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Government reacts to offshore wind concerns  

Credit:  By TROY PATTERSON , KINCARDINE NEWS STAFF, www.kincardinenews.com 24 August 2010 ~~

The Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) has confirmed that three companies have issued 12 offshore wind power project applications within Lake Huron.

Of the applications made in 2008, eight are “in the area near Kincardine and Goderich and near Port Elgin at MacGregor Point,” said Jolanta Kowalski, senior media relations officer for the MNR in a telephone interview Wednesday. “We don’t yet know the number of turbines, as they’re not applications of record, they’re just applications.”

Kowalski said the ‘application’ status of the projects also means the names of the companies applying aren’t released to the public or media, as they could withdraw the proposal at any time.

The Ministry of Environment is recommending a proposed setback of 5 km from the shoreline for any off-shore wind project, she said via e-mail later in the day.

From the data she was provided, the current “windpower applications off Kincardine range from between 50 metres offshore to 30 kilometres offshore,” Kowalski said.

In terms of the depth off-shore wind turbines require for construction, the “Industry has advised us that with the current technology it is not advisable to build a project beyond a depth of 30 metres,” she said, adding questions surrounding ice protection are still undetermined. “As far as icing is concerned it would be up to a proponent to find ways to safely construct in ice conditions. These methods have yet to be tested in Ontario.”

The average depth of Lake Huron is 59 metres (195 feet), with the shores off of Kincardine and Saugeen Shores ranging between 20-80 metres deep as listed on both American and Canadian bathymetry charts. The exception is the Alpena-Amberley Ridge, which maintains depths between 20 and 60 metres almost the entire way between Ontario and Michigan, from Point Clark heading north west.

In regards to First Nation land rights and consultation, Kowalski said the MNR is “committed to meeting its legal duty to consult, and where appropriate accommodate, Aboriginal peoples where we have knowledge of the existence or potential existence of an Aboriginal or treaty right and contemplate conduct that might affect those rights.”

Aside from the Lake Huron applications, Kowalski confirmed that Trillium Power Wind has a project in the works for Lake Ontario. The Ontario Power Authority also confirmed another project Tuesday, which is a contract offer to Windstream for a Wolfe Island project, located near Marysville, east of Prince Edward, on the eastern most part of Lake Ontario.

Municipality of Kincardine mayor Larry Kraemer returned from the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) conference Wednesday afternoon, after informing colleagues that off-shore wind turbines were being considered in the Great Lakes.

Kraemer said Minister of Energy and Infrastructure Brad Duguid faced many questions about the distances of off-shore turbines and why they differed so greatly from on-shore turbines.

“Other municipal leaders asked questions from the floor at the minister’s forum,” said Kraemer. “There were various levels of alarm from different people.”

Kraemer said upon bringing the issue up with Huron-Bruce MPP Carol Mitchell, she told him “there are no projects at this time.” After The News informed him of the MNR information, he said projects may not be considered unless they are approved applications.

In her first acknowledgment of off-shore wind turbine applications, Mitchell’s office sent out a media release on Thursday asking for public consultation surrounding off-shore wind policies to be extended from a Aug. 24 deadline to Sept. 7, and announced a 47-public comment period for a new policy to consider areas ‘to be removed from future development.’

The release said Mitchell “supports the (MNR’s) new proposal to restrict the development of lake turbines in areas subject to important recreational activities, core commercial fishing activity, navigation and sensitive environmental areas.”

The new MNR proposed policy ‘Offshore Windpower: Consideration of Additional Areas to be Removed from Future Development’ was posted Aug. 18 to Oct. 4 at www.ebr.gov.on.cawith EBR registry number 011-0907.

“We need to ensure that the government hears the concerns of the Huron-Bruce community and that’s why I’ve asked for an extension of the MOE consultation,” said Mitchell in the release. “Until these regulations are finalized, the Ministry has deferred the processing of any existing applications and will not be accepting new applications for the use of Crown land offshore.”

In a telephone interview Friday, Mitchell said the discussion surrounding off-shore wind has been going on for over two years, but conceded the online notification process failed to inform many constituents about the possibility of Lake Huron development.

She also admitted she knew nothing of the MNR maps, but said they could significantly change as discussions progress. Mitchell said there is such “pent up demand” for transmission, there’s a long road ahead before any proposals are even considered, “but that doesn’t negate the concerns of constituents.”

She said aside from the initial MNR application, Ministry of Environment approval is also required of companies, as well as a signed contract from the Ontario Power Authority. Without the three approval stages, a project isn’t even considered to be “in the que.”

“Until the applications go through due process and regulations are established, it’s just a conversation,” said Mitchell. “That’s why I told the MOE (public consultation) needs to be extended. They may not be valid applications at all and they may not even develop.”

Mitchell said “she so strongly supports the MNR’s recommendation” because the process will consider excluding points of concern from the debate, like Point Clark or Kincardine, based on the input provided through the consultation process. They will also look at the proposed 5 km setback from shore, in comparison to data from other sources like the United States, which recommends about 10 km from shore.

About a dozen constituents have called her office with concerns on the topic over the last week, she said.

The Environmental Bill of Rights website has been accepting public comment and input for proposed rules for off-shore wind turbines since June 25, said Ministry of Environment (MOE) spokesperson Kate Jordan. The Policy Proposal Notice, entitled ‘Renewable Energy Approval Requirements for Off-shore Wind Facilities -An Overview of the Proposed Approach’ began its ‘public review’ process June 25, with the public comment period was extended last Friday from Aug. 24 to Sept. 7. So far, over 650 comments on the policy have been received, she said.

“That’s a significant number that indicates a high level of interest,” said Jordan. “Some have asked for more time to review and comment on it, so we wanted to respond to that.”

The MOE is also planning to host open houses or other information sessions in the fall, in order to solicit further comment from the public, municipalities and private companies.

“We’ll be going out in the fall and doing public and industry consultation,” said Jordan. “The general framework is what we’re proposing, so people will have the option to consult and participate in that process as well.”

The purpose of the comment period is to review the province’s process for making Crown land available to off-shore wind projects. It will also lay out the framework for applications by developers, to address impacts on endangered or threatened species and habitats, significant wildlife habitats, users of Crown land, flooding and erosion. This information is to be compiled with data gathered during the 60-day comment period, in order to assemble a draft policy for review by the ministry.

To view and comment on the policy document go to The Environmental Registry website at www.ebr.gov.on.caand enter 011-0089 in the registry number field.

Source:  By TROY PATTERSON , KINCARDINE NEWS STAFF, www.kincardinenews.com 24 August 2010

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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