CLEARVIEW TWP. – Proponents and opponents of WPD Canada’s Fairview Wind Project hosted competing events, Thursday, as the clock ticked down to a decision by the township council whether to give the eight-turbine development its blessing.
Clearview Township council is scheduled to discuss the project at its Aug. 13 meeting.
Township planner Michael Wynia is recommending council not support the project’s construction, and urge the province not to issue an approval.
Collingwood Regional Airport officials — bolstered by the appearance of Simcoe-Grey MPP Jim Wilson — emphasized their position that the location of at least two of the proposed turbines falls within the “outer surface” of the airport, as defined by Transport Canada.
Two other turbines sit right on the radius of that 2.1 nautical mile circle.
Transport guidelines specify that no objects above 150 feet be located within that approach area. The proposed turbines would be 500 feet tall.
However, airport chairman Charlie Tatham says Transport Canada won’t get involved in the planning aspects of where turbines go, but would likely comment after, telling airport officials they’ll need to amend their instrument approach protocols.
That, Tatham said, could prove detrimental to the airport’s operations.
“This is ill-advised, potentially dangerous, and damaging to the airport,” he said.
WPD officials were holding a news conference Thursday afternoon to present the findings of its aviation experts that the turbine location will not affect the airport.
Tatham said this is not “battle of experts,” and WPD’s assessment of Transport Canada’s guidelines are accurate. However, he said, for a pilot approaching the airport in bad weather, that approach radius is an area that could be considered “home free.”
“It’s ill-advised, and just plain sad,” Tatham said. “To erect structures that are as tall as 50-storey buildings within the most dangerous area of flight will have a negative effect on safety.”
According to a study produced for the airport board, based on Transport Canada data over a 10-year period, 87% of aircraft incidents occur during the approach, take-off or landing phase of flight.
“The airport is growing by leaps and bounds … and with the demise of Buttonville (Airport), the future of the airport gets brighter by the day,” said Tatham.
The board recently spent $100,000 to implement instrument approach protocols.
“If we have to amend those approach procedures, we will end up with a less-accessible airport,” said Tatham.
In a news release handed out prior to its press conference two hours later, prior to a second open house at the Stayner Recreational Centre to discuss its plans, WPD claimed the location of the turbines near the airport would only affect three flights, or fewer.
Airport officials say they see 12,000 aircraft movements a year at the local facility.
“Throughout the development stage of our project, we’ve worked with aviation safety experts and consulted with the appropriate aviation regulatory bodies to ensure our project is safe,” said WPD president Ian MacRae.
MacRae told the media he still wanted to sit down with the airport board in an effort to reach an understanding.
Getting understanding from the community, however, could be another story for WPD. Prior to the open house, about 300 people staged a march from Kevin Elwood’s Clearview Nurseries, located west of Stayner. Elwood, along with several others, have launched a lawsuit in an effort to put a halt to WPD’s plans.
WPD intends to file its application to the Ministry of Environment later this month. After a review to ensure all the documentation is present, it will post the application on the Environmental Review Board website for the 30-day comment period. Following the comment period, and as long as the application is not appealed, the MOE could take up to six months – or more – to evaluate the application.
MacRae says his company will push on “because it’s the right thing to do.
“Most of our staff have come on board because they believe in renewable energy,” MacRae told QMI Agency. “New development is always opposed, and it doesn’t matter where it is.
“In the end, it will not be our decision, it with be the Ministry of Environment. … We’ve been two years hiring experts and preparing reports, and the MOE will go through it with a fine-tooth comb,” he said. “I’m confident that facts will rule … facts will decide if this go ahead.”
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