Barge accident reveals that Picton Bay serving as supply route for IWT project on Amherst Island
Is the developer of an industrial wind turbine project doing indirectly what it isn’t permitted to do directly? That is one of the many questions being asked in the wake of a barge sinking in Picton Bay. The barge was being used by contractors to move aggregate—gravel and other material—to Amherst Island. Even as that barge lay submerged at Picton Terminals—another barge remained busy ferrying trucks and equipment back and forth between Picton and Amherst Island until Transport Canada halted traffic in and out of the facility last week.
The developer, Algonquin/Windlectric doesn’t yet have the necessary approvals to build a dock on the mainland as it awaits a zoning change.
Perhaps most troubling is that the developer only produced its Marine Logistics Plan five days after one of the barges facilitating the transport of gravel and material to Amherst Island partially sank releasing fuel into the shallow bay—resulting in the shutdown of the water supply for Picton and Bloomfield.
As of last Thursday, the County’s Engineering, Development and Works commissioner Robert McAuley had not seen a Marine Logistics Plan.
“I want to see if the [Picton Terminals] docks were identified as the source of the barging,” said McAuley. “And what measures were supposed to be in place before they started a week ago. Have they done a runaround? That is why I am saying ‘show me the report’. If Picton Terminals isn’t identified why are they coming into Picton Bay? These are questions I am asking of the ministry. Did the ministry agree this was the route? Why didn’t they think to ask us?”
It turns out the Ministry didn’t ask. It didn’t have to.
Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change spokesperson Gary Wheeler says a Marine Logistics Plan was not a requirement under the developer’s Renewable Energy Approval. He says that plan addresses marine issues in the project area only. It does not govern water safety issues beyond that, only to insist that marine traffic follow “all Transport Canada regulations”.
“The marine logistics plan is not required to identify the path of every vessel delivering materials to the project location,” said Wheeler. “The ministry does not dictate where the company is allowed to source its materials from.”
This is a concern to Shire Hall officials as well as residents relying on the waterway for their drinking water.
Michele Le Lay heads the advocacy group the Association to Protect Amherst Island (APAI). Her group sent a letter to Kathleen Wynne last week urging the premier to intervene in the situation, given the spill in Picton Bay.
She believes the province’s waterways were overlooked by the Green Energy Act because very few industrial wind or solar projects have been constructed on islands.
Le Lay says APAI has been asking for the Marine Logistics Plan and emergency response plan for several months.
“Suddenly the Marine Logistics Plan appears on March 27,” said Le Lay. “After the spill in Picton harbour.”
She was dismayed to learn that it is silent on the health and safety of the homes and businesses that line the shore.
“There is no mention of using the waterway between Picton and Amherst Island,” said Le Lay. “There are no safety measures for all the shore wells along the route. There is another water plant in Bath. Those barges go right by it.”
Algonquin Power spokesperson Alison Holditch told The Times that “Windlectric has met its commitment through the REA process to provide a Marine Logistics Plan, to the satisfaction of the MOECC.”
Holditch echoed the MOECC statement that the marine logistics plan governs marine activities within the project area only.
“Windlectric requires all of its contractors and their subcontractors to abide by applicable law and regulations, whether inside or outside of the project’s boundary,” said Holditch.
NO ROADS AGREEMENT
The County’s Works official worries, too, about the use of County roads by the developer without any agreement in place. Loyalist Township has such a agreement with the developer detailing which roads it will use and what will happen if something goes wrong. Windelectric is currently hammering out a similar agreement with the county of Lennox and Addington.
Yet it has no such arrangement governing the use of Prince Edward County roads, even as aggegate is being transported through the municipality and onto barges at Picton Terminal.
“It has been a concern all along,” said McAuley. “I don’t think we anticipated they would be coming in here. Had we known we would have taken a more active role in the Algonquin Power renewable energy approval.”
MOECC’s Gary Wheeler say the Road Use Agreement with Algonquin / Windlectric applies only to roads and travel on Amherst Island.
This is perhaps strictly factual, but Le Lay says the developer was required to get approvals for use of roads in Loyalist Township and are negotiating terms with Lennox and Addington currently.
“It covers every road in Loyalist Township that the company intends to use,” said Le Lay of the traffic plan. “It defines which roads they will use. They have not yet reached an agreement with Lennox and Addington county.”
Algonquin’s Holditch says that Windlectric isn’t required to enter into a road use agreement with Prince Edward County.
Until such time there would seem little to stop a stream of trucks through the County and flotilla of barges steaming back and forth to Amherst Island as 27 industrial wind turbines emerge from the small island.