Who Gives a Hoot About Turbines?

The barn owl has done what no anti-wind turbine protester in Port Ryerse has been able to do to date: halt construction of a green energy project in their village.

A woman walking her dog this summer spotted one of the birds — they are on the endangered species list in Ontario — flying into a barn.

An investigation ensued, photographs of the owl perched on a woodpile were taken, and the sighting was confirmed. The evidence was then presented to an environmental review tribunal hearing, which last week slapped a five-month moratorium on the project.

Boralex, the company that wants to construct a four-turbine 10-megawatt wind farm next to Lake Erie, must now apply to the Ontario government for what’s known as an “overall benefit permit” if it wants to continue with the project.

It must submit an amended plan showing how the wind farm will avoid having a negative impact on the owls and that it has explored alternative sites. It must also show it will do something to help the birds, such as creating new habitat.

The tribunal hearing has been adjourned until March 31.

The Port Ryerse case is the first time a project in Ontario has been ordered back to the drawing board due to the presence of barn owls.

As a result, “there are a number of unknowns right now that will take some work and some time to bring to a conclusion,” Sylvia Davis, legal counsel for the Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change, wrote in an email to the parties to the hearing.

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