Saskatchewan

Bird lover urges opposition to Sask. wind farm as deadline looms

Bird enthusiasts have one more day to make their thoughts known on a wind turbine project to be located near an important bird reserve near Chaplin, Sask.

Tuesday marks last day for public commentary on Chaplin wind turbine project

Saskatchewan naturalist and author Trevor Herriot says that as many as 40,000 to 50,000 sanderlings, pictured here, have been seen at one time at Chaplin. (Submitted by Trevor Herriot)

Some fans of grassland birds are spitting feathers as the deadline looms on a wind turbine project slated to be located near a shorebird habitat.

The Saskatchewan government is planning to put 79 wind turbines in an area just north of the village of Chaplin, which is located between Moose Jaw and Swift Current.

Trevor Herriot is urging people to speak out against the project before public commentary closes on Tuesday. Herriot says the area is internationally important for hundreds of thousands of birds.

This diagram shows the environmental assessment study area for a wind turbine system, proposed to be built in the area north of Chaplin, Sask. (Submitted by Trevor Herriot)

"Our government shouldn't be endorsing projects that will destroy and disturb that much native prairie," Herriot said. 

The area is listed as having "hemispheric importance" by the Western Hemispheric Shorebird Reserve Network. The only other place in Canada to have this designation is the Bay of Fundy. 

The matter is made worse, Herriot said, because about half of the turbines are slated to go up in native grassland.  

"In a province where we've lost more than 80 per cent of our native cover, and the native grassland is gone, we just can't allow this to happen."

One bird that calls the area home is the endangered piping plover, which uses it as a breeding ground. There are also whimbrels, willets and red knots. 

Public review

The government is currently seeking public comment and reviewing the project's environmental impact statement, developed by Algonquin Power Company, which was hired by SaskPower to build the project.

According to the company, the 177 megawatt power project will produce enough wind energy for about 70,000 homes.

The company's Environmental Impact Statement predicted that the environmental effects on wildlife and its habitat would be "not significant."

But Herriot said he's spoken to a lot of people who are concerned.

We're in a windy province. There's lots of spots that you can put it.

"I've never seen, on a project of this size, this much response from people. I've seen a lot of people who are upset." 

A petition on the website Avaaz has more than 200 signatures against the project.   

Herriot says he doesn't think the project should be cancelled, just that it should be moved to a less sensitive habitat. 

"We're in a windy province. There's lots of spots that you can put it."

Herriot is showcasing the plight of grassland birds at the Royal Saskatchewan Museum this week, where he will lead a panel discussion following a film. 

Hundreds of thousands of migratory birds depend on Chaplin Lake's shrimp and salt. 2:43