Nova Scotia’s environment minister has come under fire from fishermen for approving the installation of two tidal turbines in the Minas Passage near Parrsboro.
“The environment minister has shown a shameful lack of judgment by ignoring the concerns of a broad-based list of concerned groups,” says Colin Sproul who speaks for the Bay of Fundy Inshore Fisherman’s Association.
He adds those concerned groups include his association — the largest fisherman’s group in Nova Scotia — as well as every other fisherman’s organization in the province, plus environmentalists and First Nations.
Environment minister gives OK
On Monday, Environment Minister Margaret Miller formally authorized Cape Sharp Tidal to install two, 1,000 tonne, five-storey-high turbines in its berth at the FORCE test site off Black Rock.
“If we are to advance our collective knowledge of the turbines’ impact on our fish and marine mammals, demonstration turbines need to be in the water,” a government news release quotes her as saying.
Miller approved joint plans by the company and FORCE to monitor the effects of the turbines on marine life in spite of a scientific report from the federal department of fisheries and oceans pointing to serious deficiencies in those plans. (See my previous story.)
In light of the DFO report, Miller announced that FORCE will be required to improve its monitoring plans before the province allows any more turbines to be put in the water.
But that doesn’t satisfy Colin Sproul who accuses Miller of acting as a rubber stamp for a questionable energy project.
“I see the environment minister’s place as being important to err on the side of caution,” he says. “Her job is to protect the environment.”
Sproul vs. Cape Sharp Tidal
The fisherman’s spokesman is also unhappy with Cape Sharp Tidal for failing to consult with his group. Earlier this month, the company announced it would delay installation of the first of its two turbines while it listened to the concerns of fishermen and others worried about potential harm to the marine environment.
But the company has not met with the Bay of Fundy Inshore Fisherman’s Association and Sarah Dawson, who speaks for the company, did not answer when asked about any meetings with other groups.
Colin Sproul says the company and FORCE have suggested getting together for an informal discussion over coffee, but he wants a public meeting where the fishermen can put their concerns on the record.
“We are more than willing to meet with Cape Sharp Tidal Ventures and with Fundy Ocean Research at any time,” he says, “but we refuse to do it unless it’s in a transparent public manner where any historic stakeholder in the Bay of Fundy, who feels they’ve been excluded, can sit down with us.”
In an e-mail to Wark Times, Sarah Dawson replied that the company imposed no conditions on any meeting with the fishermen, but she did not respond to my question asking whether Cape Sharp Tidal would participate if such a meeting were held in public.
Sproul is also concerned by a statement in the company’s formal environmental monitoring plan which says that the Minas Passage “does not have a diverse marine environment.” (See section 2.2.1 of its Environmental Effects Monitoring Plan)
“I almost fell out of my chair when I read it,” he says. “The Bay of Fundy is known as the most diverse marine eco-system in the world,” he adds. “And the most concentrated place for life in that eco-system is in the Minas Passage, so that statement is completely ridiculous.”
When asked if the Fisherman’s Association will seek a court injunction to stop installation of the first turbine, now sitting on a dock in Pictou, Sproul referred me to David Coles, a lawyer with the BoyneClarke legal firm in Dartmouth.
In an e-mail to Wark Times, Coles wrote: “We are reviewing the matter . I am not in a position to give details at this point.”
Meantime, when she was asked when the first turbine might be deployed, Sarah Dawson replied: “I don’t have dates to share on deployment yet.”