The federal department, responsible for managing Canada’s fisheries and safeguarding its waters, published a Review of the Environmental Effects Monitoring Program for the Fundy Tidal Energy Project in April 2016.
Matt Lumley, communications director at FORCE says FORCE will publish a formal response to the DFO review soon.
“Right now we can say the DFO report is helpful: we don’t have all the answers yet, and DFO’s input will inform our monitoring program going forward,” he said in an email response to questions from the Digby Courier. “Tidal energy has to prove itself environmentally acceptable - we need to have a turbine in the water before we can really start to answer that question.”
The review also says FORCE’s monitoring plan doesn’t take into account the potential increase of turbine installation over the next five to ten years.
Open Hydro and Emera have plans to install two turbines in the water at the test site near Parrsborro this year but that number could eventually grow to hundreds of turbines in the Minas Passage area.
Lumley says FORCE and the tidal industry in Nova Scotia are still in the demonstration phase.
“Not only is the technology new, so are the methods to monitor it - it all needs refinement before making decisions about whether to move to a larger scale,” he said.
Fishermen and DFO say FORCE’s monitoring plan does not say enough about what the turbines could do to fish and marine mammals.
Lumley says fish interaction is one of the most important questions that FORCE needs to answer and their plan is to measure fish distribution before and after turbines are placed in the water.
They will be using down-looking hydroacoustic monitoring to figure out where fish are in the water column and then develop a probability model for fish interaction; and then compare results before and after the turbines are installed.
Nobody’s going to want to pull the plug. Nova Scotia is into this site so deep, all before the monitoring program is done, before having all your science done.Darren Porter, weir fisherman
FORCE is also working on new technologies under a program called Fundy Advanced Sensor Technology (FAST).
“In fact, we’ll be trying an improved camera system on our new FAST monitoring platform that’s in development right now,” said Lumley. “FAST should help us overcome some of the challenges of working in the Minas Passage, including the lack of existing data, as well as using instruments that were not designed for extreme high flow conditions.”
Darren Porter, a weir fisherman from Bramber in Hants County, 25 km across the Minas Basin from the FORCE site, is also concerned about what the turbines will do to fish.
He worries by the time everyone has a clear picture of what turbines will do to local fish stocks, it will be too late; either because the damage will de done or because government and the tidal developers won’t want to pull the plug after investing heavily in the Minas Passage.
“Nobody’s going to want to pull the plug,” he said. “Nova Scotia is into this site so deep, all before the monitoring program is done, before having all your science done.”
Porter would like to see the government lay out strict rules about how many fish can be killed or how much the turbines can change fish behaviour.
“If you’re going to use adaptive management on a turbine test site, you should set some rules and once you find enough evidence, you have to be willing to pull the plug,” he said.
While DFO provides input and wrote the review, Nova Scotia Environment has the final say on approval of the environmental monitoring and would be responsible for setting and enforcing any thresholds.
For more information see the Review of the Environmental Effects Monitoring Program for the Fundy Tidal Energy Project at www.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/csas-sccs/Publications/ScR-RS/2016/2016_022-eng.pdf; and the FORCE website about their environmental monitoring program:fundyforce.ca/environment/monitoring/