Rejection of Wind Farm Sought by Nor’Wester Mountain Escarpment Protection Committee


wind energyTHUNDER BAY – John Beals, the Co-Chairman, Nor’Wester Mountain Escarpment Protection Committee says, “The attached 4-page letter dated May 3rd, 2010 was issued to the above Ministers to request their intervention to deny approval of a proposed industrial wind energy development project on the Nor’Wester Mountain Range and the Loch Lomond Watershed in the Thunder Bay area.

“Copies were also provided to the local Mayor and Council and several other Ministers, including the local Hon. Michael Gravelle, Minister of Northern Development, Mines & Forestry, and Mr. Bill Mauro, MPP, Thunder Bay/Atikokan,” continued Beals.

“To date, we are awaiting a response to our request and concerns which are itemized on page 2 and 3 of our letter,” shares Beals.

Here is the text of the letter released today:

Nor’Wester Mountain Escarpment Protection Committee
c/o John Beals
2176 Trendiak Road
Thunder Bay, ON
P7J 1G1
May 3, 2010
Hon. Brad Duguid
Ministry of Energy and Infrastructure
Hearst Block, 4th Floor
900 Bay Street
Toronto, Ontario
M7A 2E1
Hon. John Gerretsen
Ministry of Environment
Ferguson Block, 11th Floor
77 Wellesley Street West
Toronto, Ontario
M7A 2T5

Dear Honorable Ministers,

RE: Proposed Big Thunder Wind Park on the Nor’Wester Mountain Range

As co-chairs of the Nor’Wester Mountain Escarpment Protection Committee (NMEPC), we are writing to urge your intervention and that of all appropriate authorities of the Ontario Government to deny approval of an industrial wind energy development project (as listed above) on the Nor’Wester Mountain Range and the Loch Lomond Watershed in the Thunder Bay Area.

The City of Thunder Bay owns 17,000 acres of land in the adjoining Municipality of Neebing.

This land has been owned by the former City of Fort William and subsequently Thunder Bay for more than 100 years. It was purchased to protect the Loch Lomond Watershed which served as the primary source of drinking water for Fort William and later the south portion of Thunder Bay. It contains 6 lakes, an Area of Natural and Scientific Interest (ANSI) and rock formations dating 1.6 billion years. It also contains Ontario’s most northerly sugar maple tree stand and is home to many protected peregrine falcon habitats.

This land has been respected by all levels of government as “community lands” reserved for public enjoyment uses only, and has been under serious consideration as a national or provincial park several times during the past 50 years.

In November 2006 and November 2007 the City of Thunder Bay authorized (in-camera) a license and subsequent lease option agreement with Horizon Wind Inc. It has been noted that the license, lease option agreement and the energy agreement with Ontario Power Authority identify different corporate names for the proponent, which has added further confusion.

In September 2009, the residential and business community of South Neebing and other Thunder Bay citizens were shocked to learn of the lease option agreement since it was concluded in complete secrecy and without the awareness of or opportunity for consideration by the constituents.

Upon becoming aware of the agreement to lease the land to a real estate promoter for an industrial wind turbine energy development project, there have been continuous alarm bells for the community. Horizon Wind Inc. is a Toronto based real estate company without any energy development experience. Their method of communication with affected property owners and residents has been dismal at best and clearly not consistent with experienced energy project developers. Their public consultation process lacks substance in the information provided and does not address legitimate community concerns. They have not been forthright and prefer to engage in media and supporter briefings by invitation only, whereby incredulous comments on the potential for “use of wood” in construction and promotion of a manufacturing plant to produce wind turbines are suggested to inflate community misinformation. Meanwhile, the true characteristics of the project and the enormous negative impact on the area of development are ignored.

Since September 2009, the NMEPC has worked tirelessly to thoroughly research and analyze all aspects of this industrial wind turbine project.

This proposed project requires unique consideration for a number of reasons:

(1) The site location for the project, on a mountain top close to 600 hundred feet high, would elevate the turbines to tower directly over the residential, educational and recreational area of South Neebing (over 3000 people) without any significant natural buffer.

(2) The lease option agreement was signed prior to September 2009 when the Green Energy Act came into effect. Requirements for municipal zoning changes were eliminated by the Act and the requirement of an Environmental Assessment (EA) was removed when the Renewable Energy Approval (REA) was implemented.

These regulatory changes abrogated Thunder Bay City Council recommendations for the proposed Big Thunder Wind Park, from October 2007, which stated “This development is subject to a variety of conditions including the requirement that the developer… fulfill the requirements of the Environmental Assessment Act to address
and mitigate potential impacts, including environmental, visual and noise-related concerns”. Therefore it is our position, that changes between the EA and REA may have affected the Municipality of Neebing but not the contract between the Municipality of Thunder Bay and the contractor, Horizon Wind Inc.

(3) The City of Thunder Bay has not respected numerous Corporate Policies, including: Real Property Policy (No. 09-04-01), Property Disposal – Public Notice (No. 09-04-50), Communications Policy (No. 07-01-07), Tourism Policy (No. 02-04-01) and Clean Green and Beautiful Policy (No. 02-05-01).

Furthermore, the City did not follow its 2007-2010 Strategic Plan or recommendations in its Community Environmental Action Plan.

(4) The Nor’Wester Mountains with its unblemished view and natural beauty has a vast Cultural/Heritage significance and is recognized nationally and internationally (designated with its own registered Scottish Tartan). Visitors and residents alike are struck by the natural beauty that surrounds our City. As we restructure from the forestry based / grain transportation economy of our past, to the medical treatment, educational / research and manufacturing centre of our future, the Nor’Wester Mountains are a vital and strategic part of our attraction and promotion.

(5) The proposed wind turbine energy project has marginal economic value to Thunder Bay and potentially serious negative cost prospects. Our municipally owned Thunder Bay Hydro will be required to pay all grid connection and infrastructure maintenance to receive the new electricity generated, adding several million dollars to our ratepayers. The South Neebing community (over 1,100 homes) is expecting serious negative impact on their property market values. The City can also expect property assessment reductions that will easily surpass 100 million dollars, which
will pass a further burden to all municipal ratepayers.

(6) Our thorough literature review indicates health issues for people living in proximity to industrial wind turbines are real and detrimental in varying degrees. The placement of wind turbines on a mountain escarpment will only increase the potential for negative health effects. Twenty-five local doctors agree that the case of adverse health associated with wind turbines warrants further investigation, and that it would be prudent to invoke the precautionary principle before moving forward with the proposed wind farm. These doctors have provided their signatures to support a moratorium on wind turbine installation until third party, unbiased health studies are conducted to protect human health and safety.

(7) The Nor’Wester Mountains and Loch Lomond Watershed play an integral component of our tourism industry. The proposed location of the industrial wind turbines and service road will devastate the $6,000,000 of cross country ski trails (72 Km) and infrastructure of the Big Thunder Ski Park. The Nor’Wester Mountain Range deserves at least the same exemption from the industrial wind turbine development as the Niagara Escarpment.

All supporters of NMEPC are committed to responsible “green energy” development projects. We are aware of other proposed energy development projects and note the dramatic differences in their public consultation process, wind turbine locations and relational impact with homeowners and businesses in their locales. The RES CANADA “Greenwich Wind Farm” project is a vastly superior proposal that should be adopted as a standard for wind turbines to avoid direct impact near urban locations.

Proper siting of green energy projects is critical and must not interfere with or negatively affect the quality of life or health, or economic interests of residents, homeowners and businesses in the surrounding area.

We respectfully appeal to you, Honorable Ministers, to exercise your authority to reject the application of Horizon Wind Inc. for the Big Thunder Wind Park on the Nor’Wester Mountain Range and Loch Lomond Watershed.

Yours truly,

John Beals Michael Payne

Co-chairs, Nor’Wester Mountain Escarpment Protection Committee
cc: Hon. James J. Bradley – Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing
Hon. Michael Chan – Minister of Tourism and Culture
Hon. Leona Dombrowsky – Minister of Education
Hon. Dwight Duncan – Minister of Finance
Hon. Michael Gravelle – Minister of Northern Development, Mines and Forestry
Hon. Linda Jeffrey – Minister of Natural Resources
Hon. Deb Matthews – Minister of Health and Long-Term Care
Bill Mauro MPP – (Thunder Bay-Atikokan)
The Mayor Lynn Peterson and Council of the City of Thunder Bay
The Mayor Steven Harasen and Council of the Municipality of Neebing

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