Bay of Fundy fishermen's group mulls legal action to stop tidal turbine project
It’s only a matter of time before two massive tidal energy turbines are deployed in the Bay of Fundy, and now a local fishermen’s group is considering legal action as the research project moves forward.
Nova Scotia Environment Minister Margaret Miller announced approval Monday of a monitoring plan drawn up by the Fundy Ocean Research Centre for Energy (FORCE) and Cape Sharp Tidal Venture.
After consulting with concerned fishermen and her counterparts at the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Miller said she is satisfied enough with the plan to test the waters of tidal power technology in the Bay of Fundy.
But the Bay of Fundy Inshore Fishermen's Association says little is known about marine life in the area and the instream tidal turbines can't be made safe for the ecosystem.
“I think she based her decision on industry-funded junk science and on political considerations,” says Colin Sproul, a lobster fisherman with the Bay of Fundy Inshore Fishermen's Association.
“She chose to completely ignore the voice and concerns of every fishing group in Nova Scotia, multiple environmental groups, as well as First Nations.”
Cape Sharp's five-storey-high turbines, destined for the Minas Passage, are expected to generate enough electricity to power 1,000 homes. The company, a partnership of OpenHydro and Emera, is one of several who plan to test different turbine technology in the Bay of Fundy.
If the project is found to have negative impacts, the Nova Scotia Environment Department could force changes to the monitoring program, or it could shut down the project entirely.
Miller has said that her department has been consulting with the fishermen as part of an ongoing data-gathering process since 2009 and that developing tidal energy is crucial to the province’s future.
“Theoretical estimates, mathematical calculations show that there’s approximately 7,000 megawatts of power present in that resource,” says Tony Wright, general manager of the Fundy Ocean Research Centre for Energy.
Similar turbines are already used in Scotland and Ireland, but the ones being deployed in the Bay of Fundy are larger and three times heavier than those in Europe.
But Paul Laberge, the director of Cape Sharp Tidal, says the design won’t force water and marine life through the turbine.
“It’s important to note that this is a generator. It’s not an engine, so there’s no sucking. It turns with the force of the tide,” says Laberge. “Our expectation based on that research is that anything in that current will take action to avoid the turbine.”
Researchers say the only way to know for sure is to put the turbines in the water, but that isn’t sitting well with the Bay of Fundy Inshore Fishermen's Association.
“We intend to pursue all avenues, including a legal one, to halt this very irresponsible installation,” says Sproul.
Cape Sharp says the project remains on pause as they meet with fishermen’s groups this week.
There is no set date for deployment at this time.
With files from CTV Atlantic's Sarah Ritchie and The Canadian Press