Tidal turbine retrieval and testing disrupting lobster season, violating environmental regulations, Fundy fishers complain

OpenHydro turbine

Bay of Fundy fishermen are complaining about disruptions to this year’s lobster season because of unexpected plans to re-deploy the tidal turbine now underwater at the FORCE site in the Minas Passage.

During meetings yesterday in Advocate Harbour and Parrsboro, officials from Cape Sharp Tidal Inc. appear to have warned fishermen they may have to move their traps to avoid damage if the company decides to shift the turbine westward to the Spencer’s Island area for further underwater testing.

The company has been trying to retrieve the OpenHydro turbine for the past several weeks, but the operation has been hampered because the turbine is entangled by an underwater line wrapped around its subsea base tubes. Cape Sharp is now using a remote-operated undersea vehicle to assess the situation — an operation that is expected to take several days.

Frustrated fisherman

Parrsboro fisherman Mark Taylor says he moved his 125 traps away from the Minas Passage to allow Cape Sharp to haul its turbine out for repairs. And now, he’s moving the traps again away from the Spencer’s Island area after being told the turbine will be going there for operational testing in calmer waters.

“We’re on our way out there now to gather them all up and move them again,” a frustrated Taylor told Warktimes in a telephone interview today.

“Our traps are really heavy and it’s quite a work load on my crew,” he added, “we just ended up moving them there last week, now we’ve got to move them again.”

Taylor said the disruption is costing him “big time” and he complains that the company gave the fishermen no notice.

“Jesus Christ if they had given us some notice, we wouldn’t have put them there [near Spencer’s Island] in the first place.”

Company confirms plans for further testing

Stacey Pineau, who speaks for Cape Sharp, says at yesterday’s meetings, the company did not ask the fishermen to move their traps at this time as the Spencer’s Island area is only under consideration for further testing.

“We were seeking information from them to determine if we might be able to work in this area,” Pineau said in an e-mail to Warktimes. Pineau added that the testing would take five days.

“Once the turbine is retrieved and before it is brought to the Port of Saint John for upgrades, the operations crew is going to take the opportunity to conduct operational tests of the turbine,” her e-mail said. “The location for this work is still being determined.”

But Mark Taylor insists the company said that the turbine would be going to an area near Spencer’s Island.

After testing is complete, Pineau confirmed that the turbine will then be moved to Saint John Harbour for repairs and upgrades to the electrical components in its Turbine Control Centre.

What about environmental regulations?

Meantime, the Bay of Fundy Inshore Fisherman’s Association has issued a news release expressing shock that Cape Sharp Tidal Inc. plans to lower the turbine into the water for further testing in an area not covered by their environmental assessment approval.

“These plans are a flagrant violation of regulations governing tidal energy development in the Bay of Fundy,” the release states.

It also quotes Colin Sproul spokesman for the Fisherman’s Association and NDP candidate in the Nova Scotia provincial election: “No company or individual in Nova Scotia should be above the law. Our Executive and members call on the Government of Nova Scotia to take action in this case and enforce the regulatory framework for tidal energy development.”

Turbine off to bumpy start

The turbine was first deployed at the FORCE test site on November 7th and connected to the Nova Scotia Power grid the next day. Available figures show Cape Sharp sold less than $3,000 worth of electricity in its first seven weeks of operation.

For an earlier report on the decision to retrieve the turbine for repairs, click here.

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