Tuesday, January 16, 2007

It's a foul wind that blows on the crabbing grounds

The prospect of 350 windmills smack in the middle of the crabbing grounds of Hecate Strait isn't gaining many converts in the crab fishery industry. The Queen Charlotte Islands Observer has a story on the percolating issue of locating the windmills in Hecate Strait, in the article the case for the crab fishery and its importance to the North Coast is presented by the Area A Crab Association.

The Nai-Kun project is one of two wind energy projects being touted for the North Coast, the other one a land based wind farm on the south slope of Mount Hays is the other, and if it counts for much, the land based one has the full support of the crab fishery industry.

That support however does not extend to the Hecate Strait project, which those in the crab industry feel will have a negative impact on their livelihoods and jobs along the north coast. It's a point disputed by the proponents of the water based wind farm who suggest that there's room for all in Hecate Strait.

You can explore both sides of the issue with this article from the Observer.

Wind farms and crabs may not mix
QCI Observer
January 15, 2007

Crab fishermen don't want to get pushed off their fishing ground by a wind energy project in Hecate Strait. Geoff Gould, director for Area A Crab Association says crab fishermen are competing with Nai Kun Wind Development for the same 550 square kilometre piece of real estate in Hecate Strait.

When fully operational, Nai Kun's proposed wind farm is projected to produce enough electricity to power 240,000 homes from 350 windmills. Mr. Gould says although the company has not divulged exactly where the turbines will go, they are targetting an area of Hecate Strait that is under 100 feet deep, exactly where the fishermen target crabs. He believes the economic value of the crab fishery to the north coast is not well understood and doesn't want locals to lose their livlihood so a company can sell power to Los Angeles.

According to a 2004 study, 41 boats created 146 person years of well-paid employment in the north and the fishery had a landed value of $22-million and a wholesale value of $32-million. Most boat owners live in Masset and Prince Rupert he says and the crabs are landed in these places as well, making the industry very supportive of the local economy, he says.

He says over the last three years the company may have been busy cutting deals with the Haida, but now that the wind energy project is gaining momentum, he wants people to know the crab fishermen do not support the project.

For one thing, his association has not been involved in many discussions with Nai Kun officials. He says there was one meeting a couple of years ago in which he was told the company was seeking approvals from the Council of the Haida Nation.

The CHN granted Nai Kun a permit for research in 2004 and has been involved in a scuba surveys at a wind station installed by Nai Kun which also monitors temperature, wave and current levels.

The company also agreed to issue a share purchase warrant entitling the Haida Tribal Society to acquire 860,193 common shares for a period of two years at a price of $.22 per share for the first year and .25 per share for the second year.

Mr. Gould says his association has sent letters of concern to the CHN and not received any response. He doesn't understand their position as the CHN has two crab licenses as well as many Haida work in the industry.

Ray Castelli, president of Nai Kun, says the crab fishermen may have legitimate concerns, but the notion that the wind farm crowding them out is misleading. He said the wind farm will take up an area of 30 square kilometres when complete and Nai Kun is doing their best to understand which spots will have the least impact on crab fishing. He said the company is starting an environmental review process which will allow for several different rounds of public consultation.

According to a recent Parks Canada report, the development's main environmental issues include bird-strikes with blades of the 72 m diameter rotors; seabed disturbance from installation of tower footings and cables connecting the power to an offshore substation and main cable to the mainland; acoustic effects of construction on marine mammals, and storage of diesel for emergency power on tower lights.

BC Hydro recently announced several wind power contracts as part of a recent call for independent power producers. Nai Kun officials intend to put the company forward in the next call for power in 2007.

Mr. Gould says wind projects should be on land. He says the fishermen fully support the proposed project on the back side of Mount Hays near Prince Rupert.

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