I don’t hear much from Wolfe Island about noise or health complaints, so when I came across this report I perked up. It turns out not to be very much. One lady is complaining about her arthritis getting worse. I don’t doubt there’s health issues with turbines, but this particular story doesn’t advance the knowledge base much at all. I’m posting on it just so it’s in the record.
Below is a click-to-enlarge composite of the 4 wind energy projects that are at least far enough along to have definite numbers and placements of turbines. The 4 projects are Wolfe Island, Amherst Island, White Pines and Ostrander Point. All of these are Important Bird Areas. And Ontario isn’t done. There are plans for additional projects in the remaining gaps. Look and weep.
As an early part of the project the developer, Canadian Hydro Developers (CHD, sometimes referred to as CREC – a subsidiary who is doing the actual project), had to create a preliminary Wolfe Island Environmental Review, 3.5mb on the effects the project would have on the Island, including the birds. This review found a fair number of owls and other raptors there, and mentioned there would be effects upon them. The discussion section (section #4) of that report has 4 subsections on particularly important types of birds: winter, migratory waterfowl, other migratory and breeding. For each of these four types there’s a
“monitor and mitigation” section, except for the winter birds, where’s there’s just “monitor.” So I guess instead of having a plan to actually fix the problem, they’ll just watch it develop. The report admits there are important populations of birds that will be affected, doesn’t know how severe the effects may be, and does not offer any way to mitigate them. Nice work.
The final Wolfe Island Environmental Review, 3.6mb has no significant changes in the wording, and no movement of turbines, in spite of the risks. The “mitigate” link above now includes a comparison of the draft/final changes for the summary chart, where you can see the nature of the changes made. A NY bird specialist, Clifford P. Schneider, who knows Wolfe Island well, wrote this scathing report, 0.2mb on the value of this ER.
If you insist upon reading the entire final Wolfe Island Mitigation Study, 2.8mb be my guest. The bird section is 7.9 (their page 278), the VTE (Vulnerable, Threatened and Endangered) section is 7.10 (page 293), and the final mitigation summary chart (section 7.14) is located at the end of this study. I found it interesting that mitigation banking is not mentioned in this report; it didn’t appear until the Post-Construction Follow-up Plan, below.
To make matters worse, there have now been proposed wind farms stretching from Cape Vincent to Point Petre that contain roughly 600 turbines. These 600 turbines would pretty much line up along the entire eastern end of Lake Ontario, potentially having significant effects on a globally important flyway. You’d think someone would take the time to study the total impact of all this, but so far the developers on both sides of the border are successfully getting each project approved individually. Consider the blatant dishonesty regarding Wolfe and Amherst Islands, where CHD persuaded Ottawa that a full EA wasn’t needed on Wolfe because, in part, adjacent Amherst Island wouldn’t be developed in the “foreseeable future”. Almost needless to say, the “foreseeable future” didn’t extend out to six months before AI came into play again. Leslie Kaduck of WIRE has written this letter to CHD and Stantec (the “bird” consultant) regarding this issue, received unsatisfactory answers from them and was unsuccessful in her pursuit of a combined assessment.
Due to the importance of the habitat on Wolfe Island, as part of the federal EA process (Ontario could care less), CHD had to create a Wolfe Island Post-Construction Follow-up Plan, 0.3mb (the PCFP) which details how the ongoing monitoring of birds and bats will be done, the requirement to create this plan having been added to the mitigation summary chart in the final ER. On page 14 there’s mention of taking surveys on islands surrounding Wolfe (including Amherst) to see if a decrease in waterfowl on Wolfe is matched by an increase elsewhere. Nothing is mentioned about raptor displacement, an odd omission. I can tell you that the number of raptors on Amherst is very high right now (Dec 2008), high enough that I noticed it before I thought of any displacement from Wolfe. So now what happens if turbines are placed on Amherst? Where then do the raptors go?
In sections 3.2 and following (page 21) the Follow-up Plan lists 3 categories of potential victims (Birds, Bats, and At Risk), along with mitigation actions if too many carcasses are found under the turbines. As an example, one of the mitigations is to potentially shut down the turbine. Within birds there are 4 categories (Raptors, Waterfowl, Grassland Birds and Wetland Birds) where an additional trigger is a general decline in their populations in the project area. But the mitigation here will NOT be to shut down the turbines. Rather, CREC will donate money so someone can manage an alterative habitat, per page 24 in the plan. It sounds to me like they are fully aware there will be a decrease and they are probably already budgeting for that eventuality.
Even a fairly casual review of the mitigation banking – donating money so alternative habitats can be established – raises all sorts of questions about how effective it is. The Sierra Club has published this review of the practice. That review refers specifically to wetland mitigation banking and the problems it has. Mitigation banking for raptors has no history at all. Just a few seconds of reflection brings up a host of problems with any proposal to replace Wolfe Island’s large raptor-friendly habitat. Where would that large an area be located? Who would take what is presumably now a large not-friendly habitat and rework it so that it becomes more friendly? My guess is CREC won’t even try to replace the habitat. Instead they will give an unspecified amount of money (apparently at their discretion) to some organization who will spend it however they want. Perhaps it will go to Ducks Unlimited, so more hunting areas can be set up somewhere. Or maybe they’ll buy a piece of crappy land and donate that. This response bothered me enough that I took the time to write this letter to Stantec (CREC’s bird consultants) et al. It bothered WIRE enough to cause them to write this letter to Stantec.
There is, however, some new wording covering cumulative effects and Amherst Island, in section 8.4 on page 59. Due to the importance of this new wording to Amherst Island, I cover it in more detail in AI’s history page. The Green Act may well remove the requirement to do a full EA, so even this last-second hurdle may be insignificant.
Early in December NRCan issued their final screening report, 0.5mb. This was a review, at the federal level, of all the environmental issues that were covered in the Ontario process. Most of this report simply mimics what CREC had prepared for Ontario, and refuses to submit those reviews to further scrutiny. So for all practical purposes, there will be no more obstacles for CREC to build whatever it wants on Wolfe Island. And whatever it wants is shown in the the Wolfe Island picture albums. Look and weep.
Construction Update: January, 2009, including information about shady construction practices.
Construction Update: April, 2009, including how promises are not being kept.
In the spring of 2009, Environment Canada put out a notice, which has since gone missing. Anticipating this, here’s the text: “Note that hunting restrictions have been put in place for the Wolfe Island area to address concerns over the declining use of this area by waterfowl. As a result, hunting will be permitted in the Wolfe Island area only when hunters are on the island, on the shore, in the shoreline marsh, or on a dock within 20 metres of the shore.” That certainly didn’t take long, did it? I assume these restrictions were lifted, however the Follow-Up Reports are not good, see my posts on Wind Farm Realities.
May 2009. Wind Concerns Ontario has another update on the construction.
June 26, 2009. The project is officially in operation. Normally they would have some sort of dedication and ceremony, complete with visiting dignitaries. If they had such a ceremony, it certainly wasn’t advertised. For ongoing reports, please go to my WI – Post Operational page.
As I get tidbits from Wolfe Island I’ll be posting them here, in chronological order. For WI’s history before and during construction, with a heavy interest in the bird issues, go to WI – Pre Operational.
April 2010. CHD has abandoned its commitments in the ERR to restore roads damaged by construction, opting instead for a financial buyout to the township. This was apparently negotiated by the mayor without full disclosure to the council. The final vote included several council members who have a direct financial relationship to CHD.
May, 2010. The first full 6-month Post Construction Follow-Up (PCFP) report was released by Stantec. Hundreds of birds and bats were found dead under the turbines. Wind Farm Realities, my companion site, has the details.
January 18, 2011. I posted a report on property values at Wind Farm Realities.
January 27, 2011. The second full 6-month PCFP report was released, things are not looking good for the birds. Wind Farm Realities, my companion site, has the details.
February 28, 2011. Margaret Duchoda, who lives on Wolfe Island, wrote this letter to Tim Hudak, the PC leader in Ontario who we hope will become the next premier after the October elections. Hudak favors returning control of wind projects to local governments, and mentioned that McGuinty, the current PM, had stopped a project ( WI Shoals) that Kingston had “favored”.
May 5, 2011. Ed and Gail Kenney are appealing the tax assessment on their property on Wolfe and there was an article about it in the Whig-Standard [backup link]. It’s interesting to note all the lawyers on one side of the hearing and just the Kenneys themselves on the other. I’d be very surprised if they found relief. The article did have one tidbit I found interesting – there have been 15 noise complaints, one of which is ongoing. It would be interesting to see what criteria Transalta is using to determine what “resolved” means – is (a) the complainer satisfied, or (b) the noise is “within limits”.
May 13, 2011. The Whig had an article [backup copy] about how the short-ear owls have disappeared from the western end of Wolfe, where the most turbines are. It was also noted that: “Hennige said that from his recent observations, it appears all 10 of the resident red-tailed hawks were victims.” I’m waiting to see how Trans-Alta and Stantec spin this. This was also mentioned at the KFN Workshop last March.
The Lake Ontario Waterkeeper has a link to this Living at the Barricades program, 11mb, 30 minutes that discusses wind projects in Ontario, with Wolfe Island prominently featured, especially in the first 15 minutes. CTV did a 2-part series on wind turbines, and the second part featured Wolfe Island. The links are to the right side of the page.
At least not everyone is upset by the turbines. Someone apparently thinks they’d be a draw. I’m waiting for someone to shank a ball off a blade tip.
The Wolfe Island project consists of 86 turbines spread over the western portion of Wolfe Island. The project has been controversial from the beginning and telling a complete history is beyond my means. For this discussion the most important thing to remember is that Wolfe Island is right at the mouth of the St. Lawrence river, and thus is a major (as in globally significant) stopover and corridor for migrating birds. It also has a large population of raptors and other birds some of which are not common, especially in the winter. It is listed by Environment Canada as an IBA – Important Bird Area – and as such any development on it gets their highest scrutiny. That’s the theory, anyway.
A major problem is who ends up enforcing the environmental mandates. Note that all the large Ontario wind projects come in just under 200mw of capacity. Kincardine is 199.7, Prince is 189.0, the Melancthon’s are 199.5, the Kingsbridge’s would have been 198.3. Wolfe Island’s is 86 turbines times 2.3mw each equals 197.8mw. Just one more turbine and the total would go over the magic 200 mark. What is so special about 200? I think that’s when the federal full EA becomes mandatory. That limit applies to other energy projects, i.e. hydro. Below that limit the environmental reviews are primarily Ontario’s responsibility, with the Feds doing just a screening (if that). Anyone who thinks these projects are optimally sized for physical or economic reasons as opposed to political reasons is in serious denial. And the developers have been richly rewarded by Ontario’s largely-non-existent regulatory stance.
All projects of this size (gt 2mw) must go through what they call the “Environmental Assessment Process”. The way its written, it sounds like they will end up doing an Environmental Assessment. Not so, and I think the misleading wording is intentional. The “Process” has a set of triggers that, if not met, lets the developer slide into a less restrictive “Environmental Review”, which is reviewed by the province, with the federal government doing just a “screening”. So far, not one of the 19 eligible projects in Ontario has triggered a full Environmental Assessment, even though their were public requests for 17 of them. The Ontario government simply refuses to do them.
For Wolfe Island, there’s been a series of Environmental Reviews etc and a casual reading of them would lead one to think that the developer and the government will be doing everything necessary to protect the birds from harm. But a close reading and some history will quickly destroy any illusions that the government or the developer cares anything about the birds. I go into far more details on my Wind Farm Realities web site, as well as on my WI Birds and WI History posts.
Here’s a series of links to reference materials regarding Wolfe Island and the project there.
- Wolfe Island Picture Albums
- Wolfe Island video, 3.1mb, 70 seconds.
- Canada Env 2005 Guidelines, 0.2mb
- Canada Env Assessment, 0.7mb
- Canada Env Protocols, 0.2mb
- Wolfe Island Final Bird Report, 3.6mb
- Wolfe Island Final Mitigation Report, 2.8mb
- Draft Wolfe Island Post-Construction Plan, 0.3mb
- Final Screening Report, 0.5mb.