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Wind turbine project critics still hoping for environmental assessment

The proponent for a wind turbine project in the Loch Loomed area says skeptics and environmentalists should slow down their clamour for proof the project, which will draw water from nearby Lake Uist, is environmentally safe.

“We have no fear of engaging in dialogue with anybody that has concerns,” said Cape Breton Explorations Ltd. president Lucerne Lisi. “It’s very important to our project that we listen to concerns, mitigate those concerns, address those concerns and resolve them because it’s part of the process.”

The Unamaki Institute of Natural Resources, based in Eskasoni, is calling for consultations with the island’s First Nations communities. The Pitu’paq committee, comprising Cape Breton’s municipalities, First Nations communities and government agencies, has called for a full panel federal environmental assessment and independent Mi’kmaq environmental assessment.

Laurie Suitor, intergovernmental relations adviser with the Unamaki institute, said Lisi, who is also Cape Breton Explorations chief financial officer, has yet to sit down with aboriginal groups to discuss the company’s plan for 44 wind turbines and a hydroelectric plant powered by water from Lake Uist.

“Unfortunately, he hasn’t followed up on that to date,” Suitor said, adding that an extensive federal review of the project is needed to sort through any potential negative environmental impacts that may arise. “A full panel federal environmental assessment would bring a lot more scrutiny to the project.”

At night, the energy from the wind turbines would power underwater turbines in the lake. The underwater energy would pump water into a highland reservoir. But the lake empties into Loch Lomond and Grand River, and that has Richmond County council and New Waterford and Area Fish and Game Association asking questions. Both have cited concerns from fishermen who believe the turbines could disturb the temperature of Grand River and hurt the salmon population.

William Pembroke, president of the New Waterford association, told the Cape Breton Post last month the association is worried that building a reservoir will cause leaching of methyl-mercury into the water.

Lisi said it’s up to the federal government what shape the environmental assessment will take and whatever route that may be, it’ll take months of careful study before construction of the turbines begin. “It’s going to take us a year to go through this process,” he said. “All we’re asking is the community understand that there’s no fire burning. We follow a process and the process is slow and we wish it wasn’t, but it is.”

The project was given the go-ahead last November after the Cape Breton Regional Municipality approved changes to its land use bylaw. Although a majority of Lake Uist is located in Richmond County, the turbines would be built in the Cape Breton Regional Municipality. – Cape Breton Post

BY CHRIS SHANNON, TRANSCONTINENTAL MEDIA

The Nova Scotia Business Journal

26 February 2008