Nova Scotia

Fundy fishermen lose bid to stop tidal turbine in Minas Basin

Nova Scotia Supreme Court Justice Heather Robertson rejected a claim by the fishermen about problems with the environmental assessment, saying "extraordinary efforts have been made to evaluate risk" to the Bay of Fundy.

Fishermen argued turbines will hurt marine life in Bay of Fundy

A group of Bay of Fundy fishermen have lost a bid to overturn approval of a tidal turbine project in the Minas Basin of Nova Scotia. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press)

A group of Bay of Fundy fishermen have lost a bid to overturn the approval of a tidal turbine project in Nova Scotia's Minas Basin.

In February, the Bay of Fundy Inshore Fishermen's Association argued in Nova Scotia Supreme Court that the province's environment minister granted approval of the project without enough environmental data.

The group, which represents 175 fishermen from Yarmouth to the New Brunswick border, says it believes the tidal energy program will harm marine life. The first turbine was deployed in November.

In particular, the group has accused the operators of the turbine of failing to produce "relevant baseline data," or a snapshot of the environmental state of the Bay of Fundy before the turbine was deployed.

'Careful monitoring'

On Monday, Justice Heather Robertson rejected the claims by the fishermen, saying "extraordinary efforts have been made to evaluate risk" in the 2009 environmental assessment of the turbine project.

"The regime of careful monitoring, study and reporting is in fact consistent with the cautionary principle and reflected in the careful rolling out of this demonstration project," she said in her ruling.

The Scotia Tide deployment barge is towed into position near Parrsboro, N.S., in November. (Canadian Press/HO-Cape Sharp Tidal)

The turbine is owned by Cape Sharp Tidal Ventures, while the non-profit Fundy Ocean Research Centre for Energy (FORCE) is managing the test site in the Minas Passage.

It is connected to the grid through a subsea cable. The company said in November it expected the turbine to eventually produce enough electricity to supply 1,000 homes.

Lawyers for the turbine owner and operator told the court in February that it was impossible to establish a baseline snapshot of pre-turbine conditions in the Bay of Fundy because the area changes with every tide.

Disappointed but not shocked

The Bay of Fundy Inshore Fishermen's Association said it was disappointed to learn of the court's ruling, but not shocked.

The association said in a news release Monday the timing of the release of the decision is "highly suspect."

"The coincidence of its delivery the very day after proponents at the Fundy Ocean Research Centre for Energy announced they would be removing their turbine for the unscheduled maintenance on systems responsible for transmission of environmental monitoring data, and the day after delivery to the public of that data, is too much for our members to accept."

Association spokesperson Colin Sproul said in the release the court accepted "industry controlled junk science as the truth."

The association said it remains "firmly opposed to the current state of tidal development in the bay."

'Project has not been undertaken lightly'

The provincial Environment Department also defended its decision to approve the tidal power demonstration project. 

Robertson said the test turbine is necessary to "understand the risk and environmental impacts" of tidal energy.

"The fact is this is a demonstration project to explore tidal power electrical generation in a climate of significant public interest in diminishing our province's dependence on fossil fuels. The project has not been undertaken lightly and follows rigorous ongoing evaluation," she said in her decision.