Massive maple saved from the saw; Woman goes up against wind farm giant and wins new life for her trees
It looks as if Patti Bruce has saved several massive old maple and ash trees and she didn’t have to chain herself to their trunks to do it.
A worker preparing for new power lines within the 110-turbine Enbridge wind farm came by the Bruce home near Underwood with bad news late last month.
He said two 75-year-old maples and three ash trees on county property in front of the house had to go. A nearby maple tree Bruce’s mother, Dorothy, planted 50 years ago would also need severe trimming, he said, if not the saw.
Enraged, Bruce quickly dashed off e-mails.
“I will chain myself to these trees if I have to, they are not taking them down,” she wrote local newspapers, politicians and Bob Simpson, general manager of Enbridge Ontario Wind Power, who responded right away.
“I had just gone wild that night, as soon as I heard, because I came home to a crying mother. I just went gung-ho after it,” Bruce said.
Simpson drove out from Kincardine for a look the next day and, to Bruce’s great relief, by early the following week had promised to move the new lines across the road to spare the majestic old shade trees.
The family’s home is unusually close to Bruce Road 20, about eight kilometres from Underwood, east of Highway 21. County staff planted the two largest maples 75 years ago on public land, which is now essentially part of the farm’s front yard, and maintained by the Bruce family since Ron and Dorothy bought the place 55 years ago.
About 50 years back, Dorothy planted the three big ash trees on county land and another maple nearby, but on their own property. They shade the front of a well-maintained farm home and also help protect the house and yard from wind and weather, Bruce said.
“If they took those trees out there would be a big gaping hole there,” she said.
The Enbridge manager agreed.
“I actually did drive out there myself and had a look,” Simpson said recently. “And they’re right. This is a large tree. If it had been taken down it would have changed the whole landscape of their home. So we said, OK, go to the other side of the road.”
Municipal and provincial officials have agreed to that, he said.
But Wednesday morning at 8 a.m. that new plan apparently still had not reached the workers, who dropped off poles in front of the Bruce home and marked in orange where they were to go up later, still on their side of the road on county property, Bruce said.
A few frantic phone calls later, she had more assurances from Enbridge that the trees will stay and the poles will go up for certain across the road.
“I’m still concerned. We’re still worried,” she said.
The wind farm proposal approved in July following a series of public meetings and eventually an Ontario Municipal Board hearing calls for 110 new wind turbines by the end of 2008.
Bruce said her family did not want anything to do with windmills on their property and does not support the Enbridge project. She is alarmed at the impact the massive wind farm is already having on the rural landscape.
The thousands of new poles and lines which will eventually run throughout the wind farm area, some past the Bruce farm, are part of four circuits each carrying power from as many as 28 turbines to a central sub station.
All the electrical lines on private property are to be buried. When the wires reach the public right of way, they go up poles. Simpson said municipal officials direct where those poles go. It’s usually on the opposite side of the road to existing Ontario Hydro poles, and the provincial lines are then moved to the new poles.
Simpson said Bruce is so far the only one to lodge a complaint directly with Enbridge about plans to cut trees, although he expects as the project progresses. He also expects many disputes won’t be as easily resolved as the Bruce family’s concern for their trees.
By Bill Henr
5 September 2007
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