Group raises concerns about potential wind farm in Wentworth Valley area
WENTWORTH, N.S. — The Protect Wentworth Valley group supports wind energy projects, but not at the expense of species at risk and biodiversity.
That is the concern they raise following the province’s announcement last month of five potential renewable wind energy projects, determined through a request for proposals (RFP) process, which included Higgins Mountain Wind Farm, a site near Wentworth and the Colchester-Cumberland counties boundary.
“Our concern is it is located in prime endangered species territory; in both its habitat area and through that corridor area that allows that species to the reach other populations and establish a sustainable breeding population,” member Dr. Joanna Zed said, referring to the mainland moose.
“The government has committed to protecting endangered species and in particular this species. They’re committed to restoring a sustainable population and we feel the government has an opportunity here to do good for sustainable green energy as well as protecting the environment and species for years to come,” she said. “We feel there is a need for green energy but not in this geographical location.”
Fellow member Leslie Dykeman reiterated the point.
“While we 100 per cent understand changes need to be made and renewable energy is important – that we’re in a climate crisis – it’s not at the cost of causing more damage,” Dykeman said.
“We’re aligned with Nova Scotia’s and Canada’s commitment to protect more nature and protect biodiversity loss and, as Joanna said, this is absolutely identified in the Nova Scotia Mainland Moose Recovery Plan (Nov. 25, 2021); this area we’re talking about in Colchester-Cumberland in the Wentworth Valley area … particularly in the Higgins Mountain area.”
Dykeman said it connects the Portapique River and Wentworth Valley wilderness areas.
“The Nova Scotia government has a mandate to protect at least 20 per cent of the total land and water mass of Nova Scotia for nature conservation by 2030, and we’re certainly aligned with that mandate and would ask, and continue to ask them, to protect this land before it’s too late,” she said.
Department of Natural Resources and Renewables spokesperson Patricia Jreige said while the Higgins Mountain Wind Farm project was one of the five identified as a potential, there is still a rigorous process to go through.
“Our goal is to develop more renewable energy sources to move away from coal-fired electricity while still protecting our environment,” Jreige said. “All five projects selected through the RFP process must still secure all relevant municipal, provincial and federal approvals and permits in order to be built. This includes an environmental assessment (EA) that includes community engagement and demonstrates how any potential harms will be mitigated.”
Jreige went into more specifics regarding the environmental assessment.
“The EA requires project proponents to conduct surveys and study the impacts of the project on the environment and mitigate those impacts,” she said. “These studies include impacts to wildlife and their habitats, including mainland moose. Most potentially detrimental activities, such as light and noise pollution, increased road access and/or habitat degradation, can often be mitigated or avoided through proper site selection, using existing road networks, timing of the activities and education.”
Dan Eaton, Director of Project Development for Elemental Energy, said over the last two years, they have undertaken extensive environmental studies which are informing the location of their project infrastructure.
“With respect to moose and our shared interest in protecting existing moose habitat values, we are incorporating the following design measures into the Higgins Wind Project,” he said, listing “re-using existing forestry roads, and locating turbines at sites subjected to previous disturbance from forestry activities, where possible,” as the measures.
“Higgins Wind is committed to developing a community supported and environmentally responsible project that respects the interests of Nova Scotians while delivering meaningful economic benefits to the communities within which we work,” Eaton added. “We are currently preparing the project’s environmental assessment document for registration with the Province of Nova Scotia and look forward to sharing more information associated with the Higgins Wind Project at that time.”
For more on the Protect Wentworth Valley group, visit their website at protectwentworthvalley.com.
For more on the Higgins Mountain Wind Farm, visit their website at higginswind.com.
The Nova Scotia Mainland Moose Recovery Plan can be found on the province website novascotia.ca and following the appropriate links.