On Saturday March 27, in Leamington, Kingsville and Harrow, Ontario, Southpoint Inc, a wind energy company based out of Leamington, is holding public meetings on its proposal to build over 700 offshore wind turbines between Rondeau Provincial Park and Holiday Beach Important Bird area on Lake Erie, and off the southern shore of Lake St Clair.
These developments are within, or proximate to, a cluster of globally significant Important Bird Areas (IBAs) including world famous Point Pelee IBA, Greater Rondeau IBA, Holiday Beach/Big Creek IBA, Pelee Island Archipeligo, and Eastern Lake St. Clair IBA. This area is a rare a point of convergence of the Atlantic and Mississipi flyways, the major bird highways followed by hundreds of millions of birds flying north into central and northern Canada in the spring and south after the breeding season in the fall, in some cases as far away as Tierra del Fuego.
In other words, the area where the wind turbine density will be highest is perhaps the most significant migratory pathway in inland North America. Lake Erie and Lake St. Clair are also prone to severe weather and fog, which are conditions that are known to amplify the potential for migrating birds to collide with structures like wind turbines.
In addition to these concerns for birds, local residents, including officials from all levels of government, are opposing this proposal over fears of contamination of drinking water from the turbine installations. Construction activity will disturb the bottom sediments of the lakes which contain extremely high levels of toxins and known carcinogens from heavy industries upstream.
Due to the nature of the Ontario Government’s Green Energy Act, the door is wide open to encourage green energy. While this piece of legislation is certainly laudable, it can do as much damage as good if not applied thoughtfully and with care to protect biodiversity and cultural values like clean water.
We believe that in fairness to the wind industry, wind industry companies should not be wasting their resources on proposals and undertaking justification studies in areas where clearly the projects would undermine biodiversity and cultural values. Clearly, the Southpoint proposal would do this as it is currently framed. The Province needs clear policy on where wind energy is to be encouraged and where it must be excluded.
Concerning off-shore turbines in the Great Lakes, it must also be remembered that the Great Lakes are a shared resource with the United States of America. Several states border the Great Lakes and share the waters. Michigan already has guidelines with regard to offshore wind installations that, if applied in Ontario, would render the Southpoint project entirely unfeasible.
We cannot have a pell-mell approach to industrializing this common resource with one jurisdiction upholding high protection standards and another lacking in standards. The International Joint Commission was established for this exact reason, yet proposals like Southpoint’s are forging ahead and the provincial government appears to be averting its gaze from international obligations.
We encourage those living within range of these meetings to attend and express opposition to the proposals.
We implore Southpoint to withdraw its 1400 megawatt wind project from Lake Erie and Lake St Clair.
We encourage the Government of Ontario to re-establish a moratorium on offshore turbines until a clear policy that protects biodiversity and cultural values from industrial wind farms and other “green energy” initiatives is adopted.
Finally, we urge the province of Ontario and the Federal government to thoroughly consider the consequences of offshore wind installations in the Great Lakes within the context of its international obligations and expectations through treaties, conventions and the International Joint Commission.