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Sask. government denies wind project near Chaplin to protect migratory birds

Sask. government denies wind project near Chaplin to protect migratory birds
WATCH ABOVE: A 79-turbine wind farm proposed by an Ontario-based company won't be happening west of Moose Jaw, Sask. The environment ministry denied the environmental assessment of the proposed facility. Provincial affairs reporter David Baxter has more on the decision.

A wind project that would have been built near a shorebird habitat in southwest Saskatchewan has not been approved by the provincial government.

On Monday, the Saskatchewan government said it had denied the wind energy project due to concerns over migratory bird activity close to the site.

According to the environment ministry, 137 responses were received during the public review process in 2015. The ministry said all but one of those responses supported wind energy but were concerned about the development’s location.

“Ultimately, there were potential negative to birds and migratory corridors, as well as other risks that led us to conclude this is not an appropriate location for a wind energy project,” Environment Minister Scott Moe said.

The 177-megawatt wind power facility was to be built by Ontario-based Algonquin Power, on behalf of SaskPower.

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The denial drew praise from groups like Sask Wind and Nature Saskatchewan.

Sask Wind founder James Glennie said the minister had a tough decision and made the right call.

Jordan Ignatiuk, Nature Saskatchewan executive director, said lakes north and south of Chaplin are classed as “important bird areas” for water fowl. He added the site of the proposed wind farm is also valuable habitat.

“The location of the farm itself is in a high proportion of native grassland. So again, a lot of songbirds and raptors nesting in that area, many of which are species at risk,” Ignatiuk explained.

READ MORE: Algonquin strikes 25-year wind power supply deal with SaskPower

The facility would have included 79 wind turbine generators, approximately 50 to 70 kilometres of access roads and 110 kilometres of trenched transmission lines.

Following the announcement, the government said it has released new environmental siting guidelines for wind energy projects to help wind producers know areas to avoid.

A five-kilometre buffer zone has been established around designated areas like national and provincial parks, ecological reserves, some Saskatchewan rivers and certain areas for birds.

Wind projects outside of the avoidance areas will still need to be evaluated to review any potential environmental and wildlife impacts.

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The government said it will still work toward its goal of generating 50 per cent of power from renewable energy in 2030.