Presently there is a lot of activity in the Bay of Fundy, specifically the Minas Passage, concerning Tidal Energy and the use of tidal turbine technology to generate power. The site known as “FORCE” (Fundy Ocean Research Center for Energy) is a testing site for local and international companies to test their turbine technology designs on the highest tides in the world. FORCE provides the electrical infrastructure to deliver the tidal power to the grid. FORCE oversees an independently reviewed environmental monitoring program in the Minas Passage. FORCE also conducts research to better understand the site conditions, estimated to contain 2,500 megawatts of extractable power.
There are currently five berths or leases at the FORCE site that companies have bid on to test their technology for this emerging aspect of the energy sector. FORCE received environmental assessment approval for the site, including the five berths, in 2009. The berth holders must submit their designs and plans to the provincial government for approval. Each berth holder must include environmental effects monitoring plans for their activities. These are called ‘near-field’ monitoring plans. Near field monitoring plans include how fish or other speices interact with the turbines as well as operations that happen within close proximity to the turbines themselves. The companies who create the turbines come up with the monitoring plans specific to their technology. Some of the designs are floating, others are anchored to the seafloor, and others are in the middle of the water column on rotating arms. NS Department of Environment is responsible for environmental review and approval of the FORCE environmental monitoring plan and tidal development projects. Fisheries and Oceans Canada reviews some aspects of these projects. NS Department of the Environment has not yet issued approval for the FORCE or Cape Sharp Tidal environmental effects monitoring plans. Companies often contract consultants to conduct the monitoring once it has been approved.
There is an Environmental Monitoring Advisory Committee (EMAC) that provides information to FORCE. EMAC is an independent, arms-length, volunteer, technical advisory committee. The mission of EMAC is to provide independent expert scientific and traditional ecological knowledge advice to FORCE. It is made up of representatives from Academia, Fishers, Mi’kmaq of Nova Scotia, Government, and other stakeholders. The focus is on Environmental Effects Monitoring programs not basic scientific research about tidal development. Membership on this committee does not constitute support for tidal projects. It is a means to provide important information and stay informed on upcoming activities. In March of 2013 the Mi’kmaw Conservation Group (MCG) volunteered to be a representative to the EMAC meetings. Since that time MCG staff members have attended the bi-annual meetings of EMAC. Because of concerns raised by MCG, a lobster subcommittee has been established to monitor lobster in the Bay of Fundy.
Currently Cape Sharp Tidal is going to be the first company to deploy a turbine. They were expected to begin the process in early June of 2016. After a number of concerns were raised by stakeholders, they have paused for further dialogue. Deployment will most likely occur mid to late summer 2016.
If Mi’kmaw Community members have input, feedback or concerns on tidal development in the Bay of Fundy please contact MCG at 902-895-6385 or email KNelson@mikmawconservation.ca and MCG staff can raise the concerns at EMAC meetings.