This is a letter written to the MNR (Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources a.k.a the Ministry of Natural Exploitation) by one of our members in response to the Public Notice of proposed road building and upgrades required solely for the construction of the Bow Lake Industrial Wind Generating Station.
While it is not our usual policy to post such letters here, we thought it might be helpful to people who are facing the same kinds of industrialization of their environment by Industrial Wind Generating stations.
Ministry of Natural Resources
Sault Ste Marie District
64 Church Street
Sault Ste Marie, Ontario
Attn: Erin Nixon
March 26, 2012
Dear Ms. Nixon,
I am writing to express my opposition to the Work proposed and described by Great Lakes Environmental Services (GLES) in their Class Environmental Assessment for Access Road Upgrades and Construction of 3 Spur Roads Bow Lake Phase 1 Wind Farm Draft Project Description Report. This work should not be approved or allowed to go ahead.
The proposed work is only required in order to facilitate the construction of a Industrial Wind Generating Station and which, given that it would take place within the boundaries of the managed Algoma Crown Forest, seems in direct violation of the requirements of the Crown Forest Sustainability Act, 1994, S.O. 1994, c. 25:
The Forest Management Planning Manual shall provide for determinations of the sustainability of Crown forests in a manner consistent with the following principles:
Large, healthy, diverse and productive Crown forests and their associated ecological processes and biological diversity should be conserved.
The long term health and vigour of Crown forests should be provided for by using forest practices that, within the limits of silvicultural requirements, emulate natural disturbances and landscape patterns while minimizing adverse effects on plant life, animal life, water, soil, air and social and economic values, including recreational values and heritage values. 1994, c. 25, s. 2 (3).
In what way does the fragmenting of a healthy forest eco-system by roads and industrialization promote and respect the principles of the Crown Forest Sustainability Act? It should be well known to the MNR that one of the biggest threats to eco-systems is fragmentation and Islanding. Furthermore Industrial Wind Turbines have other negative impacts on the environment and ecosystems where they are constructed1,2,3,4.
There are a number of contradictions between the information provided by GLES in their Class Environmental Assessment for this work and that provided last year to the MOE and the public by one of the proponents, DP Energy, during the mandated public consultations.
It is appreciated that the Class Environmental Assessment for Access Road Upgrades and Construction of 3 Spur Roads Bow Lake Phase 1 Wind Farm Draft Project Description Report submitted by GLES is only a Draft report and it would appear that the application should be denied and the Proponent and its Consultants should be required to re-submit their application once they have had time to adequately review it so as to ensure that all the information contained therein is complete and correct and is a Final document.
To wit, the information provided by GLES on page 1 of their Class Environmental Assessment for Access Road Upgrades and Construction of 3 Spur Roads Bow Lake Phase 1 Wind Farm Draft Project Description Report they state that “The Bow Lake Wind Farm will be completed in two phases. Phase 1 will include the installation of 12 General Electric (“GE”) 1.6-100 model turbines representing a total nameplate capacity of up to 19.44 MW. Phase 2 includes the installation of 24 GE 1.6-100 model turbines representing a total nameplate capacity of up to 38.88 MW.” However in their Draft Wind Turbine Specifications Report, a document which was submitted to the MOE and was part of the public consultations DP Energy held as part of the requirements to fulfill their REA application, DP Energy and M.K. Ince specify that the project will use 36 Siemens SWT-2.3-101, which are 2.3MW nameplate capacity IWT (Industrial Wind Turbines) for a total project nameplate capacity of 82.8MW.
Either GLES is not sufficiently familiar with the project, which casts in doubt the thoroughness and correctness of the work performed for this Class Environmental Assessment for Access Road Upgrades and Construction, or the proponent has misinformed the public, or failed to inform the public of substantive changes to the project, as required under the REA. This may seem like a minor point, however the differences and impacts are significant.
Furthermore, in their Bow Lake Wind Farm Phase 1 DRAFT Natural Heritage Environmental Impact Study Report, December 3, 2010, prepared by M. K. Ince, DP Energy state that:
“2 IMPACTS TO RARE PLANTS
The Bow Lake Wind Farm Natural Heritage Evaluation of Significance Report identifies two rare plant species that occur within 120 m of the Project Location. In four locations, Oval-leaved Bilberry was found within the Project Location. At locations H, K, P and R as indicated in the Project Site Plan instances 90 metres, 49 metres, 44 metres and 104 metres from the Project Location were identified. Braun’s Holly fern was noted at one location (location S in the Project Site Plan), 120 metres from the Project Location. At this distance neither species would be near enough to be impacted directly by clearing for access roads or turbine laydown areas.” (bold added)
This statement is in direct contradiction to statements made in the document Class Environmental Assessment for Access Road Upgrades and Construction of 3 Spur Roads Bow Lake Phase 1 Wind Farm Draft Project Description Report, provided by Great Lakes Environmental Services, as well as a letter dated March 23, 2012 from Angela Keefe, wherein it is categorically stated that oval-leaved bilberry will be impacted by the proposed roads and that these impacts will require mitigation.
Furthermore in their Bow Lake Wind Farm Phase 1 DRAFT Natural Heritage Environmental Impact Study Report, December 3, 2010, prepared by M. K. Ince, DP Energy acknowledges the existence of Braun’s Holly Fern, a species not mentioned by Great Lakes Environmental Services, is this because there are none to be found in the areas of proposed road work or because they were missed during the literature review upon which GLES seems to have, in part, based their EA?
There is no mention of salamanders in either the M.K Ince or the GLES documents, yet it is well known that there are 4 species which inhabit the area, Eastern Newt Notophthalmus viridescens, Eastern Redback Salamander Plethodon cinereus, Blue-spotted Salamander Ambystoma laterale, and the Spotted Salamander Ambystoma maculatum. While these species are not necessarily rare or endangered in Ontario, they are at, or nearing, the extent of their range and are thus significant populations.
The assumption that anything not rooted will relocate to equally suitable habitat in the area may or may not be correct and would need to be substantiated with field studies.
Salamanders in particular are vulnerable to habitat disruption and introduced chemicals. That Salamanders are not considered seems to imply further deficiencies in this EA.
The mitigation and transplant procedures detailed for the oval-leaved bilberry do not cite any peer-reviewed studies supporting the assumption that these procedures are adequate and sufficient to preserve the plants endangered by the proposed roadwork. The MNR apparently required similar mitigation and monitoring procedures of Brookfield Energy in 2007 after it built the Prince Wind Farm.
To what extent was this transplant procedure successful and what percentage of the transplanted plants still live today?
Transplantation of wild oval-leaved bilberry to achieve long-term survival is difficult. The maximum two year monitoring is insufficient to determine whether the MNR-sanctioned procedures result in long term survivability of the plants.
The mitigation procedures triggered by a survival rate of less than 85% of the transplanted v. ovalifollium is also problematic in that it introduces cultivated strains of v. ovalifollium to the area. While it could be argued that this increases the genetic diversity of the plant in the area, in reality it decreases the overall depth of the genetic pool. Furthermore the cultivar, not having evolved in the area is likely to be less well adapted to the habitat and thus less likely to survive.
The procedure with respect to nesting Eagles and Raptors appears, at first glance, reasonable. However it also appears to be in violation of the Endangered Species Act Clause 10(1)(a) of the ESA states that “No person shall damage or destroy the habitat of a species that is listed on the Species at Risk in Ontario list as an endangered or threatened species” and Clause 17 which requires a Ministerial permit to kill, harm or harass for activities where adverse effects to endangered or threatened species at risk or their protected habitat cannot be avoided.
Nesting sites are defined as habitat and thus the proponent needs to apply to the Minister for a permit under the ESA before submitting its application for permission to carry out this work.
While the Northern Goshawk is not on the OSAR list and thus not protected under the ESA, it and its nests are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and it is also illegal under this Act to disturb the nest of any native bird without a permit.
Given the experience with the rock scaling work performed by an MTO subcontractor last summer, which resulted in the destruction of a Peregrine nest on Mica Bay, the procedure outlined by GLES to protect nests is inadequate.
The proponent must be required to contract with a qualified biologist to perform a careful survey of the proposed road works, prior to workmen or equipment mobilizing on to the site, in order to ensure that no migratory bird nests are present in the area or within 200 meters of the area.
This is the only way to ensure that nesting sites are protected, especially if clearing activities are undertaken during the nesting season when the alarm of the parents will attract crows, ravens and other predators to the migratory bird nest. Should migratory bird nests be found the MNR must be contacted to ensure that adequate mitigation procedures are implemented.
The GLES procedures lack a requirement for independent surveillance & quality control to ensure compliance and correct implementation, without which these procedures are incomplete.
I note that the Legend of the map on page 3 of the GLESS Class EA document shows all the Industrial Wind Turbine access roads as approved, except those leading to IWT #7 & #8.
Please provide a copy of the notice as well as the Class EA document for this work and when it was completed.
As a final general comment the short monitoring time frames required by the MNR and the lack of long term (>50 years) ecological records leads to decisions which seem reasonable in the short term, but are not necessarily so in the longer term(5). The Industrialization of the Eastern Shore of Lake Superior and fragmentation of its watershed by Industrial Wind Generating Stations is one such example.
As pointed out by the Ontario Auditor General there has been no proper independent cost/benefit analysis, fiscal or environmental, performed to justify this policy. All indications are that this will be a very expensive mistake both economically and environmentally.
While the question of the EA for the Bow Lake Wind Generating Station is supposedly addressed by the REA process and not in the scope of the MNR’s decision with respect to this Road Work, the enablement of the project is listed as a high positive in the assessment criteria at the end of the GLES document and must therefore be addressed.
The damage to the environment, the killing of birds and bats, the destruction of tourism and our Natural Heritage as well as the impact on surface waters, not to mention the financial, economic and knock-on costs is not to be so easily dismissed and must be factored into the MNR’s decision matrix when it considers permitting this work.
The MNR should not permit this project and thus the Road Work to proceed given the perceived deficiencies in the Class Environmental Assessment for Access Road Upgrades and Construction of 3 Spur Roads Bow Lake Phase 1 Wind Farm Draft Project Description Report (they even have their own postal code wrong in the Public Notice), the contradictions in the information provided by the Proponents in their various public documents and the large negative financial and environmental impacts inherent in this project.
(Name removed to protect the privacy of the individual)
1, Stelling, K. & Petrie, S., Threats from industrial wind turbines to Ontario’s wildlife and biodiversity, 2011
2, Niyogi, D., The Impacts of LCLUC Change: Energy Balance and Climate, March 2011.
3, Baidya Roy, S., Simulating impacts of wind farms on local hydrometeorology. J. Wind Eng. Ind. Aerodyn. (2011), doi:10.1016/j.jweia.2010.12.013
5, K. J. Willis and S. A. Bhagwat, Questions of importance to the conservation of biological diversity: answers from the past, Climate of the Past, doi:10.5194/cp-6-759-2010, November 2010