The proposal to construct and operate nine wind turbines in the Town of Grand Valley has the potential to impact Bobolink and its habitat.
Bobolink is listed on the Species at Risk in Ontario (SARO) List, in Ontario Regulation 230/08 (O. Reg. 230/08) of the ESA, as threatened.
Subsection 9 (1) of the ESA provides for the protection of endangered, threatened (and extirpated) species on the SARO List.
Habitat protection under subsection 10 (1) of the ESA currently applies to Bobolink.
The ESA allows some activities to proceed under a clause 17 (2) (c) permit with specific conditions if; avoidance and reasonable alternatives have been considered, adverse effects will be minimized and an overall benefit will be achieved for the species. Providing an overall benefit to a protected species under the ESA involves actions to improve circumstances for the species in Ontario. Overall benefit is more than ‘no net loss’ or an exchange of ‘like for like’. Overall benefit is grounded in the protection and recovery of the species at risk and must include more than mitigation measures or “replacing” what is lost.
The Minister may issue a permit to an applicant under clause 17 (2) (c) of the ESA that authorizes the person to engage in an activity that would otherwise be prohibited by section 9 or 10 of the ESA if the Minister is of the opinion that although the main purpose of the activity authorized by the permit is not to assist in the protection or recovery of the species specified in the permit, but that:
(i) an overall benefit to the species will be achieved within a reasonable time through the conditions of the permit;
(ii) reasonable alternatives have been considered, including alternatives that would not negatively affect the species, and the best alternative has been adopted; and
(iii) reasonable steps to minimize negative impacts on individual members of the species are required by conditions of the permit.
Grand Valley Wind Farms Inc. has received a Feed-In-Tariff contract from the Ontario Power Authority and a certificate of approval from the Ministry of Environment to construct and operate nine wind turbines in the Town of Grand Valley for the purpose of generating electricity. Three of the wind turbines are proposed to be located within Bobolink habitat. Grand Valley Wind Farms Inc. has applied for an overall benefit permit under clause 17 (2) (c) of the ESA with respect to Bobolink and its habitat in order to construct and operate the wind turbines.
Reasonable alternatives are being considered including those that would not adversely affect the species, such as:
- using alternate methods, equipment, service road realignment in road design, etc. for carrying out the proposed activity;
- adjusting timelines to avoid species specific sensitivities (e.g. active periods for the species); and
- any other alternative approaches that address adverse impacts (in both the short and long term) on the specific protected species and habitat present on and/or surrounding the proposed activity location.
Potential approaches to minimize adverse effects on individual Bobolink may include:
- minimizing the width of access roads, crane turning radii and size of crane pads;
- relocating access roads to lower quality habitat by constructing access roads adjacent to existing hedgerows;
- restoring areas temporarily disturbed by initial construction activities to high quality grassland habitat;
- conducting vegetation removal and construction activities outside of the breeding bird season (i.e. August 1 to April 1) when Bobolink would not occur on the site;
- additional mitigation measures and habitat restoration measures if required as the project progresses; and
- applying effectiveness monitoring processes and adaptive management strategies post-construction to reduce unforeseen impacts to Bobolink and its habitat.
Potential approaches to achieve an overall benefit for Bobolink may include:
- developing a habitat restoration and management plan for the area of the undertaking;
- managing a nearby area so as to create and maintain suitable Bobolink habitat equivalent in size to the area damaged by the activity;
- acquiring and protecting habitat (e.g. through long term management agreements, conservation easement); and
- conducting a post-construction study to obtain scientific data on the impact of wind turbines on Bobolink mating and nesting behaviour.
Please note that the posting of this proposal on the Environmental Registry does not imply that a permit will be approved. An overall benefit permit may only be issued where the legal requirements set out in clause 17 (2) (c) of the ESA have been satisfied.
The following web-links provide additional information.
MNR’s Species at Risk website
Endangered Species Act, 2007
Species at Risk in Ontario (SARO) List, Ontario Regulation 230/08
General regulations and species-specific habitat regulations under the ESA, Ontario Regulation 242/08
COSEWIC Assessment and Status Report on Bobolink in Canada