It’s no secret that tidal power is now being explored as a viable alternative to dependence on domestic and foreign fossil fuels. And the Bay of Fundy, with some of the highest tides in the world, is considered by experts to be a logical place for tidal power development.
In April the Bay of Fundy Ecosystem Partnership (BOFEP), in conjunction with the Province of New Brunswick, held a series of consultations with communities around the Bay. Area fishermen were hoping to get answers to specific questions about the impact that tidal power could have on fisheries.
On Grand Manan, however, specific answers were not forthcoming, according to Klaus Sonnenberg, general manager of the Grand Manan Fishermen’s Association.
“We had written them [the Canadian federal Department of Energy] that we wanted to be consulted, and we received a letter back saying that we would be,” Sonnenberg said. “But this meeting was for the general public, not just for fishermen.” He described the April 7 meeting as a “touchy-feely presentation.” He added, ” It was so vague that I can’t really comment on it. People here didn’t know what they were talking about.”
Sonnenberg continued, “We have specific concerns and questions — site location, gear fouling, noise, displacement, what threshold is acceptable. These are all important issues, none of which were addressed. This preliminary was not well focused.”
He added, “We also want to know if the province is planning a pilot study with a token generator.”
Barry Jones of BOFEP, project manager for the New Brunswick Strategic Environmental Assessment on Tidal Power Development, said that the Grand Manan presentation was “of necessity vague” because no sites have been selected. He added that “all public stakeholders are being consulted and fishermen are stakeholders.”
Jones continued, “We’re aware that there are a great number of questions that need to be answered. All views collected in these consultations will be included in the final report which will be passed on up to the Minister. Obviously, I can’t say what the higher-ups will do.”
In response to Sonnenberg’s question about a possible provincial pilot study, Jones said, “For the next several years there will be nothing in the water.”
BOFEP is described as “a virtual institute open to individuals and groups that seek the well-being of the Bay of Fundy.”
According to an announcement in March by provincial Energy Minister Jack Keir, “The consultations are meant to allow the public the opportunity to influence policy development on tidal energy.”
He added, “Developing partnerships and involving communities is an important aspect in building the energy hub and achieving our goal of self-sufficiency… I look forward to hearing from the public and stakeholders. This is probably the most important piece of the strategic environmental assessment for New Brunswick.”
In addition to Grand Manan, meetings were held in Alma, Campobello, Deer Island, Moncton, Saint John and St. George.