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Turtlegate

Posted: December 13, 2013 at 10:12 am   /   by   /   comments (5)

Ostrander wind developer to argue that gates can protect Blanding’s turtles

The developer seeking to construct nine 50-storey industrial wind turbines at Ostrander Point is now proposing to erect a series of gates on provincially owned crown land—in a last ditch maneuver to persuade a provincial court to overturn an Environmental Review Tribunal decision that took away the developer’s permit to build the project in a landmark ruling issued earlier this year.

LANDMARK DECISION
In July, after more than 40 days of hearings, the Tribunal revoked a Ministry of Environment approval of the project in which Gilead Power Corporation proposed to develop a nine-turbine wind project on Crown land on the shores of South Marysburgh. The twomember panel ruled that the project would cause serious and irreversible harm to the Blanding’s turtles that reside in this rare alvar habitat at Ostrander Point. The Tribunal concluded, too, that measures proposed by the developer to lessen the impact of the development on the turtles were untested and unlikely to be effective. Given that the Blanding’s turtle is an endangered species, they decided the potential harm was too great, and once inflicted could not be undone.

It was a precedent-setting decision— not since the provincial government had enacted legislation to reduce the administrative and regulatory hurdles for wind and solar energy developers had an environmental review tribunal revoked an approval permit. Conservation groups and environmentalists rejoiced— as did everyone else opposed to Ontario’s natural heritage being spoiled by 500-foot towers of carbon and steel structures.

The developer appealed the Tribunal decision, along with the Ministry of Environment, seeking to uphold the approval of the project.

THE APPEAL
Among other things, the developer and the MOE will argue that the Tribunal exceeded its jurisdiction. They will argue that the Ministry of Natural Resources had given the developer the ability to “kill, harm or harass” the endangered species. And that the Tribunal lacked the authority to secondguess the provincial ministry.

Gilead Power has a lot riding on the appeal, scheduled to be heard in January in Toronto. It is clearly not willing to risk the outcome of this project on jurisdictional interpretation. Instead it is seeking to take away the issue raised by the Tribunal— specifically the well-being of the creatures at the centre of the Tribunal’s decision—the Blanding’s turtle. Once again, it has the Ministry of Natural Resources on its side.

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.

Gilead staff will report monthly on issues of public motor vehicles bypassing the gates.

Quoting from the Gilead access control plan: “Project staff will be trained on how to answer questions from the public regarding the need for gated access on the Project access roads.”

In its motion the developer will argue that it has taken these steps in order to resolve the Tribunal’s “stated concern”. They will argue the Tribunal should have given it the opportunity to address the issue, rather than revoke the permit. And, that the provincial court should consider this new evidence to satisfy “natural justice.”

Myrna Wood says the developer and the MOE have come far too late in the process to present new evidence. Worse, she says, the developer and the MNR struck this deal with MNR behind closed doors—without any public consultation about this use of Crown Land.

She argues, too, that a few gates will not eliminate the threat the project poses to the Blanding’s turtle’s habitat.

“Gilead’s emphasis on road mortality is an attempt to avoid the Tribunal’s main concern, said Wood. “that is, the destruction of the whole habitat.”

Upping the ante, the developer has also asked the court to make the Prince Edward County Field Naturalists pay the costs of making its motion should the Field Naturalist oppose it.

Undeterred, Wood says Gilead’s and MOE’s intimidation tactics have not stopped her organization so far, nor are they likely to now.

 

 

 

 

Comments (5)

  • December 16, 2013 at 5:45 pm County Steve

    I don’t get it either … the MNR website says: “When a species becomes listed as endangered or threatened on the Species at Risk in Ontario List, it automatically receives general habitat protection under the Endangered Species Act.”
    Am I missing something? Is there a little door in the Turtlegate, with a ‘Turtle Crossing’ button at the bottom.
    Make no mistake: Money rules here, and the one who runs out of money first loses.

    • December 30, 2013 at 7:06 pm peter

      Country Steve makes an incredible point: if the MNR states their position in their website, clearly, they MUST adhere to it, plain and very simple!!! The logic of having this statement in the MNR policies and then not following it, reminds of the logic espoused by Toronto’s Mayor Ford.

  • December 12, 2013 at 5:06 pm Jim Wiegand

    Wind developers will say anything to get a project through. It does not really matter what is said because the industry has no accountability. I suggest that everyone read about the Wolfe Island mortality studies and learn how carcass searches at this wind resource area covered up tens of thousands of fatalities with search areas over 90 times too small.

  • December 11, 2013 at 11:33 pm fed up

    its a shame more people don’t understand that these mostly foreign oversea companies will say they will do anything to get their foot in Ontarios door. They don’t give a crap about OUR local wildlife, its just lip service.

    time and time again, their draft papers with all the documents with crossed T’s and dotted i’s all read fine enough, but those dealing with them know very different.

    These companies cut corners ALL the time as soon as permits are had, speeding, forgetting protective gear on their massive trucks, contaminating waters and destroying areas that have their trusty no trespassing signs to hide the mess.

    Once again its left for everyday parents and grandparents, residents to monitor actions instead of the ministries whom we pay to have to do what again?????

    this is all so wrong!

  • December 11, 2013 at 11:19 pm fed up

    according to the MNRs own site on this turtle

    “It is not unusual, to find them
    hundreds of metres from the nearest water body,
    especially while they are searching for a mate or
    traveling to a nesting site.”

    Threats
    “The most significant threats to the Blanding’s Turtle
    are loss or fragmenting of habitat, motor vehicles”

    “Blanding’s Turtles are slow breeders – they don’t start
    to lay eggs until they are in their teens or twenties –
    so adult deaths of breeding age adults can have
    major impacts on the species.”

    perhaps the ministries might practice what they preech and send those wind arses that have only greed in mind packing!

    gates really?!
    honestly it gets more desperate and stupid every day!

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