Wind farm will increase ferry traffic: report; Draft of environmental assessment reveals turbine's impact upon Wolfe Island
Daily ferry traffic will rise by 225 workers at the peak of construction for the proposed $410-million wind plant on Wolfe Island.
In addition, there are potentially 460 tractor-trailer loads of material that will have to be shipped to the island over several months of construction.
The transportation information was made public this week when the company planning 86 wind turbines on the island released a key report – an environmental assessment – on the local impacts of the controversial project.
Canadian Renewable Energy Corporation, a subsidiary of Calgary-based Canadian Hydro Developers Inc., plans to erect a mega-wind plant on the western portion of the island to generate a maximum of 198 megawatts, or enough to power 75,000 typical Ontario households.
Construction is expected to begin this summer or fall.
Still, the company needs to get dozens of regulatory approvals before construction can begin and the project has yet to win the support of many local residents both on and off the island.
Sarah McDermott is one of two island residents who have taken their concerns to an Ontario Municipal Board hearing, which is scheduled for July 23 at Sacred Heart School on Wolfe Island.
Her objection is over the setback distances, or the space between the wind turbines and local wetland areas and local homes.
She would like to see larger setbacks.
The prospect of the Wolfe Island ferry becoming busier, perhaps even congested, during construction of the project is further evidence that the wind plant will impact local residents, she says.
There are already lineups for the 55-car ferry during peak hours. The possibility of longer lineups and additional wait times for local residents doesn’t sit well with McDermott.
“It raises a lot of concern,” she said.
But Ann Hughes, executive vice-president of Canadian Hydro Developers Inc., said there is no reason for islanders to be alarmed.
“There is excess capacity on the ferry in the hours that we’ll be using it for our workforce capacity,” she said. “A lot of those people will be coming from Kingston, but I assume that some will be hired locally.”
She said the company made sure there was extra room on the boat by having a contractor, Stantec, conduct a ferry traffic impact assessment as part of the 433-page environmental assessment that was released this week.
The detailed report looked at a range of other issues, including the impact the wind project would have on migratory birds, game and fish resources, amphibians, wetlands, surface water quality and flows, air quality, emission of dust, environmental noise, public health and safety and on the scenic or aesthetically pleasing landscapes of the island.
The report states that “based upon the field studies and analysis documented therein, the project is not likely to cause significant net environmental effects, taking into account the implementation of appropriate mitigation measures.”
As for the 460 tractor-trailer loads of construction material that needs to be transported to the island, the company is looking at the possibility of setting up a separate dock on the island and barging things in from another part of the lake system, said Hughes.
“The ferry that is currently used for all the foot and vehicle traffic is not the one that we’re anticipating using for the transportation of all this other equipment,” she said.
“It’s something that we’re sensitive to and are looking at all the other options that we can to make this as seamless as possible for those people who commute on a regular basis between the island and Kingston. We’re trying to make this as low-impact on the community as we can.”
Hughes said Canadian Hydro recognizes there are a number of concerns voiced by people in the community surrounding the wind project.
Because of the high level of interest, she said, the company provided the public with an advance or draft copy of the environmental assessment to give residents more opportunity to comment on it.
Normally, the public wouldn’t see the draft assessment until after the government agencies had a chance to comment on it and a final copy was printed.
“This is sort of an advance copy, if you will,” she said.
However, a noise assessment, addressing one of the most contentious issues, is excluded from the draft report because the online file is so large.
A paper copy of the file can be read at the Township of Frontenac Islands municipal office, Kingston City Hall, MP Peter Milliken’s office, the Village of Cape Vincent municipal office in New York state, as well as the Wolfe Island Branch, Central and Isabel Turner of the Kingston Frontenac Public Library.
The public comment period for the draft assessment ends on June 29. Those comments will be addressed in the final copy of the environmental assessment, which is expected in July. A further 30-day comment period will follow its release.
The environmental assessment and public comment period is set out by the Ministry of the Environment.
Wind turbine projects greater than or equal to two megawatts are subject to the Environmental Assessment Act.
By Jennifer Pritchett
7 June 2007
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