Tidal industry warned to improve monitoring for effects on sea creatures

Darren Porter as seen in a recent Facebook video

A spokesman for the Fundy United Federation fishermen’s group says he’s pleased that government regulators have issued a stern warning to both Cape Sharp Tidal Inc. and the Fundy Ocean Research Centre for Energy (FORCE).

“This warning was needed,” Darren Porter said today during a telephone interview. “I don’t think it’s enough,” he added, “but it’s a start.”

Porter was referring to documents released yesterday from the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) and the Nova Scotia Department of the Environment (NSE) imposing new requirements for environmental monitoring at the FORCE tidal test site near Parrsboro. The monitoring is needed to try to gauge the effects of turbines on fish, marine mammals, lobsters and other sea creatures.

Among other things, government regulators say monitoring devices must be field-tested before another Cape Sharp turbine is deployed at the site, there must be back-up systems in place in case monitoring equipment fails to work properly and monitoring results must be compared with predictions that tidal turbines would have minimal effects when environmental approvals were granted in 2009.

Faulty equipment

The regulators were reacting to Cape Sharp’s acknowledgement that some of its fish and marine mammal monitoring devices did not work properly and others failed to work at all from the date of deployment on November 7, 2016 until April 21, 2017 when the turbine was disconnected from its data cables in preparation for retrieval.

It took the company eight weeks to raise the turbine and during that period, there was no monitoring of its effects on sea creatures.

Government officials and scientists are also requiring FORCE, which oversees the test site, to take responsibility for environmental monitoring near the turbine rather than leaving it up to the company.

While Darren Porter is pleased that government regulators are requiring more reliable and consistent monitoring, he says there are still big gaps because FORCE and Cape Sharp are not being required to measure direct effects on fish and marine mammals.

“They still don’t have to look for collisions,” he says, “they still don’t have to look for mortality (deaths) and they still have no way to determine environmental effects by direct impact of that machine.”

Problems and failures

In its annual report on environmental monitoring during turbine deployment, Cape Sharp includes the following:

  • four hydrophones (underwater microphones) are located on the turbine to detect vocal sounds from marine mammals such as harbour porpoises and whales. Only one of the devices worked properly.
  • acoustic devices called imaging sonars were pointed at the sea floor instead of capturing fish and marine mammal movements in the mid-water column; electrical interference caused interruptions in data transmission to shore-based computers interfering with analysis of the data.
  • a video camera mounted on the turbine was damaged shortly after deployment and failed to record any footage.
  • Two Autonomous Multichannel Acoustic Recorders (AMARs) were mounted on the sea floor to measure noise from the turbine. One AMAR was deployed approximately 100 metres from the turbine and a second AMAR, a control unit, was deployed approximately 680 metres away. So far, the company has been unable to recover the second control unit because of obstacles posed by underwater boulders.

Cape Sharp and FORCE

Both Cape Sharp Tidal Inc. and FORCE say they will comply with the regulators’ requirements.

Cape Sharp says it expects to deploy a second turbine sometime this summer.

I e-mailed both the company and FORCE with a list of questions.

To read Cape Sharp’s response, click here. To read FORCE’s response, click here.

To read the documents from NSE and DFO posted on the FORCE website, click here.

Posted in Tidal Power | Tagged | 2 Comments

Boudreau wins NDP nomination in Memramcook-Tantramar

Hélène Boudreau (L) with provincial NDP leader Jennifer McKenzie

Local New Democrats have chosen Hélène Boudreau as their candidate in the riding of Memramcook-Tantramar for the provincial election on September 24th.

During a meeting on Saturday in Sackville, a majority of the 17 members who voted picked Boudreau, a registered nurse, over Evelyne Godfrey who teaches in the anthropology department at Mount Allison. As is customary in such local contests, the exact voting results were not announced and members agreed that the ballots should be destroyed.

It will be Boudreau’s second run for the NDP in Memramcook-Tantramar. In 2014, she finished fourth in the newly created riding with a total of 972 votes, well behind the 3,515 that the winner Liberal Bernard LeBlanc received.

Boudreau says things have changed since the last election when voters overturned a Conservative government with high hopes for the Liberals led by Brian Gallant, a new premier-in-waiting.

“I have never been so disappointed in a political party,” Boudreau said about the Liberal government’s record. (Earlier in her nomination speech, she had criticized the Liberals for privatizing health services including their decision to hand management of extra-mural home care to Medavie Blue Cross.)

“Today is the start, we’ll work together to get a voice for our community; it doesn’t have to be Blue and it doesn’t have to be Red,” she said referring to the main parties’ political colours.

“It’s not just about the NDP anymore, it’s about winning the seat for everyone.”

Criticizes Green Party

Boudreau also criticized the Green Party for invoking the name of Bob Hall who won the old Tantramar riding to become the first elected NDP member of the legislature.

During the recent launch of the Green campaign, deputy federal leader Jo-Ann Roberts predicted the Greens would win an upset victory this year just as Bob Hall did for the NDP in 1982 when change was in the air.

Yesterday, Boudreau said it “really hurts” that the Greens used Bob Hall’s name as “a ploy” to attract attention to their cause.

“They should have used names in the Green Party initiative rather than an opponent,” she said after the meeting. “To me that was not respectful.”

She added that it was also “heart-wrenching” and in “ill taste” that the Greens would seek to gain political advantage by using the memory of a hard-working NDP stalwart just two years after his death.

For earlier coverage based on interviews with Hélène Boudreau and Evelyne Godfrey about the issues that matter to them, click here.

NDP leader Jennifer McKenzie with 3 NDP candidates: Albert Rousselle (Shippagan-Lamèque-Miscou) (L); Hélène Boudreau and Jean-Maurice Landry (Bathurst est-Nepisiguit-Saint-Isidore) (R)

NDP leader

Earlier, NDP leader Jennifer McKenzie opened her speech to the meeting by declaring that “the New Brunswick New Democratic Party is back.”

McKenzie became leader last August, more than seven months after former leader Dominic Cardy resigned. Cardy, whose right-wing policies alienated many grassroots members, later joined the Conservatives.

Yesterday, McKenzie sought to put that past behind her.

“Together as a team we have renewed the party, returned to our roots and rebuilt across New Brunswick to represent the values of the people of New Brunswick,” she said.

After mentioning that former NDP leader Tommy Douglas was the father of public Medicare, she castigated the New Brunswick Liberals for betraying it.

“This government is moving to privatize our health care at an alarming rate,” she said.

McKenzie mentioned Medavie’s management of Ambulance New Brunswick and extra-mural home care services; the contracting out of hospital food and other services; the establishment of private blood clinics in Moncton and what she called “the ridiculous transfer of our nursing homes to the private, for-profit enterprises.”

NDP promises

McKenzie outlined the NDP’s six point plan for home care services, repeated NDP promises to bring in a $15 hourly minimum wage within four years, eliminate community college fees and reduce university tuitions.

McKenzie drew sustained applause when she said the NDP would build a province where young people want to stay, where the work of women is recognized and where the wisdom and rights of First Nations people are valued.

“We will build a province with good-quality public services for everybody,” she declared.

“We will build a province that fights against poverty, illiteracy and unemployment.”

Posted in New Brunswick Election 2018 | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Two candidates vying for NDP nomination

Provincial NDP leader Jennifer McKenzie will speak this Saturday in Sackville

For the first time in years, provincial New Democrats in the Memramcook-Tantramar riding will be choosing between two candidates for the party nomination in the New Brunswick election on September 24th.

Local NDP members will choose between Hélène Boudreau and Evelyne Godfrey during a meeting at 2 p.m. this Saturday in the Activity Centre at Sackville’s Bill Johnstone Memorial Park.

They will also hear from Jennifer McKenzie who was chosen as the party’s new leader in 2017.

Hélène Boudreau ran for the NDP in Memramcook-Tantramar in the 2014 election and was also the party’s candidate in the riding of Beauséjour during the 2015 federal election. She served as a municipal councillor in Dieppe from 2008 to 2012.

Evelyne Godfrey, who grew up in Sackville, recently returned here from England to teach in the anthropology department at Mount Allison University after a teaching career in Britain and the U.S. She’s an archeologist who specializes in ancient mining, metallurgy  and materials science. As for political experience, Godfrey says she’s been a long-time member of Britain’s Labour Party and she served as an elected Parish Councillor in Oxfordshire from 2011 to 2015.

In separate interviews, both Boudreau and Godfrey stressed the importance of electing NDP candidates as alternatives to traditional Liberals and Progressive Conservatives.

Hélène Boudreau

Hélène Boudreau wants to run again for the NDP

“For me personally, this election is about health care,” says Boudreau who has been a registered nurse for 33 years. During her career, she worked as an extra-mural, home-care nurse and as a nursing co-ordinator in a private, residential nursing home.

“When I saw that our provincial government, without the mandate of the people, privatized [the management of] extra-mural care to Medavie, being in there and knowing what efficiencies we could have done, I was appalled,” she says.

Boudreau adds that she attended meetings and news conferences during which Liberal cabinet ministers tried to explain why they handed management of extra-mural care to Medavie and she still can’t understand why they did it.

“It just does not make sense,” she says. “I think that’s why at this time that I’m putting my whole energy at least to make sure that we do have a proper health care system.”

Boudreau says she worries about the Liberal government’s plan to create up to 1,000 additional beds in 10 new nursing homes around the province.

Calling it “a plan that’s not a plan,” she questioned where the nursing home employees would come from and how long it might take before the Liberal promise becomes a reality.

Aside from health care issues, Boudreau says that she’s concerned about the need for federal-provincial action to prevent flooding in the Tantramar region and she promised to defend the historic Acadian Memramcook Institute against budget cuts in hard economic times.

“I think this time around, people want a change,” she says.  “I hear people every day now for the past five, six months saying ‘we want a change’ and this time, the way they’re saying it, I’m hoping… it will translate into that X at the box.”

Evelyne Godfrey

Evelyne Godfrey is contesting the local NDP nomination

When asked why she wants to run for the NDP, Evelyne Godfrey says New Brunswick’s education system is one of her main issues.

“Higher education is my particular concern and the policy of the NDP going into this election is that we would lower university tuition fees by 25 per cent,” she says.

She adds that the NDP advocates free tuition for community college students.

“I think that’s what’s seriously lacking especially here in Sackville. I think there needs to be more lifelong learning and continuing and further education for adults,” she says, adding she would like to see community college classes provided here for free.

Godfrey points out that she left Sackville and moved to England in 1989 because of the lack of training and job opportunities in New Brunswick.

She advocates job creation strategies and supports the NDP promise of a $15 hourly minimum wage.

Godfrey says N.B. Power should focus on renewable energy instead of aiming to generate profits selling power to the U.S.

“If they were to invest, for example, in more hydro-electric, wind and solar power, it would not only create jobs in New Brunswick, but it would also lower electricity bills,” she says.

Godfrey adds the NDP would push for more investment in home care as an alternative to nursing homes and says she strongly disagrees with the Liberal decision to privatize management of extra-mural care that will remain funded by the government.

“You’re spending the money, but you’re not in control is what it means,” she says. “You lose the scrutiny of what’s going on.”

When asked what she has to offer to the predominantly Francophone areas around Memramcook, Godfrey says she feels people there are well-provided for with nearby services in Dieppe and Moncton. On the other hand, she says English-speaking constituents on the other side of the riding around Port Elgin are relatively neglected and she would focus on their concerns.

Godfrey says she knows the Memramcook-Tantramar riding well from the years that she spent here.

“I would be very proud to represent the place where I grew up,” Godfrey says.

“I went away because I had to, there were no opportunities for me to stay here, but I think I can come back and contribute,” she adds. “I have the perspective.”

Posted in New Brunswick Election 2018 | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Deputy Green leader says Mitton can win riding, just as Bob Hall did in ’82

Jo-Ann Roberts, deputy leader of the federal Green Party

The deputy leader of the Green Party of Canada says Memramcook-Tantramar is ready for a big change in September’s provincial election.

“I see this as a riding to win,” Jo-Ann Roberts told about 30 people today at the Sackville Commons.

“This is a winnable riding and you have to go out and tell people that.”

Roberts was speaking during the official launch of Sackville Town Councillor Megan Mitton’s campaign, her second as a local New Brunswick Green Party candidate.

Roberts recalled covering the 1982 provincial election as a CBC journalist when the old Tantramar riding elected Bob Hall, the first-ever NDP member of the legislature.

“Nobody saw it coming,” she said, “but there was an explosion of excitement and it happened here in Tantramar. This is a riding of change.”

Roberts added that the Green Party is gaining strength in the Maritimes. In New Brunswick, Green Party leader David Coon holds a seat, while on Prince Edward Island, there are two Green seats in the legislature.

Roberts urged party supporters in Memramcook-Tantramar to get out and tell people that Megan Mitton can win.

“This is where our province will come out ahead, if we have another voice in the legislature,” she added.

Change and hope

In her speech, Mitton said the riding can show that people are tired of politics as usual.

“We can show that we’re ready for change and full of hope,” she said. “I know we can win this campaign.”

Sackville Town councillor Bill Evans and deputy mayor Ron Aiken said they were attending the campaign launch to show their support.

Megan Mitton with Bill Evans who ran for the NDP in 2010

“I think the world of Megan,” Evans said. “I like her progressive views…God knows we need progressive alternatives to alternating between Conservative and Liberal governments.”

Ron Aiken said that after talking to Mitton about her positions on various issues, he concluded that the Green Party covers most of the things he believes in.

“First and foremost, the environment,” he said. “It’s going to take a long time, but we have to move away from the oil economy to a more sustainable one.”

Aiken said he also likes the Green Party’s grassroots approach, consulting with people rather than dictating to them as other politicians and bureaucrats do.

“I tend to vote for people over policy,” he added, “and Megan’s a person of very good character that I think is well worth supporting.”

Former NDP stalwarts

Dave Bailie said he voted NDP for years and worked to elect Bob Hall, but feels now that Megan Mitton and the Greens are in a better position to win the riding and make change.

“I talked to David Coon at a meeting in Moncton and I asked him, ‘How is New Brunswick going to get rid of the Irving influence?”’ Bailie said, “and he told me, ‘Vote more Greens in.'”

He added that he also likes Green policies and federal leader Elizabeth May.

Former Town Councillor Virgil Hammock, who like Bill Evans once ran for the NDP, said it’s his second time working with Megan Mitton and the Greens.

“I was impressed with her last time and I thought that the Greens match me better than the NDP,” Hammock said, adding that although he supported the NDP for decades, he found the party too dogmatic.

“When I ran, I couldn’t get them to listen to what I wanted to say, they were trying to tell me what to say,” Hammock said.

He added that many people think the Greens are only concerned about the environment, but the party champions many issues including health, the economy and forestry.

“I was very impressed in the last four years with David Coon’s performance in the legislature,” Hammock said, pointing out that in the last election, the Greens won more votes in Memramcook-Tantramar than the NDP.

” I would like to see us in the legislature at least with the balance of power,” he said. “That would be very nice.”

For earlier coverage of Mitton’s nomination meeting, click here.

Posted in New Brunswick Election 2018 | Tagged , , , , | 8 Comments

Big Moon aims to generate tidal power at competitive rates

Big Moon will deploy its devices near Cape Split across from the FORCE test site

The country manager for Big Moon Canada is praising the Nova Scotia government after the province granted his  company two permits to generate tidal electricity on the north side of the Blomidon Peninsula near Cape Split.

“Nova Scotia will be seen in the not-too-distant future, like Denmark was with wind, as the leader and the industry head of tidal power in the world,” Jamie MacNeil predicted today during a telephone interview.

“The government of Nova Scotia has taken a first step with FORCE and now through this process has taken the next step to bring in the next generation of tidal developers,” he added.

“The expertise now, with regards to our technology anyway, resides here in Nova Scotia and it’s going to be continued to be developed here in Nova Scotia.”

Selling power to the grid

The provincial minister of energy announced yesterday that Big Moon has been granted a five year, renewable permit to install up to 5MW of generating capacity and to sell its electricity to Nova Scotia Power (NSP) for 35 cents a kilowatt hour.

MacNeil says it will not be as difficult as first thought for Big Moon to connect to the power grid.

He explained that the company is leasing property from a farm that is already connected.

“We’ve been working with Nova Scotia Power and the grid connection will take place,” he said. “We’ll upgrade the lines from Scots Bay back in through to Canning.”

Working with fishers

MacNeil says Big Moon has been listening to fishermen in the Bay of Fundy and has already commissioned a comprehensive study that gathered baseline data on fish in the Minas Passage.

“And, we’re now in the midst of a lobster study, once again being done with participation from the fishers and others,” he adds.

“There’s no point in trying to produce supposed green power if, in fact, the incorporation of the technology into the environment is actually going to have a detrimental effect.”

 Older technology, new system

According to MacNeil, Big Moon is using a combination of older, but proven technologies.

Drawing of tidal barge showing red kinetic keel suspended between pontoons

A 150-foot-long barge fitted with a steel keel is attached to super-strength polyethylene rope wound around a big drum at the land-based generating station.

As the keel absorbs energy from the tides, the barge moves with the current and the rope made of lightweight Dyneema fibre turns the drum to produce electricity using a wind generator and its gears.

“We’ve incorporated old and proven technology like work barges and high modulus ropes and drums, gears and generators and we’ve put them together in a new system,” MacNeil says.

He adds that Big Moon is hoping its system will harness the power of the tides effectively over long periods of time.

Becoming competitive

MacNeil says Big Moon’s immediate goal is to get its devices into the water to demonstrate the success of its technology.

“Obviously, there’s a great resource here for the people of the province of Nova Scotia and quite frankly all of Atlantic Canada,” he says adding that the company wants to produce electricity at a price that can compete with other renewable sources.

“We’re very anxious to reward the faith that the government has placed in us and hopefully help to develop this tidal industry here in Nova Scotia,” he says.

Posted in Tidal Power | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Big Moon Power gets Bay of Fundy tidal permits

Big Moon plans to test its tidal technology in the Minas Passage near Cape Split

Big Moon Power has been granted two permits to test its unique tidal generating system in the Minas Passage along the north shore of the Blomidon Peninsula near Cape Split.

The first permit allows the Halifax-based company to test a 100-kilowatt prototype for up to 14 months.

The second five-year, renewable permit will allow Big Moon to install up to five megawatts of generating capacity and sell the electricity to Nova Scotia Power (NSP).

Big Moon will receive 35 cents per kilowatt hour, considerably less than the 53 cent rate Cape Sharp Tidal was paid last year at the FORCE site on the opposite side of the Minas Passage. (The Cape Sharp turbine was removed from its test site last June and moved to Saint John, N.B. where it is undergoing repairs and testing.)

Meantime, the Nova Scotia government has set a cap on the amount of power that Big Moon can sell each year at the full rate, presumably to limit the overall cost to NSP ratepayers. After the cap is reached, the company will get an incremental rate. (The cap is blacked out in the permit documents.)

In today’s news release, Energy Minister Geoff MacLellan is quoted as saying that Nova Scotia is at the forefront in the development of tidal energy technology.

“Demonstration projects like this will help drive innovation, competition and ultimately lower renewable energy prices,” he adds.

Kinetic keel

Drawing of tidal barge showing red kinetic keel

Big Moon’s technology consists of an on-shore generator with a drum that has a high-strength marine rope wrapped around it.

The polymer rope is attached to a tidal barge in the water with a perpendicular piece of steel, called a kinetic keel, on its bottom.

When the tides ebb and flow, the keel moves with the current and as the barge travels slowly away and then comes closer to shore, the rope turns the drum to generate power.

Big Moon has already tested prototype devices in the Minas Basin and Bay of Fundy in 2016 and again, last year.

The provincial department of energy has imposed certain conditions on the testing projects including the requirement that the five megawatt one undergo an environmental assessment before it proceeds.

Big Moon will also be required to conduct environmental monitoring and hold consultations with local people and the Mi’kmaq of Nova Scotia.

To read the full text of the permits announced today, click here.

Posted in Tidal Power | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Phinney opposes luxury apartment building

Councillor Bruce Phinney

Sackville Town Councillor Bruce Phinney voted last night to stop the development of a luxury apartment building in the downtown business core.

Phinney cast the only no vote. His seven council colleagues approved a resolution to move ahead with a rezoning application that would make the new building possible. The resolution sets Tuesday, May 15th as the date for a public hearing on the matter.

JN Lafford Realty Inc. has applied to rezone a small portion of the former United Church property at Main and York Streets to allow for construction of a third building on the site with up to 36 two-bedroom apartments as well as underground parking. The building would cater to tenants over 55 with monthly rents ranging from $1,250 to $1,700.

Dangerous traffic

Phinney opposed the development on the grounds that it would add to traffic congestion in the parking lot that has entrances and exits off Main and York Streets. Under the Lafford proposal, tenants in the new building would travel through the lot to gain access to their underground parking spots.

“I go there quite often,” Phinney said. “I have people telling me they won’t drive to go to Service New Brunswick because there’s no place to park down that way,” he added.

“I look at the fact, actually even myself going in and out of there, it’s dangerous.”

John and Joe Lafford have said that if they can’t persuade the town to rezone a small parcel behind the old cemetery, they could still erect a building on the site with above-ground parking. They say that the cheaper building would likely cater to students.

Phinney said that while he realizes the Laffords could go ahead with construction, he’s hoping that denial of their rezoning application would result in a smaller building and less traffic congestion.

Zoning ‘fluke’

Councillor Megan Mitton spoke in favour of proceeding to the next step in the rezoning application.

“The proposed use does fit the town’s plans to promote downtown development and have a variety of housing options, especially for seniors,” she said.

Both Mitton and Councillor Bill Evans said that when the Laffords bought the United Church property in 2012, nearly all of it was rezoned for high density, mixed-use development except for the small parcel behind the cemetery which retained its institutional zoning because the boundaries were unclear.

Evans called it a “fluke” adding that town planning staff would ensure that any new building would have to meet Sackville’s traffic safety and parking requirements.

“I’m confident that we have the proper rules in place and staff is capable of making that decision,” Evans added.

Oldsters drive less

Councillor Joyce O’Neil also spoke in favour of going ahead with the public hearing next month. She suggested that older tenants would not increase traffic congestion.

“I know that it means that there’ll be more vehicles,” she said. “But it’s certainly not like everybody’s going to be leaving at 7:30 or 8 o’clock to go to work and back in at 5.”

Meantime, town planner Lori Bickford assured Councillor Andrew Black that the new building would be at least 30 feet from the cemetery boundaries so there would be no disturbance of nearby graves.

Site plan showing existing phase 1 bldg off York St. at upper right; existing phase 2 bldg off Main St. (Service NB), mid-left and proposed new apt. bldg behind cemetery which is at lower left. Arrows indicate traffic routes. Old Town Hall/present United Church in upper left corner (click to enlarge)

Ambulance move

At its meeting last night, town council gave approval in principle to rezoning about half an acre of land beside the Westmorland Animal Hospital on Robson Avenue to permit construction of a new Ambulance New Brunswick station.

Drawing of new ambulance station

Councillors approved first reading of a bylaw amendment that would change the zoning from highway commercial to institutional use.

The Nova Scotia development company Parsons Investments is in the process of buying the land and a large chunk around it near TransCanada Exit 506 from Sackville businessman Percy Best.

Councillor Evans spoke in favour of amending the bylaw, but said that even though the station itself would be on high ground, Ambulance New Brunswick should be warned of potential flooding in the area that could cut it off from downtown.

Exit 506 final report

Council also voted to accept the $27,000 report it commissioned from Ekistics Planning and Design and directed town staff to come up with a strategy for implementing it.

The report, posted on the town’s website, recommends that the town spend more than $610,000 over a number of years to improve public facilities near Exit 506 including new sidewalks, bicycle lanes, parks and trails.

In response to a question from Wendy Alder, co-owner of the Tantramar Gas Bar, town manager Jamie Burke said some of the spending may be included in next year’s capital budget.

Posted in Town of Sackville | Tagged , , , | 12 Comments