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ERCA urges ‘step back’ on turbines fight

Five kilometres may not be far enough away from the shore for wind turbines in the lakes, says the local conservation authority’s submission to the provincial government.

“Let’s take a step back and get the research and studies underway,” Essex Region Conservation Authority general manager Richard Wyma said Wednesday. “Is five kilometres enough? We don’t necessarily believe it will be.”

A report to the ERCA board tonight summarizes ERCA’s response to a Ministry of the Environment’s proposed five-kilometre exclusion zone for offshore wind turbines. Wyma said the ERCA response doesn’t suggest how far the turbines should be from the shoreline because more research is needed on the impact. The response says five kilometres should be the “absolute minimum.”

The Essex Region Source Protection Committee has told the province it wants the offshore wind turbines to be bumped out eight kilometres offshore to protect water intake pipes.

Committee chairman Tom Fuerth said eight kilometres is about what the setback would be on the Ohio side for proposed offshore turbines, is close to one of the protection zones around intake pipes for local water treatment plants and would allow more room if intake pipes have to be moved.

Earlier this year SouthPoint Wind proposed building the 15-turbine project off Kingsville and Leamington and another 700 turbines in lakes Erie and St. Clair, including turbines that would be less than 1.5 kilometres from shore. The Leamington company proposed putting 165 turbines in Lake St. Clair and the rest in 10 wind farms of 55 turbines each off the southern shore of Essex County and Chatham-Kent.

Some residents expressed their concern over the offshore turbines at a series of meetings held across Essex County in March.

SouthPoint Wind didn’t return requests to comment Wednesday on the proposed exclusion zone.

ERCA’s submission says a “blanket five-kilometre exclusion zone from the shoreline for all offshore areas of the Great Lakes System may not be sufficient in many cases based on the unique issues and constraints associated with each of the Great Lakes.”

And the conservation authority has suggested the province work with the U.S. to consider the cumulative impacts of all turbines on the Great Lakes.

Kingsville and Leamington hired a consultant and also sent in comments by Tuesday’s deadline. Kingsville asked that no reduction to the five-kilometre exclusion zone be considered and that the proponent be made to do more site-specific studies such as lakebed sampling to establish contaminant levels.

Now ERCA, the municipalities and the general public can comment until Oct. 4 to the Ministry of Natural Resources on where, when and how the province will make Crown land available for offshore turbines. The Environmental Registry (ebr.gov.on.ca) is accepting comments on criteria that could limit future development of offshore turbines in areas such as navigational lanes, core commercial fishing areas, sensitive environmental and ecological areas and spots with important recreational activities.