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Wind power more than just hot air

Roberts Creek Sunshine Coast Regional District (SCRD) director Donna Shugar is raising the alarm over a proposal for wind monitoring sites in her area.

The proposal by SkyPower was presented at the SCRD planning meeting May 8 and calls for two wind monitoring sites with the eventual possibility of having 2,871.5 hectares devoted to windmills in the Roberts Creek/Howe Sound area and Elphinstone.

Shugar said the project in its totality raises concerns for her because she thinks there are implications to putting structures on the proposed slope in an area where there are already drainage problems and a community that relies on water from that area.

A report to the board by assistant planners Teresa Fortin and Sheane Reid laid out some of the information involved in the proposal.

Through the Integrated Land Man-agement Bureau (ILMB), the Crown has asked the SCRD for feedback on the referral for a licence of occupation by SkyPower to build and put in place two wind monitoring towers within SkyPower’s two-year, investigative use permit area in Roberts Creek and West Howe Sound.

Fortin told the SCRD that SkyPower applied for and got the licence to investigate in March. The area covered is on the slopes of Mount Elphinstone north to the Chapman Creek watershed. However, staff has not found a referral from ILMB about this permit giving SkyPower the right to use this area to test it for the suitability of a wind farm.

Fortin said from the SCRD staffs’ understanding, the proposed towers will be 60-metre galvanized steel tubes supported with guy wires in four directions. One tower will be along the Mount Elphinstone ridge, above the 1,140 metre contour line, while the other is in the Dakota Ridge proposed park boundary.

“SCRD parks department has expressed interest in securing a power source at Dakota Ridge,” said a report from SCRD staff. “Being able to review the wind data collected at this site may enable the SCRD to explore the option of using wind power versus diesel-generated power at Dakota Ridge.”

Because the SCRD is developing a regional growth strategy, and over the past year has been vocal in the need for local governments on the Coast to be full participants in provincial land use planning, staff say such a large land use must be looked at in the full context of the regional planning process.

In view of this, SCRD staff suggests SkyPower needs to avoid cutting and damaging mature forested lands when they erect the two test towers and that they will replant any damaged or disturbed vegetation signified by a professional forester’s report.

Staff also suggests that any wind data, especially in the Dakota Ridge area, be shared with the SCRD and that SkyPower will remove any garbage, debris or developments when they are done. As well, staff said there should be a performance bond in place to protect Crown resources and community interests.

The formal recommendations to the board from SCRD staff include: that the SCRD tell the Crown that SkyPower will have to apply and get a temporary commercial and industrial use permit before putting the towers in place; that the area they are thinking of using for a wind farm will have to be rezoned before construction starts; and that because the potential land area is so large it needs to be considered within the larger framework of the regional strategic land process, still in the beginning phases.

What also needs to be considered, SCRD staff said, is for the wind farm to be assessed in relation to the potential environmental and community impacts and that any such proposal must go through the same multi-agency scrutiny now being used for independent power projects. As well, there is an expectation that the SCRD will have a chance to review any environmental reports done on the project.

Shugar also said SkyPower should have to apprise the Squamish Nation since the project is in traditional Squamish territory.

By Stephanie Douglas/Staff Writer

Whistler Question

16 May 2008