitted seven specific recommendations to Ontario's Ministry of the Environment.
- The proposed Byran Wind Project requires further review to protect the environment and should be elevated to an Individual Environmental Assessment.
- Wetlands and water courses in Prince Edward County must be completely avoided during the construction of the Project, including roads built or widened to accommodate construction.
- Nesting areas should not be disturbed or cleared for the purpose of constructing the Project.
- The review must be elevated to an Individual EA in order to provide a complete ﬁsh habitat survey and assess the impacts of water course and wetland crossings.
- If a Federal EA is required for the Byran project, no construction should commence, either in preparation for the Project or on the Project itself, before that EA is completed.
- An Individual EA is required to properly consider the cumulative effects of the multiple projects throughout the assessment, in accordance with the Ministry’s Statement of Environmental Values.
- In fulﬁllment of the Director’s obligation to consider elevation requests, and in the interest of transparency, LOW asks that the Director respond to the concerns raised in this elevation request directly, showing how they were considered.
Listen to Living at the Barricades.
Last week on Living at the Barricades, we talked about the connection between wind development and democratic principles. The question was whether desires to stave off global warming and boost the economy are incompatible with desires to ensure transparency in government and public-participation in decision-making. In other words, whether the “ends” justify “the means”.