THUNDER BAY – Guest Editorial – Horizon Wind Inc’s Renewable Energy Application (REA) for the Big Thunder Wind Park, was posted by the Ministry of Environment (MOE) for final public comment until June 22nd. The Nor’Wester Mountain Escarpment Protection Committee (NMEPC) has been diligently reviewing Horizon’s REA, commissioning reports, and submitting comments showing the enormous shortcomings of Horizon’s project and the serious negative consequences to our community and the Loch Lomond Watershed. This has serious implications for the residents of Thunder Bay, Fort William First Nation and the Municipality of Neebing.
The NMEPC has been working over the past 4 years since learning of the City’s untendered Option to Lease the 20,000 acres allowing a Toronto developer to erect industrial Wind turbines on the Nor’Wester Mountains and Loch Lomond Watershed. The NMEPC has reviewed and commented on the two previous Draft REA reports, held Open Houses, held monthly Community Meetings, made numerous deputations to City Council and met with numerous government officials to expose the serious consequences should this project proceed. Homeowners and residents are particularly vulnerable as shown by other recently-approved projects elsewhere in Ontario.
Northwestern Ontario has an abundance of remote, ideal locations adjacent to the grid, which could easily accommodate such a development in this region. To destroy an over 100 year protected watershed, a unique maple sugar forest, home to at-risk species, and the traditional uses for First Nations is completely irresponsible and unwarranted.
1) Our expert Noise review found:
Serious deficiencies in the reports and information regarding the potential for excessive noise exposure. We have solid belief that the project will exceed the MOE 40 dBA thresholds for wind turbine noise, higher levels of infra and low frequency sound and result in adverse health effects related to sleep disturbance.
The computer model Horizon used (Windpro) was inappropriate to the topography of this project. There are limitations to just how complex of a topography the model can handle and ridges, such as the Nor’Westers, are out of that range.? This excerpt from the computer model manual states
“Cliffs …. should not be included when using the hill model as there is no method available today which allows you to calculate the effects….. Great precaution should be taken when siting WTGs close to cliffs …. “
2) Our Wildlife Analysis including local Moose Expertise review found:
Serious deficiencies based on absence of local input and knowledge of local habitat as well the methodology used.
Horizon’s literature review was inadequate and a responsible study would require about three years not a two-day field visit.
3) Our review of the REA?Consultation Report found:
From its’ inception, the Big Thunder Wind Park project has been fraught with errors which can be attributed to a lack of proper prior planning and lack of proper consultation by the Developer.
Horizon made crucial and fundamental errors in consultation by:
* keeping the project quiet, staying “under the radar” while making key decisions;
* failing to properly identify and contact crucial Stakeholders to provide local knowledge and relevant information;
* ignoring, minimizing or trivializing the varied and valid concerns expressed;
*making inappropriate decisions yet stating they were accommodating Stakeholders;
*using methods and tactics which soured relationships and divided the community.
Horizon’s REA does not merit approval by the MOE due to their lack of an open, transparent consultation process.
4) Other Comments?were submitted by community members, organizations, businesses and stakeholders from across the City, the Province and even outside the Province, which raised varied and diverse concerns which not addressed in Horizon’s REA.
5) City Response
The City’s response has been muted as a result of the lawsuit by Horizon and Council has been advised not to comment in any way critical of this project.
The City identified 16 items of concern in April 2010 and these were forwarded to Horizon.
Horizon responded on June 5th of this year, more than 3 years later.
Their response is not included in the REA and does not provide public opportunity to review and commentcontrary to the REA process.
Furthermore, conflicting information exists between Horizon’s response letter and their REA application.
6) Our local MPP, Bill Mauro sent a letter to Jim Bradley, Minister of Environment less that a month ago. I quote: “This site is simply an inappropriate location for an industrial project of any magnitude.”
“…the Nor’Wester is a unique natural feature, our regions equivalent to the Oak Ridges Moraine or the Niagara Escarpment.”
“I …. fully support Fort William First Nation, Municipality of Neebing and the broad base of community stakeholders that have worked tirelessly in opposition of this project.”