Naturalist opposes wind turbine system in bird sanctuary

A Regina-based naturalist and author says a proposed wind turbine system north of Chaplin, Sask. poses dangers to the thousands of migratory birds that pass through the area.

77 wind turbines proposed for bird sanctuary near Chaplin, Sask.

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)

A Saskatchewan-based naturalist and author is worried that migratory birds will be killed by wind turbines proposed to be built near Chaplin, Sask.

The proposed development site sits approximately three kilometres north of an internationally recognized bird sanctuary at Chaplin Lake.

"The Chaplin Lake area is crucial to several species of shore birds, including some endangered species such as the piping plover," said Trevor Herriot, who's based in Regina.

Herriot said he's unconvinced by assertions in an environmental impact study that 77 wind turbines built north of the Chaplin Lake reserve will pose a low risk to the migratory birds passing north through the area.

Hundreds of thousands of birds ... will go directly through this gauntlet of 77 wind turbines.- Trevor Herriot, naturalist and author

Ontario-based Algonquin Power Company won SaskPower's request for proposals to develop and build the wind turbine system. Algonquin is a subsidiary of Windlectric Inc.

SaskPower estimates the turbine system will generate an additional 175 megawatts of wind power for the province's power grid. The project is expected to be finished by the end of 2016.

"There are hundreds of thousands of birds who will pass north of that lake every year, and they will go directly through this gauntlet of 77 wind turbines," Herriot said. 

He noted that four per cent of the global population of piping plovers nest there. Other well-known shorebirds, like the sanderling, pass through the area at counts of 50,000 or 60,000 each spring, he said.

In a blog post, referring to the "terms of reference for environmental impact statement" drafted by the engineering firm Stantec, Herriot notes the environmental impact statement was paid for by Algonquin.

In an interview on CBC Saskatchewan's the Morning Edition, Brady Pollock, director of environmental assessment for the province, responded to the potential conflict of interest by Algonquin paying Stantec for the environmental study about land it seeks to build wind turbines on. 

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)

"This is simply the process. The proponent prepares the document and then it undergoes a rigorous and thorough review by government itself. So it really is an independent, arms-length review of information provided by the proponent," Pollock said. 

Pollock said the process is independent, because the government conducts an independent analysis.

"It considers all available information, whether it's info provided directly in the environmental statement [provided by Algonquin] or various literature sources out there, or previous experiences at our own available data on the existing site," Pollock said.

One of the "birdiest" spots in the prairies

Once the review is complete, analytical findings based on that review will be made available to the public, along with the environmental impact statement, Pollock said. 

For his part, Herriot said he's not opposed to wind turbine systems for generating power. He does, however, disagree with the proposed location for Algonquin's system.

"It's one of the birdiest spots on the Great Plains and here we are putting a wind turbine there," he said. 

"They're saying there are very few birds that use the area or move through it. I'd like to see how many days of research they did that. And I'd like to see them take that information to a bird scientist at a university who is independent, and see whether it has any rigor or validity," Herriot said.

Chaplin's migratory birds

8 years ago
Duration 2:44
Hundreds of thousands of migratory birds depend on Chaplin Lake's shrimp and salt.