Environmental Registry – Read full decision
Grand Valley Wind Farms Inc. has applied for and has been issued an overall benefit permit under clause 17(2)(c) of the Endangered Species Act, 2007 with respect to Bobolink in order to construct and operate nine (9) wind turbines in the Township of East Luther Grand Valley
On November 9, 2011 the Minister of Natural Resources issued an overall benefit permit to Grand Valley Wind Farms Inc. under clause 17(2)(c) of the Endangered Species Act, 2007 (ESA), with respect to Bobolink, in order to construct and operate nine wind turbines in the Township of East Luther Grand Valley. Reasonable alternatives to the proposal were considered, including alternatives that would not adversely affect the species. Alternatives considered included not installing the turbines in Bobolink habitat, selecting access road routes that minimize habitat disturbance, and timing windows for construction activities. The best alternative, which was adopted, consists of:
• minimizing the width of access road, crane turning radii, and crane pads;
• routing access roads through lower quality habitat (along hedgerows/fencerows) wherever possible;
• conducting construction activities outside of the breeding bird season;
• restoring areas of short term disturbance immediately following construction;
• restoring access roads, turbine bases, and other areas of long term disturbance following decommissioning of the project;
• implementing additional mitigation measures (which may include turbine operation changes, and/or providing additional habitat for Bobolink) if post-construction monitoring finds significant Bobolink mortality associated with the operation of the wind turbines; and
• creating 12.5 ha of high quality Bobolink habitat and maintaining it as such until the decommissioning of the project.
The permit requires Grand Valley Wind Farms Inc. to undertake a number of measures to minimize adverse effects on individual members of Bobolink, including:
• restricting all construction and habitat restoration activities to between August 1 and May 15 (outside of the Bobolink breeding period);
• restoring areas temporarily disturbed by initial construction activities to their original state;
• minimizing the width of access roads, crane turning radii and size of crane pads (to minimize the amount of habitat damaged or destroyed);
• routing all access roads along existing hedgerows/ fencerows and lower quality habitat wherever possible;
• following existing MNR guidelines to conduct a minimum of five (5) years of bird mortality monitoring; and
• implementing a contingency plan (which may include turbine operation changes, and/or providing additional habitat for Bobolink) and additional years of mortality monitoring if monitoring shows that mortality thresholds are being exceeded.
The permit requires Grand Valley Wind Farms Inc. to undertake a number of actions to achieve an overall benefit to Bobolink, within a reasonable time, including:
• providing and managing 12.5 ha of high quality Bobolink habitat in the Township of East Luther Grand Valley on land owned by Grand Valley Wind Farms, including 4 ha of hayfield, 4 ha of planted native prairie, and 4 ha of fallow field with woody vegetation management. Managing the lands intentionally to protect Bobolink nests and their young is an improvement over managing solely for hay or livestock purposes;
• monitoring habitat use by Bobolink in the managed habitat for 5 years to provide scientific data on best practices for creating and managing habitat for Bobolink; and
• conducting post-construction research to obtain scientific data on the impact of wind turbines on Bobolink nesting behaviour.
In addition, the permit requires Grand Valley Wind Farms Inc. to:
• monitor and report on the vegetation characteristics at the turbine sites and in the managed habitat annually for five years; and,
• restore areas of long term disturbance following decommissioning of the project.
Public Consultation on the proposal for this ESA permit was provided for 32 days, from August 18, 2011 to September 19, 2011. A total of 89 comments were received in response to this Environmental Registry notice. Forty-eight responses were form letters which objected to allowing a private developer to harm species at risk and questioned how such authorizations can be justified under the ESA. The individual comments expressed concern that the focus was on business interests rather than protection of species at risk and urged consideration of alternatives which would not have a negative impact on Bobolink (five responses were duplicates). MNR Guelph District staff reviewed the comments received and determined that the permit conditions adequately addressed those concerns and that no changes were required. Provisions of the ESA allow for issuance of these permits as long as the legal tests are met and an overall benefit for the species will be achieved.
Individuals who wish to view additional information about overall benefit permits may visit MNR’s Species at Risk website: http://www.mnr.gov.on.ca/en/Business/Species/2ColumnSubPage/244440.html