PRINCE EDWARD COUNTY — The Blanding’s turtle is proving to be more powerful than a wind turbine protest group.
A Prince Edward County wind turbine project, located along the south shore south of Belleville, had originally been approved to include 29 turbines. But in late April, the province’s Environmental Review Tribunal (ERT) ruled that more than half of those turbines pose a threat to the Blanding’s turtle.
Germany-based wind company WPD originally wanted to build 29 turbines in Prince Edward County as part of the White Pines 105 sq. km project. But the province ruled that 18 of them cannot be built because of their proximity to the Blanding’s turtle, which has been listed as a “threatened” species in Ontario since 2004. The cancellation of two other turbines for being too close to heritage-designated sites is being appealed.
Wind Concerns Ontario, a wind turbine protest group, says that since 62 per cent of the project has now been cancelled, it is not possible for WPD to meet the required 75 per cent of the contracted amount of electricity the project must provide. The Alliance to Protect Prince Edward County has spent almost $2 million in legal fees in the past 10 years fighting the turbines.
While there has never been a count of how many Blanding’s turtles there are, Ministry of Natural Resources species-at-risk expert Joe Crowley said a rough guess is one might expect to find 10 to 100 Blanding’s turtles at any site where the turtles have been spotted in Central Ontario.
The Prince Edward protest group argues that the court ruled that the number of turtles doesn’t really matter as it’s a threatened species and the loss of even a couple of female turtles would be enough to cause long-term harm to the species.
This is the second time that Blanding’s turtles have stopped a wind project in Prince Edward County. Gilead Power was first approved in December, 2012, to build nine wind turbines at Ostrander Point, an 800-acre parcel of land near Picton. Ostrander Point — a former bombing range used by the Canadian military and still owned by the Crown — would have been the first wind project built entirely on Crown land. However, last year the ERT revoked the permits for the nine wind turbines because the turbines would cause serious and irreversible harm to Blanding’s turtles and their habitat.