Monday, October 26, 2015

Send in your comments on the proposed wind energy project at Chaplin

The endangered Piping Plover cannot submit comments to the Government but you can. (,
via Wikimedia Commons)

The Province of Saskatchewan is still trying to decide whether to put 79 wind turbines by Chaplin Lake, right next to a globally significant shorebird reserve and across a stretch of native grassland with many Species at Risk. The area it will affect is almost 20,000 hectares of habitat. (See previous Grass Notes posts from July.)

Our Minister of Environment, the Hon. Herb Cox, will be soon deciding whether to approve the multi-million dollar project. If he hears that many Saskatchewan people who support wind energy also want to ensure that we site the projects in places that will not endanger so many birds, I think there is a good chance that Chaplin will be spared.

Please take a few minutes to submit your comments on or before November 17th by email to Or by mail to:

Brianne England
Senior EA Administrator
Environmental Assessment Branch
Room 486 - 3211 Albert Street
Regina, SK S4S 5W6
Phone: (306)787-6190
Fax: (306)787-0930

this is the add published in newspapers to solicit public comments

To look at the technical review prepared by the Environmental Assessment Branch (and yes there are some good people there who are working hard to see that this gets a real review), go here. The document has a lot of useful information you can reference in your comments.

Here are some quotes from the review:

"The proposed location of the project supports numerous species at risk (listed under Schedule 1, Schedule 2, or Schedule 3 of the Species at Risk Act as endangered, threatened, or special concern) including: Sprague’s pipit, chestnut-collared longspur, loggerhead shrike, common nighthawk, ferruginous hawk and yellow rail which are migratory species as well as northern leopard frog, short eared owl and little brown myotis (bat) which are resident species."

The review says that the construction process will destroy 62 hectares of native grassland, which is bad enough, but each site where a road goes through or a turbine is erected in native grassland will degrade the ecological viability of many more hectares of habitat. From the report again:

"Effect on wildlife species is variable and could include increased stress, loss of productivity, habitat or nest abandonment; potentially resulting in changes in distribution and local abundance. Amphibians, sharp-tailed grouse and ferruginous hawks have shown sensitivity to increased human activity. Noise and light emitted during operation may result in reduced use of adjacent areas by wildlife and vehicle traffic may cause temporary disturbance to wildlife. Habitat fragmentation and a loss of connectivity would also occur during construction and operation of the project. Construction activities would have an effect on wildlife movement including small mammals, snakes and amphibians. Operation of the turbines would also result in fragmentation as the presence of infrastructure can be perceived by some wildlife as a barrier. Windlectric concluded that wind energy projects have been shown to cause displacement and avoidance in birds."

But what about the risk of collision for the thousands of passerine and water birds who migrate through and breed at Chaplin? Well, here is a statement on the collision risk that should give the Minister enough reason to turn down this project. Toward the end of the Technical Review Comments, the Province's Environmental Assessment staff make it clear that they are dubious about the way that Windelectric did its collision risk assessment, a key issue in considering any wind project:

"Due to inherent uncertainty with all risk assessments and modelling activities, reviewers raised concerns that the assessment for this project may not provide an accurate estimation of the collision risk posed by the project. Reviewers felt bird strikes of stationary objects may not have been adequately accounted for in the assessment. Uncertainty regarding nocturnal migrating behavior and migration height of many passerine species has resulted in remaining uncertainty surrounding the risk posed to these species by this project. Passerines have been found to make up a majority of all bird fatalities at wind energy projects. The risk associated with direct impacts may be higher considering the proposed project site supports numerous passerine species some of which are considered sensitive or are listed under SARA. [the Species at Risk Act]."

Baird's Sandpipers--long distance migrant shorebirds that depend on a safe staging area at Chalpin Lake

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