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Moose and METs

Annual hunt will overlap with wind energy measurement towers

Codroy area MET tower sites map. – Courtesy of © GovNL

By Jaymie L. White Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

SOUTHWEST COAST – Announcements about wind energy projects have raised a myriad of questions about how the industry might change the landscape and affect robust ecosystems. As the development process continues, there are plans to install meteorological evaluation towers (METs) in various regions. According to the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), MET towers are used to gather wind data necessary for site evaluation and development of wind energy projects. They can be erected very rapidly and may be on site from a few days to up to a year or longer. Towers generally range in height from 30, 50, 60 and 80 metres tall and they are usually assembled on site as opposed to being transported fully-built. Moose hunting Area 9 (Anguille Mountains) is one of the areas slated for MET towers. In response to email inquiries, a spokesperson for the Department of Fisheries, Forestry and Agriculture issued the following statement. “The Wildlife Division has issued 530 moose licenses for Area 9 for the upcoming hunting season. The majority of Area 9 will not be impacted by construction of measurement towers.” “Construction activity in any Moose Management Area could potentially cause disturbances that may affect the presence of any wildlife species for a period of time. Licensed hunters can opt to avoid hunting in sections of their Moose Management Area where construction activities are occurring during hunting season.” “Licenses cannot be transferred from one area to another. Moose quotas are distributed across a management unit system, and many sources of data inform decisions about quota development. Information on moose management is available in the Hunting and Trapping Guide, available here:” Even though the Department states the majority of Area 9 would not be affected by the tower construction, outfitter Art Ryan believes differently. “I thought at first that the MET towers were just to see if they could go ahead and put the turbines up there, but after talking to those guys, from what I understand, it’s just to get the test of wind and the velocity of wind and the direction of wind and what times of the year and all that,” said Ryan. “So they’d be up there for twelve months for that purpose only, and it’s pretty much, from what I gather, supporting the conclusion that the turbines are going to be going up there. Now when the turbines go up there, that’s the end of it. I looked at the maps and the land that’s going to be scraped and cleared is going to destroy Area 9.” Ryan says that would mean the end of his livelihood and other outfitters in the Codroy Valley. “As outfitters, we’re finished. That’s a given. The outfitters have been up there since they grew up there. I was basically born and raised up there and it’s always been a passion for me as an outfitter,” said Ryan. “Money is one thing, but the love of it is another thing, and what it does for this valley, the benefits that the outfitters have in this valley, it brings in a lot of cash. This valley employs a lot of people. Right now, I’ve got six people hired out all summer, just getting ready for it, and then the explosion comes when September hits, but this is heart wrenching, to say the least. The people of this valley have got a lot of emotional bond against this, destroying what we got here. This is the most beautiful place, I believe.” Hunter Brandon Moore has a camp in Area 9. “One of the roads that is outlined for them to use when they put in the windmills (is) right along by my camp and I’m the only camp in that area,” said Moore. “One of the MET towers actually is going to be, I’m going to say maybe half a kilometre from my camp. My camp’s down in the valley, on a pond, and the brook that runs out of that pond is Morris’s Brook, where the MET tower is going, so my camp’s in the valley and the MET tower is going on top of the country, just above my campsite.” Moore believes it will negatively impact the moose population. “It’s going to ruin it is what’s going to happen. I don’t really know a lot about the MET towers, but if they’re in there installing them right in moose season, it’s going to drive out all the animals in the area,” said Moore. “Moose are very skittish animals, smart, and when there is anything different, they will not come around. I got a camp in Area 9, and when I bought my camp, I had an excavator coming in, just for an example, to do a bit of work. I’ve got cameras around my camp, and it’s common every other day to have moose on camera around the camp. With the camp in there 30 years, they’re used to it. When we were doing the construction at the camp that fall, I never had one moose on camera. That’s how much of a difference just a bit of construction around my camp made. So you can imagine what’s going to happen when the big wind towers come in. Moose, if you find them and they run, they’ll tense up, because all of their muscles are in use, and it would affect the meat, but I’m more concerned that they’re not going to be there to hunt. That’s the big thing in my eyes.” Moore also worries that, given the location of his camp, the decision could be made to not renew his lease for the land. “Where my camp was, Kruger, I guess, had the rights to the land, and when the fellow I bought it from had it there, since there’s no allocation for any permits to get a camp in there, I wouldn’t be able to move my camp because I got a lease on the land that my camp is on,” said Moore. “You have to do it legally, and if something happened and they even discontinued my lease, I’d have to take my camp out of it. That’d be it. Thirty-five years I camped in there, and I’m fighting a date every year. I’ve got to renew my lease, and all they have to do is tell me I can’t renew it, and then you’ve got to get the structure out of it because it has to be the same way as when you put it there.” According to World Energy GH2, when looking at Morris Brook Pond on the map, the nearest MET tower would be 3.5 kilometres away. World Energy GH2, also responded to email inquiries. “Depending on the site, the meteorological evaluation towers (MET), will either be 60m high or 100m high. Five sites in the Bay St. George South / Codroy / Anguille Mountains area have been identified for METs. Three sites have been approved by Crown Lands. The timeline for installation is being determined.” “Onsite wind measurement data is being collected to supplement and verify desktop data. This data will help determine wind turbine placement as well as the design for custom wind turbines and related equipment.” “The amount of site preparation involved depends on the characteristics of the site. Some sites are easier to access than others, so the amount of site preparation may be minimal.” “We are working with outfitters in the area to determine how to least affect hunting season. The work has not yet begun, so the end date is to be determined. Ideally, 12 months of data would be gathered for optimal accuracy. The current plan is to have the METs in place for 12 months. Depending on project needs and regulatory approvals, an extension could be considered.” “Discussions are continuing with individual outfitters and with the NL Outfitters Association (NLOA). Next steps include gathering more specific location data for the outfitting camps, and continuing discussions with outfitters whose businesses may be affected by the project.” “Regarding tower type, there are five in total. Site 2 and Site 3 are 100m towers and the other three are 60m towers.” “Regarding scheduling, we are aiming to start this work within the next two weeks. The exact duration and timing isn’t fully understood yet because we are working with the outfitters to minimize impact and overlap with their season. “ “Site preparation plans are dependent on the particular conditions and accessibility of each site. Existing roads or access points may make site access easier, but the condition of the roads or rights-of-way are important considerations when assessing points of access. For example, it may be most effective to fly in some components rather than move them via ground transportation.” “The intention is to place turbines at least one kilometre from residences. Distances from specific structures or businesses are to be determined during the detailed engineering design phase.” “The turbines currently have approximate placement on the project maps. The micro-siting (i.e., determining the precise location of each individual turbine) has not happened yet. Micro-siting will happen later in the planning process, following Crown Lands approval, the environmental assessment, and the analysis of wind measurement data. All of these elements will factor into planning the precise placement of turbines.” Brenda Gale is a resident of Heatherton highly familiar with Area 9. “It’s one of the biggest moose hunting areas. I can remember being in St. John’s and people trying for Area 9 and me laughing, going, ‘that’s like my community,’” said Gale. “It’s a sought-after area and the worry is not just about the moose, it’s everything. We’ve got caribou in our area that it’s going to affect. We have animals that will now, instead of being up in the mountains where these towers are going, are going to be pushed down into communities such as bears, lynx, fox, other animals that are not going to want to be around these roads being built, these turbines. Years ago, when all those woods roads went in, that’s what happened, the animals started coming down into the communities.” Animals have come into the community before. “My father’s from South Branch and I can remember it, years ago, bears, there were so many bears in South Branch. South Branch was big for bears years ago because of the dump, but the woods roads drove a lot of animals down into the community.” Gale said there’s more factors than the wind turbines to consider. “For this to be close to people on the Port au Port Peninsula, it’s going to be damaging to people. It’s going to be damaging to animals. It’s going to be damaging to birds,” said Gale. “There’s multiple bird sanctuaries on the west coast of the island that are in and around the areas where the wind towers are going, and to be honest, there’s not enough regulations in place to control these companies the way they need to be controlled. It’s not only wind towers we have to worry about. It’s the Stephenville hydrogen ammonia plant.” When visiting Ontario, Gale got close to the wind turbines. “The reason we moved back from St. John’s was because we wanted nature. We wanted calm. We wanted to be able to step outside, take a deep breath and just enjoy, and now we have a salt mine on top of our land. We have windmills going up in our mountains, and I don’t really think people realize just how unappealing that’s going to be for people visiting,” said Gale. “For one, the damage it’s going to do to the area, I think they’re trying to tell everybody it’s only a five-kilometer radius. That’s a lot for 164 towers, and that’s not including roads. That’s just the tower itself. So a five-kilometre radius of damage, I think, would cause more trouble than that. It’s going to cause animals not to want to be around it. I don’t know if anyone ever stood underneath a wind tower or a wind turbine. They’re noisy. They’re horrible. I’ve stood underneath and you can feel it in your chest. It takes the breath out of you, and I instantly had a headache from it.” Multiple studies, including one released by Health Canada in 2014, found no link between wind turbine noise and ill effects. There were no measurable effects on illness, chronic disease, stress or sleep quality, but the louder the wind turbine is, the more people reported annoyances, called “nocebos”. That study was launched in 2012. According to another report in May 2010 by the Chief Medical Officer of Health (CMOH) of Ontario in response to public health concerns about wind turbines and in collaboration with technical working group comprised of members from the Ontario Agency for Health Protection and Promotion (OAHPP), the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care (MOHLTC) and several Medical Officers of Health in Ontario with the support of the Council of Ontario Medical Officers of Health (COMOH), the following conclusions were made regarding the ‘Potential Health Impact of Wind Turbines’: “While some people living near wind turbines report symptoms such as dizziness, headaches, and sleep disturbance, the scientific evidence available to date does not demonstrate a direct causal link between wind turbine noise and adverse health effects.” “The sound level from wind turbines at common residential setbacks is not sufficient to cause hearing impairment or other direct adverse health effects. However, some people might find it annoying. It has been suggested that annoyance may be a reaction to the characteristic “swishing” or fluctuating nature of wind turbine sound rather than to the intensity of sound.” “Low frequency sound and infrasound from current generation upwind model turbines are well below the pressure sound levels at which known health effects occur. Further, there is no scientific evidence to date that vibration from low frequency wind turbine noise causes adverse health effects.” “Community engagement at the outset of planning for wind turbines is important and may alleviate health concerns about wind farms. “Concerns about fairness and equity may also influence attitudes towards wind farms and allegations about effects on health. These factors deserve greater attention in future developments.” A article in 2021 recommended that the distance between windmills and residential populations be carefully considered so as to minimize these effects. The turbines are also known to interfere with migratory bird patterns, and the Codroy Valley Estuary is the only Ramsar (International Convention on Wetlands) site in NL, with two internationally recognized Important Bird Areas (IBAs). “I understand there’s windmills, but those windmills are tagged to all the lines that have to be put in. That’s all damage. All these salt mines that are going in, that’s all damage. The hydrogen-ammonia plant that’s going in. That’s going to be damage. That’s going to take a whole massive amount of water,” said Gale. “Where is that water coming from? So, yes, I’m against the wind turbines, but there’s a quantity of reasons why people need to stand back and see the big picture. It’s not just these wind turbines. There are multiple things happening because of these wind turbines.” The Department of Environment and Climate Change also responded to inquiries about the towers. “The establishment of a meteorological (MET) tower is not designated as an undertaking that requires registration for environmental assessment under the Environmental Protection Act.” “Under specific circumstances, such as the proximity of a MET tower to a protected public water supply area, wetland, or waterbody, a permit may be required under the Water Resources Act, which would impose terms and conditions on the location and operation of the tower.” “The establishment of a wind farm that generates more than one megawatt of electricity is designated as an undertaking that requires registration for environmental assessment. The environmental assessment process requires a proponent to provide a description of the effects a proposed undertaking may have on the existing environment, and the measures that will be taken to mitigate adverse effects. The project description is reviewed by more than 20 Federal and Provincial Government departments and agencies, Indigenous groups, and the public. All comments brought forward are considered by the Minister of Environment and Climate Change before making project decisions.” The Codroy Valley and Area Development Association recently reached out to World Energy GH2 and the provincial government to get answers to the questions posed by their residents, and by Wednesday, Aug. 2, Chair Ron Laudadio, posted the responses offered by Andrew Parsons, Minister of Industry, Energy and Technology to the CVADA website. The CVADA questioned whether or not documentation could be viewed showing government approval for the installation of MET towers, and the following response was given: “The Department of Environment and Climate Change advises that MET tower installation is not listed in the Environmental Assessment regulations as an activity that requires registration for Environmental Assessment. Installation on Crown lands would require a permit from the Department of Fisheries, Forestry and Agriculture. However, Crown lands refers individual applications to the Environmental Assessment Division for review for other triggers for Environmental Assessment, such as: length of access roads to the towers, proximity to scheduled salmon rivers or right of ways.” The CVADA also asked specific questions about what sectors would be affected by Project Nujio’gonik, and how the province plans to support hunting outfitters operating in areas where towers could be erected. Minister Parsons gave the following response, and cited documentation entitled ‘Guidelines: Crown Lands Call for Bids for Wind Energy Projects’ by the Department of Industry, Energy and Technology. “The Department of Environment and Climate Change advises that as per the EIS guidelines (pp. 20-22), the proponent is required to describe aspects of the socioeconomic environment (e.g., land and resource use, heritage and cultural resources, communities) in the area of the project. The proponent is also required to anticipate project impacts and to describe potential mitigations. The proponent is also required to identify and assess the project’s cumulative environmental effects (p.36-7). A number of plans are also required to be submitted with the EIS. These are outlined on pp. 42-47.” “The Department of Environment and Climate Change advises that the EIS guidelines require the proponent to submit an Outfitter Environmental Effects Monitoring Plan (DEEMP) to describe engagement by the Proponent with the Newfoundland and Labrador Outfitters Association (NLOA), concerns expressed by the NLOA and how those concerns are being addressed. The OEEMP must include a description of the potential environmental effects of the project on outfitters, measures to mitigate those effects and monitoring plans for the life of the project. The 216 requires that the proponent prepare and submit the EEMPs subsequent to the completion of the EIS, but before the initiation of project construction (p. 47).” NLOA was contacted for comment, but did not respond to multiple inquiries in time for publication deadline.

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