August 25, 2010

Wind farm hearings over; fight goes on

DOUG DIACZUK, The Chronicle Journal, 25 August 2010

A large group of opponents to the proposed Big Thunder Wind Farm attended the final open house at Blake Community Hall on Tuesday evening, but many of them refused to even walk through the front door.

“We will just listen to the evasive double talk they are doing and not answering questions,” John Beals, a co-chairman of the Nor‘Wester Mountain Escarpment Protection Committee, said. “So what do we do, go in and listen to the same thing again and again?”

Though the people standing outside with their signs reading Stop the Wind Turbines did not necessarily see it as a protest, with many of them attending the question and answer portion of the session, it did demonstrate their frustration and anger regarding the entire process.

“Protest may not be the right word,” Doug Bernst said. “But certainly it is an indication of our frustration with the misinformation they are giving us and everybody, and the sheer disdain they treat the people with.”

The open house was calmer compared to previous sessions. While there was still some groaning and exasperated sighs, there was no shouting or arguing among the crowd.

“I think for the most part the majority of people are very polite and are here to listen and ask questions,” Nhung Nguyen, project co-ordinator with Horizon Wind, said. “But in a public setup there are always a small select group of people who like to get attention, so it is what it is.”

The open houses have provided Horizon Wind with new information regarding public concerns. Nguyen said some people have raised concerns about blasting and safety procedures during the construction phase, and she said that would be looked into with the possibility of pre-construction surveys of homes in the area.

Nguyen said she is confident that Horizon has done everything it can to allow community members to air their concerns.

“There has been a lot of consultation,” she said. “I don‘t think there has been any project in Ontario that has had 10 public meetings. I sense that a lot of people in Thunder Bay are tired of listening to it.”

The next step for Horizon Wind is to apply to the province for a renewable energy approval, followed by the Ministry of the Environment posting a notice on the environmental registry. At that point, the public will be able to relay their concerns directly to the ministry, for 30 days.

While the last public open house has come and gone, Irene Bond, president of the Nor‘Wester Mountain Escarpment Protection Committee, knows the fight is not over yet.

“We can persuade city council to review and reconsider their decision,” she said.

“At the end of the day, the city has to sign the lease with Horizon and they have asked for over 16 issues to be dealt with. Horizon doesn‘t answer us and hopefully the city standards will be higher and they will get a real answer.”

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