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Ostrander Point ERT continues with avian expert and road ecologist

Four days of testimony at the Ostrander Point environmental review tribunal began Monday, March 25 beginning at 9:30 a.m. at the Sophiasburgh Town Hall in Demorestville.

The cross-examination of Dr. Paul Catling finished Monday. The tribunal continues Tuesday with testimony from avian migration expert David Okines and road ecologist Kari Gunson.

On March 28, the hearing takes place in Toronto starting at 9 a.m. Teleconferencing is available by dialing 416-212-8013 or toll free 1-866-633-1033.  Enter Conference ID: 1 8 4 6 9 1 4 followed by the “#” key and wait for the moderator to join the conference.
If conference ID not accepted, press the “#” key 3x (# # #) for live tech support.  If tech support is needed during the call, press zero.

“Attending an ERT hearing or listening by teleconference is not easy,” says Henri Garand, chair of the Alliance to Protect Prince Edward County. “The cross-examinations and procedural wrangling, as evident last week, can be incredibly tedious.  But it’s still important for the community to demonstrate a keen interest in the proceedings.  You don’t have to commit to a full day.  Even a few hours in a morning or afternoon are enough to show your support.”

Summary of Monday’s report by Cheryl Anderson, Prince Edward County Field Naturalists
Dr. Paul Catling, an acknowledged expert on the geography of Alvar ecosystems, continued his testimony at the Ostrander Point Environmental Review Tribunal Monday.
After his initial one hour presentation, Dr. Catling endured approximately 15 hours of cross examination by the Ministry of the Environment and Gilead Power lawyers.
Yesterday, Gilead’s lawyer, Mr. Hamilton, questioned Catling about the four one-acre alvar areas he had identified in his presentation.  Using other articles Catling had written, Hamilton compared these lists of plants as if they proved errors in his assessment of the site.  Catling repeated his reasoning that only 30 per cent of the vegetation has been investigated.
Mr. Hamilton questioned Catling’s qualifications to make comments on the movement of water and the expected effects of construction.  Hamilton’s claim that Paul was being a ‘partisan’ because he had visited Ostrander Point with friends was explained by the fact that, initially, the visit was to do research for a book on the flora of Prince Edward County.
The Prince Edward County Field Naturalists believe the many hours of cross examination allowed for many repetitions of some of the facts that make Ostrander Point the worst place for wind turbines.
At the end of the day, the tribunal made comments about scheduling that lead to the hope that in the future, cross examinations will be kept to a reasonable time limit. The tribunal continues Tuesday with testimony from avian migration expert David Okines and road ecologist Kari Gunson.

The summary below of Dr. Catling’s earlier cross-examination and of other testimony on March 18 was prepared by Myrna Wood, president of the Prince Edward County Field Naturalists:

Sylvia Davis, the Ministry of the Environment’s lawyer, cross-examined PECFN witness, Paul Catling, for the first half of the day, even though she claimed she would take only one hour.

By pursuing her theme that Ostrander Point is a disturbed area, she opened a path for Paul to further discuss alvar habitats and the effects of roads, pollutants and invasive species.  Davis questioned his assertion that construction would harm 50 ha, not six. He explained once more the fragility of alvar species and how water movement and drainage affect the site.

He again discussed alvar plants, especially those that are unique to these areas and thus indicators of the site’s importance.  Available studies have listed only 30 per cent of the species that would be expected to be found. No hydrological study was done.

Davis raised the subject of the Alvar Management Plan imposed on Gilead’s project prior to construction.  She asked many questions, trying to show that human management is better than nature’s.  Paul explained why Gilead’s goal of returning the site to pre-construction condition is impossible.

Gilead’s lawyers say they intend to take five hours to cross examine Paul, so even after spending two days on the PECFN appeal, Paul will need to return. This raises questions about the tribunal process.  The Green Energy Act says that if a decision is not reached in six months – July 3 – the proponent automatically wins approval.  Will the tribunal limit the amount of time spent on cross examinations by the proponent?  Can PECFN and its volunteer witnesses continue a legal court procedure against a multi-million-dollar-corporation and a government funded by tax payers?

PECFN lawyer Eric Gillespie, asked about the status of PECFN’s motion to prevent construction activity.  The tribunal adjourned the motion; Gilead has agreed that no work will be done on the site. The proposed Alvar Management Plan must be discussed by the community and public authorities prior to construction.  It has not been determined how that discussion will take place.

The remaining time was devoted to two presenters.  Parker Gallant, vice-president of Wind Concerns Ontario, discussed the status of bats on the site and the harm the project will do to the apecies at risk.  His presentation is available on the WCO web site.

Alban Goddard-Hill cited his experience with the Prince Edward County South Shore Important Bird Area and the Prince Edward Point Bird Observatory as reasons for believing that the Ostrander Point wind project will cause serious and irreversible harm.  With each death, genetic diversity is lost, he explained. This hastens the decline of species.  He included an appendix of MOE activities in the Bay of Quinte area which showed how difficult it is to make wise decisions.

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