Tumultuous Times

The Nature of PEI by Gary Schneider

Readers of this column will know how much I value the East Point area. I’ve written many times about its bird populations, where in the winter you can see thousands of sea ducks and in the spring and fall the migrating hawks, loons, and shorebirds always make the trip worthwhile. Watching the snow-white gannets diving for fish just offshore, or the peregrine falcon that regularly hunts along the cliff, continue to be very special moments in my life.

But it is not just the birds. You can see seals and the occasional minke or pilot whale just off the point. Red foxes abound in the area, as do coyotes. And several species of bats can also be found.

The plant communities in the area are equally special. The tangly, krummholz forest along the coast is full of interesting plants that can withstand the punishing winds that carry salt and sand. Several species of crowberries and cranberries are present, as well as bearberry. 

Inland, there are other interesting plants and plant communities. Showy ladyslipper, black ash, round-leaf dogwood, and two species of rattlesnake plantain are just a few of the rare species found in this area. 

This is a very special area, which is why IRAC’s recent rejection of the Rural Municipality of Eastern Kings’ decision to halt the new wind farm was so disturbing. 

I confess to loving windmills, but the process to site them must improve. I’ve spent a good deal of time working on issues around environmental assessment, both nationally and locally. A well-designed project—and process—would have communities beating down government doors to have their own wind farms. But that is clearly not what happened. 

There are already 10 windmills in the area that are 124 metres (407 feet) tall, inclusive of the blades. The seven new windmills would be significantly taller—177 metres (580 feet) inclusive of the blades. 

In February, Environment, Energy and Climate Change Minister Steven Myers was on Compass expressing his outrage about people in the area rejecting his windmills, claiming that the lion’s share of opposition came from seasonal residents, which is untrue. The Minister has now decided that he has the green light, but whether he can do that is actually unclear from the IRAC report. 

The idea that you can just ignore the will of the community and push something through means that you have no understanding of how proper environmental assessment works. If you engage in meaningful public participation, people must have the right to influence the final decision. Proponents cannot have already made up their minds on the outcome. Otherwise, why involve the public? 

We know how to do things better. We just have to care.