Newspaper article The Canadian Press

At-Risk Turtles vs. Turbines: Wind-Power Project before Ontario's Top Court

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

At-Risk Turtles vs. Turbines: Wind-Power Project before Ontario's Top Court

Article excerpt

Turtles vs. turbines in Ontario's top court


TORONTO - An expert tribunal was entitled to conclude a proposed wind farm would devastate a population of already threatened turtles, Ontario's top court heard Monday.

The case, which pits turtles against turbines, could have widespread repercussions as to how endangered species are protected across Canada, and raises questions about the protection of unspoiled areas.

At issue is a proposed nine-turbine wind farm at Ostrander Point south of Belleville on the shore of Lake Ontario.

Prince Edward County Field Naturalists Club had successfully argued before the province's environmental review tribunal that the project on the 324-hectare site would threaten Blanding's turtles in the area.

Gilead Power, through its Ostrander Point Wind Energy, had Divisional Court overturn that decision in February. It argued the tribunal had made a half-dozen errors in concluding the project would cause "serious and irreversible" harm to the turtles.

Addressing the panel in the packed courtroom, lawyer Eric Gillespie, who speaks for the naturalists, pleaded with the three justices to defer to the review tribunal.

"The tribunal was squarely within its mandate," he said. "We are simply asking this court to respect and uphold that original decision."

Gillespie noted the tribunal heard evidence over 24 days but essentially based its decision on four duelling experts on the long-lived Blanding's turtles.

The main issue, according to the tribunal, was that five kilometres of access road needed would lead to more turtle road kill, poaching and predation, and degradation of critical habitat.

The turtles, which are already in decline, can take up to 25 years to mature and survive for 75 years, court heard.

"It's a highly vulnerable population," Gillespie said.

Even a single individual matters, he said, when you're dealing with a small local population. …

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