The Prince Edward County Field Naturalists were awarded a stay of construction at Ostrander Point this week that will prevent wind developer Gilead Power from beginning construction on their nine-turbine, 22 megawatt project until the outcome of the appeal is known.
“Now, Gilead Power will not be able to destroy any habitat before we can ask for leave to appeal,” said Myrna Wood, PECFN president. “We are relieved, as early migration has begun and spring melt is starting to create the conditions needed by all the wildlife at Ostrander Point.”
In releasing his decision Tuesday, Justice Robert A. Blair stated he had little hesitation in granting the stay of construction as “the issues raised on the proposed appeal are issues of broad public implication in the field of environmental law.”
“Once habitat is destroyed, it is destroyed – for at least short term purposes,” he wrote, an opinion the field naturalists said in a release they found “particularly gratifying.”
In July of 2013, Ontario’s Environmental Review Tribunal halted the development of Gilead’s wind farm at Ostrander Point on Lake Ontario in Prince Edward County, citing detrimental impacts to local endangered species like the Blanding’s turtle. This was the first renewable energy project cut short in provincial history because of environmental concerns.
The company and the Ministry of the Environment appealed the ruling, however, and in February of this year, Justice Ian Nordheimer overturned the ERT’s ruling, stating the tribunal had insufficient evidence to justify halting the project on account of Blanding’s turtles.
Given the green light, Gilead announced their intention to begin construction immediately, because a clause in their Renewable Energy Approval with the province stipulated no construction on the turbine site could take place between May and October.
This sparked a race against the clock as PECFN and their Save Ostrander Point campaign strove to put together not only the case they hope to make in appealing Nordheimer’s decision, but the argument that a stay of construction was needed to prevent Gilead from breaking ground until the fate of their appeal is known.
The decision Tuesday gives the group breathing room to focus on their appeal, knowing in all likelihood that construction, if it does go ahead, won’t happen until October.
The field naturalists and their lawyer, Eric Gillespie, will file their legal arguments with the Court of Appeal on April 11. Gilead and the MOE will follow suit shortly after and the process of determining whether an appeal will be heard could take several weeks.