A fishermen's group in the Bay of Fundy is worried about Cape Sharp Tidal Venture's plan to temporarily move its tidal turbine from a designated testing area to a site where an environmental assessment has not been carried out.

The Bay of Fundy Inshore Fishermen's Association said the move endangers fish and violates the rules governing the development of tidal energy in the area. 

The Cape Sharp Tidal Venture turbine is a joint project between Emera Inc. and OpenHydro. The turbine is currently in the Minas Passage near Parrsboro, N.S.

Cape Sharp Tidal confirms that work is currently underway to remove the turbine. It wants to bring it to another area in the Bay of Fundy to do operational tests that would run about five days.

"They have no approval to conduct that testing and more importantly is there will be no environmental-monitoring equipment at the site," said Colin Sproul, spokesperson for the Bay of Fundy Inshore Fishermen's Association.

Sproul is also an NDP candidate in the provincial election in the riding of Annapolis.

Colin Sproul

Colin Sproul is with the Bay of Fundy Inshore Fishermen's Association. (CBC)

Cape Sharp Tidal said it is meeting with regulators and stakeholders about its plan. 

Nova Scotia's Department of Environment said discussions with the company are "continuing."

"Typically, approval is not required to move a piece of equipment for the purpose of repair or improvement. We are in discussions now with the company to ensure we understand the full extent of their next steps," a department spokesperson said an email. 

Tests to examine performance

The proposed turbine tests are important, according to Stacey Pineau, Cape Sharp Tidal's community relations manager. 

"We think it might be possible to generate more electricity with the unit if we are able to address an issue that is related to its current design," said Pineau. 

The testing would examine the performance of the turbine and involves lifting and lowering it into the water multiple times. Tidal activity is too strong at the current site near Parrsboro to run those tests and it wouldn't be safe for crews, said Pineau. 

"We need a minimum depth of about 20 metres and a current of less than five knots to ensure the safety of our crew."

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Workers walk past a turbine for the Cape Sharp Tidal project at the Pictou Shipyard. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press)

Sproul said this proves that turbine crews can't properly monitor the way their own equipment works.  

"They don't even have the ability to monitor what's going on with the money-making side of their business, much less its effects on the environment of the Bay of Fundy."

Site location not finalized

Where exactly the turbine would be placed in the Bay of Fundy hasn't been determined, but Pineau said the company is considering an area east of Spencers Island near Advocate Harbour in Cumberland County.

She said Cape Sharp Tidal has already met with lobster fishermen in that area to get their input on the tests.

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The testing cannot be done at the current site because the tidal force is too strong and would endanger work crews, according to Stacey Pineau. (Cape Sharp Tidal/The Canadian Press)

Cape Sharp Tidal had already planned to raise the turbine and bring it to Saint John for modifications and repairs this month. The additional tests would take place before the turbine goes to New Brunswick. 

The removal of the turbine depends on when crews can untangle it from a line, likely a mooring or other marine line, that has caught on it. The company also needs to wait for a tidal window, which occurs every month when tides are weaker than usual.