By Troy Patterson
Enbridge is pulling its wind power interests out of Saugeen Shores, for the foreseeable future.
The 11 sites of the 121-turbine project within the municipality are no longer being looked upon as possibilities within the timeline of the project, so the company is proceeding with 120 zoned sites in Kincardine.
“The bylaws passed (in Saugeen Shores) do not allow anyone to install a turbine on any lot, because the setbacks are too great,” said Bob Simpson, a general manager for Enbridge in Kincardine. “Public support is really not there, neither is it from council at this time.”
Simpson said land owner support has been great in both Kincardine and Saugeen Shores, but what it came down to was regional support from Kincardine council.
“We’ve had great support from council,” he said. “They’re aggressively trying to see wind power installed… which fits within our timelines.”
The project is currently awaiting a recommendation from the Director of Environmental Assessments (EA) at the Ministry of Environment (MOE).
A full EA for the project has been recommended by a number of groups, with a decision to come in weeks. The recommendation, for or against, will then face a 45-day appeal period. The final evaluation and decision will be made by the Minister of Environment.
“The decision of the MOE is what we’ll have to adhere to,” said Simpson,
For now Enbridge is working to make any revisions necessary to its Environmental Screening report, due to the recent changes in the project.
In recent weeks the company increased its setbacks from non-participating landowners from 50 to 121 metres (Saugeen Shores requested 250-metres). Sites with varied within Kincardine’s terrain may have to be revisited to ensure they remain within the environmental constraints, Simpson said.
With landowner agreements and municipal zoning complete, the environmental process is the last to clear before construction can begin. The company is hoping to begin by spring 2007.
“We can’t put a shovel in the ground until then,” he said.
Saugeen Shores mayor Mark Kraemer said it makes sense that Enbridge would devote their energy to the part of the project that is progressing, within Kincardine.
“We never said wind power was impossible, it was just a matter of differences of opinion with critical instances at each of the sites,” said Kraemer, in regards to the increased setbacks being a factor for Enbridge’s withdrawal from Saugeen Shores.
He also said Enbridge’s appeal of the Saugeen Shores zoning bylaw to the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) has been withdrawn.
Windfarm Action Group member Kathy McCarrel said it’s good news for Saugeen Shores if the municipality can maintain its guidelines and force Enbridge to work within them if they were to deal with the town in the future.
Since Enbridge has not formally withdrawn its applications from the county planning department, McCarrel is concerned they could just walk back in and continue the process where they left off.
“If they want to come back again, they should have to apply for zoning all over again,” said McCarrel.
She feels the municipality has taken a lead role in demonstrating how wind projects should be approached with caution.
“Saugeen Shores is showing leadership in the county by putting forward these zoning restrictions,” McCarrel said. “There’s no direction from the county or province, so the onus is on municipalities .”
But the battle may not be over, she said, warning that if the province’s Bill 51 section 23 is passed in the coming weeks, it will strip municipal authority for approving wind power projects.
“If that’s the case, these (zoning) bylaws will be null and void,” she said.
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