September 9, 2010

County Council set to debate wind on Sept. 8

By Cheryl Heath, The Goderich Signal-Star, 8 September 2010

Huron County Councillors are ready to discuss the wind.

Thanks to concerns brought to the fore at Huron County Council’s Sept. 1 session, county councillors are set to address concerns surrounding plans for offshore wind projects and related issues.

Coun. Deb Shewfelt (Goderich) reports receiving several calls with regard to offshore wind-turbine farms.

“We (the municipality) would have a concern about the shipping lanes,” says Shewfelt, noting several Goderich residents are also worried about what wind projects will do to their “million-dollar sunsets.”

While Shewfelt notes time may be of the essence given the Ministry of Environment’s extended deadline for input on offshore projects is Sept. 7, county planning director Scott Tousaw says the province understands it will be getting feedback from the lower tiers over the next few months.

Further, reports Tousaw, county administrators already submitted a letter addressing local concerns in time for the original deadline.

Still, says Tousaw, county councillors could further address their issues at the committee-of-the-whole session set for Sept. 8. And, says Tousaw, county administrators can facilitate it by forwarding copies of the province’s lengthy White Paper on the issue so councillors can review that prior to a full debate.

Meanwhile, Coun. Joseph Seili (Huron East) sees an irony in the five-kilometer setback for offshore turbines while landowners are only privy to a 500-metre setback (or more depending on the turbine’s size).

“It’s a double standard,” he says. “It just goes to show you where the voters are.”

Coun. Ben Van Diepenbeek (Ashfield Colborne Wawanosh) in noting a conflict on the issue, reports a ratepayer called him with concerns about the blueprints that are now circulating of where the turbines are to be erected. Van Diepenbeek says the caller said some of the turbines are closer to residences than the stated setback and that some turbines are fewer than 100 metres from roads.

“There are a lot of siting issues,” says Van Diepenbeek, noting ratepayers want to know where both the municipalities and province stand on the proximity of turbines to roads.

Further, says Van Diepenbeek, it seems several wind companies are not regularly communicating with municipalities about projects, though such a protocol is mandated within the province’s Green Energy Act.

Another issue, adds Van Diepenbeek, is power lines as many ratepayers would prefer to seem them buried rather than up in the air.

In addressing one of Van Diepenbeek’s points, Goderich’s mayor notes, as was pointed at the recent weeklong Association of Municipalities of Ontario conference, that a building permit must be issued before a turbine can be erected.

“So if the setbacks aren’t right, you can refuse it,” says Shewfelt. “That’s how you protect your taxpayers.”

Both Coun. Bernie MacLellan (Huron East) and County Warden Bert Dykstra (Central Huron) also noted conflicts on the issue, though Dykstra reports the area’s county governments plan to join forces to address wind-related issues through a subcommittee.

In bringing it forward, Coun. Ben Van Diepenbeek (Ashfield Colborne Wawanosh), who also noted a conflict on the issue, says ratepayers have been calling him with regard to concerns about the proposed projects’ impact on the county.

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