Big Thunder Wind Farm – “I am not prepared to issue a permit…” MNR Minister


wind farm development
This is a picture from a wind turbine construction site at Backbone Mountain, Tucker County, West Virgina. - Photo from FNMEP
THUNDER BAY -Updated – It is looking like the proposed wind farm atop the Nor’Wester escarpment isn’t likely to proceed. The proposal which has been hotly opposed by residents, and seen the City of Thunder Bay sued by Horizon is now likely not to receive needed Environmental Permits from the Ministry of Natural Resources.

In February of this year, Horizon Wind was formally advised by the Ministry of Natural Resources district office in Thunder Bay that the construction and operation of the Big Thunder Wind Project is likely to harm, harass or kill Peregrine Falcons. This week, Linda Jeffrey, Minister of Natural Resources (MNR), issued a letter regarding the proposed project.

The Minister wrote “…based on the material provided to me by the Ministry as well as my knowledge of the project location, I don’t know how the proponent could satisfy the conditions to allow my Ministry to issue a permit to allow the project to proceed. I have serious concerns about the effect the proposed project could potentially have on the recovery of Peregrine Falcons in Ontario. I am not prepared to issue a permit at this time, nor do I understand how a permit could be issued for this site.”

“This is the best news I’ve heard about the project since becoming Mayor. I want to thank Bill Mauro for his hard work on this issue. I’m still supportive of the project, but not at the location that is currently proposed. The Norwester and Sleeping Giant are a signature of Thunder Bay and the area and shouldn’t be tampered with,” states Neebing Mayor Ziggy Polkowski.

Thunder Bay Atikokan MPP Bill Mauro shares, “I’m pleased with the Minister’s letter. She was clear—this project is unlikely to move forward at the proposed site because of serious concerns related to the Endangered Species Act. This is significant. I want to thank the members of the Nor’Wester Mountain Escarpment Protection Committee for their hard work. I’ve always opposed the use of this particular site, but I remain hopeful that a more suitable location can be found to allow this project to move forward.”

“Given the fact that there is no formal application to the province at this time, this is very encouraging news. I recognize the significance of the language contained in the letter from the Minister of Natural Resources. I want to thank MPP Bill Mauro for all of his efforts on this issue,” stated Sam Bachinski, Member of the Nor’Wester Mountain Escarpment Protection Committee.

BACKGROUND: The City of Thunder Bay entered into an agreement with Horizon Wind for the creation of a wind turbine park on city-owned land in the Municipality of Neebing. Earlier this year, Thunder Bay’s city council voted to move forward with the project. The project also has a Feed-in Tariff (FIT) contract for this project. A FIT contract refers to the prices paid to renewable energy suppliers for electricity produced by a generating facility.

The site also requires a permit from MNR to permit activity that would otherwise be prohibited under the Endangered Species Act. MNR has not yet received a permit application for this project, nor is there an application currently before the Ministry of the Environment.

In a Statement issued by Horizon Wind, the company says, “As of September 1, 2011, Horizon Wind has not received any correspondence from Linda Jeffrey, Minister of Natural Resources, regarding the proposed Big Thunder Wind Project. As such, Horizon Wind has no information to provide at this time”.

The Municipality of Neebing, the proposed site of the project, is home to one of the largest and densest populations of Peregrine Falcons in the province. The peregrine is a protected species in Ontario. The province’s Endangered Species Act prohibits the harm, harassment or killing of endangered species, including the Peregrine Falcon.

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