Wind energy is a rapidly developing, renewable source of power that allows people to feel comfortable using energy knowing they are not causing harm to the environment. Wind energy along with other renewable power sources like solar power have been hailed as environmental heroes in the ongoing battle to eliminate coal power which has been responsible for millions of deaths around the world as well as many types of pollution that degrade the eco-system at disastrous levels.
However, the fact that almost any source of power is a vast improvement over coal, does not necessarily make it environmentally friendly. There are many variables in play when labeling something as “eco-friendly” or “green” and as with any development project there is much to be considered before building. In the case of Gilead Power’s planned wind power facility at Ostrander Point, their proposed location for a wind farm would have destroyed the home of a very important resident – the Blanding’s Turtle.
The Blanding’s Turtle has a lifespan and maturation cycle very comparable to us, with an average lifespan of 75 years and reaches reproductive maturity in their late teens or twenties. Unlike us, this animal is in great danger. An abundance of predators that feed on its eggs, habitat fragmentation, and vehicle traffic, have led to these turtles being designated as endangered in Canada. The turtle appears to have an upward curved jaw which causes it to look as if it’s always smiling. This may be part of the reason that it makes a popular pet which has often led to the problem of people removing the turtle from the wild.
Gilead Power had planned on constructing a nine-turbine wind farm at Ostrander Point, a peninsula located about halfway between Toronto and Kingston on the coast of Lake Ontario. The area is spectacular with glorious cliffs, fields of wild tulips, rolling sand dunes, dense forest, and beautiful beaches. Ontario Nature was quoted as calling this “one of the worst possible places to build a wind farm”. The area is a popular destination for birding, camping and cycling. It is also a great location for many who choose to build retirement home there. There are three Provincial Parks, one Wildlife Management area, and one private campground within 15 Kilometers of the proposed wind farm location.
There were several reasons filed for the wind farm application to be rejected. Some of the concerns included migrating birds being struck and killed by the turbines, bats being killed by the turbines, and the Blanding’s Turtle being affected by the increased traffic and road construction in the area. The court ruled that while the birds and bats would not come to any serious or irreversible harm, the Blanding Turtle would.
However, an appeal has been filed and this case will be back before the courts sooner or later. There are a lot of people who support the decision of the Environmental Review Tribunal and demand that the turtles get the protection that was promised to them in the original decision. The website http://www.saveostranderpoint.org/ is set up to take donations to help fund the next court date and has raised $110K as of September 22, 2013.
By Michael Faulds