GUYSBOROUGH — With the first round of government information sessions scheduled to begin in Guysborough this week (Oct. 4), mapping the complex future of offshore wind development in Nova Scotia formally gets underway. Key to the entire process, say officials, is public participation.
“We want to make sure that we gather all the information first, well in advance of any project planning,” Impact Assessment Agency of Canada Senior Policy Advisor Carys Burgess told The Journal last week, adding that all stakeholders – including Indigenous Peoples, environmentalists, fishers, and average citizens – are welcome.
According to its project description, the “Regional Assessments on Offshore Wind Development in Nova Scotia” – established in March as a joint federal-provincial initiative – is specifically designed to obtain insights about environmental, health, social and economic conditions in areas that may be affected by offshore wind. It’s also responsible for “identifying and recommending mitigation and follow-up measures and other approaches for addressing potential positive and adverse effects [of] offshore wind development activities.”
To fulfill its mandate, the five-member committee tasked with managing the process is a deliberately diverse group that includes Acadia University biologist and river expert Graham Daborn; Eskasoni First Nation manager Steve Parsons; Glooscap First Nation Elder Lorraine Whitman; professional environmental assessor Ann G. Wilkie; and offshore marine expert James Wooder. Said Burgess: “This [approach] is a bit new. There’s a little bit more planning and a lot more engagement.”
Proposed hydrogen projects for the Strait area are pursuing land-based windfarms in advance of offshore wind projects for their energy needs. While supported by both provincial and federal governments, the land-based proposals have already garnered some opposition from residents who say they’ve had no input, let alone control over what may happen in or around their backyards.
Last month, The Journal reported on concerns that Lesley Hartt and Marsha Plant of St. Francis Harbour raised at Municipality of the District of Guysborough council about EverWind Fuels’ windfarm ambitions in the municipality. Citing its environmental footprint, Plant said: “I don’t think it’s a good project for Guysborough County... and I don’t think there should be any area of this county that should be used as a sacrificial zone for any part of this project.”
Noted Burgess of the offshore wind consultations: “The regional assessment committee is going to be at the open houses [in Guysborough] and they’re going to be there to talk to anyone who comes to provide them with information on the regional assessment, and to gather information from people regarding any concerns they have. In Nova Scotia, right now, we don’t even have a licensing process in place. So this process is actually going to inform that. This is where it all starts.”
The sessions are scheduled for 1 to 3 p.m. and 6 to 8 p.m. at the Chedabucto Lifestyle Complex on Wednesday, Oct. 4. Additional ones are slated for Sheet Harbour (1 to 3 p.m. and 5 to 7 p.m., Sheet Harbour Public Library, 22756 Highway 7), on Thursday, Oct. 5. Times and locations of further sessions in Sydney, Port Hawkesbury, Inverness, Digby, Yarmouth, Shelburne, HRM and Wolfville are expected to be posted to the Impact Assessment Agency’s website over the next several days.