Barn owls are no longer an issue for the proposed Port Ryerse Wind Farm.
The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry has determined that the wind farm site is not part of the owls’ regular habitat.
Developer Boralex Inc. will not need a special permit to build four industrial wind turbines east of Port Ryerse.
The project still has at least one hurdle to clear before it gets the green light for construction.
A provincial tribunal will consider this fall an appeal over environmental concerns.
The sighting of barn owls in Port Ryerse last year had delayed the project.
Barn owls are an endangered species in Ontario.
The MNR confirmed the sightings and in April proposed to grant Boralex a special permit on condition that the company showed it would take action to benefit barn owls.
But last month the ministry determined the permit would not be needed.
The wind farm’s site is not part of the owls’ regular habitat so activity may take place without a permit, the MNR determined.
Boralex spokesman Jonathan Kahn confirmed the ministry’s decision last week during a telephone conference call that discussed legal issues.
The Ministry of Environment approved the Port Ryerse Wind Farm in August 2014.
Local residents launched two appeals of the MOE’s decision.
A provincial tribunal rejected the first appeal based on health concerns following a hearing in Simcoe in June.
The second appeal based on environmental concerns is scheduled to take place in Simcoe from Oct. 5 to 8.This hearing had been on hold while the MNR dealt with the issue of barn owls.
The tribunal expects to rule on the environmental appeal by mid-November.