By: Jeff Helsdon Ontario Out of Doors
Proposals for hundreds of wind turbines in the Great Lakes have raised concerns among wildlife biologists. Dr. Scott Petrie, executive director of Long Point Waterfowl, who examined a map of proposed wind farms in Lakes Ontario, Erie, and St. Clair, said the numbers will “boggle your mind.”
South Point Wind’s proposal for 715 turbines in western Lake Erie between Rondeau and Amherstburg and Lake St. Clair have resulted in heated community meetings. Hundreds more are being planned for the American side of the lake.
Petrie worries about the potential impact on traditional waterfowl staging, resting, and feeding habitat. He maintains Ontario has an obligation under the North American Migratory Bird Treaty to protect critical waterfowl habitat. He also worries about how this will affect the continental population of some species and alter hunting and birdwatching opportunities.
Offshore turbines have been operational in Europe for years, but only in saltwater environments. Petrie says there’s little research on their impact in freshwater and notes European studies showed turbines can displace waterfowl. He’s not against wind power, but is wary of indiscriminate placement without regard for wildlife.
OFAH’s Provincial Manager of Fish and Wildlife Services Terry Quinney has similar concerns regarding fisheries. “We want to see fisheries’ values protected and enhanced,” he said. “We don’t want to see them compromised.”
Quinney cites Lake Erie perch and walleye fisheries, saying he doesn’t want negative impacts on spawning habitat or fish migration patterns. “There’s a whole lot of questions that there are no answers for because wind turbines have never been tried in this context,” he said. He also worries that turbines could impact hunting and fishing opportunities.