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What’s going on at Chuckery Hill a lot less clear

Recently, a bobolink perched at the edge of the proposed industrial solar installation on Chuckery Hill Road, a reminder that this site is home to a number of species at risk: eastern meadowlarks and bobolinks nest there and a rare short-eared owl has been seen. The current Ontario Breeding Bird Atlas shows red-headed woodpeckers breeding in the site block and possibly Canada warblers. A past atlas lists the extremely rare, endangered Henslow’s sparrow and the common nighthawk.

What’s going on now at Chuckery Hill is a lot less clear.

Last summer, an area of forest was cut and the grassland ploughed under. SkyPower posted an online notice saying that a Stage 1 Archeological Assessment was being undertaken and an Environmental Assessment would (italics ours) be undertaken. This timetable was very odd, since the environment to be assessed had already been destroyed.

When SkyPower held an information meeting last January, a SkyPower representative was asked how the assessment could realistically be undertaken on a no-longer-existing habitat. She laughed and said that sometimes the government asked them to do things that seemed silly and they didn’t question the logic, they just went ahead and did it.

She was asked about species at risk and said coyly that they couldn’t talk about endangered species. She was told that Gilead had been very open about endangered species and the same transparency was expected of SkyPower. There was no response.

At the meeting, SkyPower was told by a Prince Edward County Field Naturalists’ member which species at risk had been seen on the Chuckery Hill Road and a representative from Dillon Consulting (the environmental assessment company) was told and shown where species at risk had been seen, specifically meadowlarks (at least 3 nesting pairs), bobolinks (at least 1 nesting pair) and a short-eared owl.

Kshitij Kaushik, Project Planning and Implementation, was also asked about the timing of the destruction of the habitat and the environmental assessment. He replied that the two assessments were proceeding “simultaneously”. He was asked to provide a timetable to show that this was, in fact, the case. He said he would tell Dillon to provide the timetable.

The timetable never arrived, Instead, there was a legalistic e-mail saying that SkyPower was in compliance with all applicable legislation. Two further requests were made. It wasn’t until this month that a letter from SkyPower was sent, saying that “We are in the process of making reports public by June 22, 2012.

In the meantime, work has been progressing at the site. In late May/early June, surface work was done, turning the grass under and exposing the soil. For the two days (June 8th and 9th), a pair of meadowlarks was seen, repeatedly returning to the same place in one of the fields and hovering, obviously looking for a nest that had been destroyed. It’s extremely likely that other nests of species at risk were also destroyed.

This is in defiance of Ontario’s Endangered Species Act and the Migratory Bird Convention Act. The latter says:
“Under the legislation, Environment Canada cannot issue a permit to authorize the disturbance or destruction of a nest in circumstances of incidental take. As a result, individuals or companies working on the land or in the water are responsible for taking appropriate measures to ensure that they comply with the legislation and regulations and minimize risks to migratory birds. The best investment in compliance is taking reasonable care to prevent incidental take in the first place.
For example, if there are migratory bird nests where you plan to work, consider options like avoiding, adapting rescheduling or relocating activities that could disturb or destroy the nests.”
Ontario’s Endangered Species Act provides fines of up to a million dollars (for corporations) for non-compliance.
SkyPower and Dillon can’t claim to be unaware that species at risk were nesting there – they were told on January 9th, 2012. So why do SkyPower and Dillon feel they can afford to ignore both legislation and the natural environment?
The company had said that the results of the various assessments (including the environmental assessment) on the proposed site would be posted in local libraries and online, on June 22nd. On June 24th, an internet search found no results for the assessments. Instead, there was a press release dated June 21st, announcing that SkyPower had sold a majority interest in 16 Ontario solar projects (the identities of the projects not specified) to Canadian Solar Inc.

* * *

The Prince Edward County Field Naturalists, founded in 1997, is an affiliate of Ontario Nature. It provides an educational forum dedicated to the study, promotion, appreciation and conservation of the flora and fauna within Prince Edward County. The public is welcome at the meetings held on the last Tuesday of the month from September to May, except December, at Bloomfield Town Hall. Guest speakers introduce a variety of nature related topics. All members are encouraged to participate at meetings by sharing their experiences and observations. Regularly scheduled field trips in the vicinity offer members the opportunity to experience various habitats. Membership in PECFN is open to all. Contact: Prince Edward County Field Naturalists, P.O. Box 477, Bloomfield, Ontario K0K 1G0 Or Cheryl Anderson 613-471-1096

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  1. virginia says:

    Charmed, I’m sure. Read some of your own back posts.

  2. Marnie says:

    Sorry, forgot that you two are the Saracstic Sisters. Sometimes I actually fall into the trap of thinking that you are saying what you mean.

  3. virginia says:

    I think Donna’s sarcasm was lost on you.

  4. Marnie says:

    Do you like to eat, Donna? If so, stop complaining about the farmers. They have to cut the hay when it’s ready. What would you have them do?

  5. Biodiver says:

    Suzanne – renewable projects have always been held to this standard. They were the first type of project to undergo this level of scrutiny with respect to wildlife habitat. Now that the MNR has refined its criteria they are rolling it out to be more widely implemented

  6. yehudi zeno says:

    Rumour has it that a big wig of some sort from MNR will be at fisheries Wed. morning.

    Wonder why?

  7. David Norman says:

    Donna, why flippantly abrogate this expression of virtue with your own PECuliar notion of righteousness? Both highlight a similar human perception and are not mutually exclusive.

  8. Suzanne Lucas says:

    I wonder if projects from companies like Gilead SkyPower and WPD will be subject to new MNR regulations mentioned in this article: http://www.ottawacitizen.com/business/Strict+provincial+standards+will+define+wildlife+habitats+need+protection/6873181/story.html

  9. Donna says:

    Why not complain about all the farmers who destroy grassland birds’ nests with early haying in so many PEC fields?

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