On July 19, 2004, British Columbia's Environmental Assessment Office (EAO), pursuant to the British Columbia Environmental Assessment Act (the Act), accepted for review an application for an environmental assessment certificate (the Application) from Holberg Wind Energy GP Inc. (the Proponent) for the Holberg Wind Energy Project (the Project). The Project also required an environmental assessment under the federal Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (CEAA), and therefore a single, cooperative environmental assessment of the Application was undertaken in accordance with the Canada-British Columbia Agreement on Environmental Assessment Cooperation to meet the legal requirements of both governments while maintaining the existing roles and responsibilities of each level of government. The cooperative process was overseen and led by EAO.
Description of the Project
The Project is located on the ridge tops of Mt. Brandes and Mt. Hansen, located on northern Vancouver Island near the community of Holberg. The Project consists of up to 45 wind turbines with a maximum capacity of 58.5 megawatts (MW), associated access and onsite roads, underground and overhead transmission lines, a substation to convert electricity for connection to the power grid, and ancillary facilities such as the concrete batch plant and the control facility.
The Project has a capital cost of approximately $120 million, and will create an estimated 100 worker years of direct construction employment in British Columbia and up to 6 full-time jobs when fully operational.
The Project is predominantly on provincial Crown land and is mainly in an enhanced forestry zone under the Vancouver Island Summary Land Use Plan. A small percentage of the Project involves transmission lines/access roads on fee simple lands owned by Western Forest Products Ltd. (WFP). The Crown land involved in the Project falls within a Tree Farm Licence (TFL) held by WFP.
The Project, if approved and constructed, would produce electricity to meet domestic demand on Vancouver Island as well as promote the development of a new green energy industry in British Columbia. The Project is the second wind energy generation facility project to be reviewed under the Act, and in accordance with the Canada-British Columbia Agreement on Environmental Assessment Cooperation. The Project is the first wind farm project to negotiate an Electricity Purchase Agreement with BC Hydro.
Application Review Process
The Application was made available for review and comment by government agencies, First Nations and the public. The Proponent responded to all comments, and made revisions to its proposed mitigation measures, monitoring programs and other commitments to address the concerns. These revisions were reviewed by an interagency committee comprised of relevant government agencies and First Nations, and conclusions reached on whether practical means had been proposed to prevent or reduce to an acceptable level any potential effects of the Project.
EAO established a 30 day public comment period on the Application. During the comment period EAO received one submission from the public which was supportive of the Project.
Twenty members of the public signed in during open houses on the Project conducted by the Proponent. The public asked questions regarding project related tourism facilities and short and long term employment opportunities. Participants expressed general support for the Project.
First Nation Feedback
The Project is entirely in the Statement of Intent area of the Quatsino First Nation. The Quatsino First Nation was invited to participate in all aspects of the review, and were able to participate in some of the interagency committee meetings, as well as participate directly in the Archaeology Overview Assessment conducted in support of the Application.
The Quatsino First Nation was generally supportive of the wind energy project, but wanted assurance that their concerns with respect to archaeological resources were recognized. This issue was addressed to their satisfaction through the review.
Holberg Wind Energy GP Inc. has agreed to develop a consultation and benefits agreement with the Quatsino First Nations potentially addressing the frequency and scope of future meetings and commitments, including but not limited to employment and business opportunities.
The key technical issues considered during the review of the Project were potential impacts on forestry, fisheries and fish habitat, wildlife resources (in particular impacts on birds and bats), recreation, socio-economic and health effects, visual impacts, archaeological resources and aboriginal interests.
Based on information subsequently provided by the Proponent in responding to review comments, including proposed mitigation measures and commitments, EAO and the federal Responsible Authority under CEAA (Natural Resources Canada) consider these issues to be adequately resolved.
EAO is satisfied that:
- the Application adequately identified and assessed the potential significant adverse environmental, economic, social, heritage and health effects of the Project;
- public and First Nations consultation, and the distribution of information about the Project have been adequately carried out by the Proponent;
- issues identified by the public, Quatsino First Nation, and provincial, federal and local government agencies, which were within the scope of the environmental assessment (EA), were adequately addressed by the Proponent during the review of the Application; and
- practical means have been identified to prevent or reduce to an acceptable level any potential adverse effects of the Project.
Natural Resources Canada (NRCan), the federal Responsible Authority (RA) for the CEAA screening review of the Project, determined that the Project is not likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects. The Project is allowed to proceed subject to certificate conditions, Commitments and Assurances (Appendix B), and the follow-up and monitoring put forward by the Proponent.