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Council approves wind park plan

Once again opponents came to speak against the Big Thunder Wind Park, but in the end Thunder Bay city council voted to move ahead with the project.

Several deputants pleaded with Thunder Bay city councillors to hold off on making a decision on the locations of 18 wind turbines on the Nor‘Wester Mountain Escarpment.

“Your due diligence is to not approve these locations,” said Irene Bond, president of the Nor‘Wester Mountain Escarpment Protection Committee during Tuesday‘s special committee of the whole meeting.

The special meeting was called last week so councillors could vote on Horizon Wind‘s option to lease land on the Nor‘Wester Mountain Escarpment.

Councillors voted in favour of the project, with only five against it.

Bond felt the city should create a committee with council, city administration, the NMEPC and Horizon members to find a more suitable location for the project.

Another deputant, Heather Woodbeck, said she suffers from electromagnetic radiation sensitivity. She believes anyone living near the Nor‘Wester Mountain Escarpment will experience similar health affects from the turbines.

“Nowhere are you looking at the affect on children and families in that area,” she said, pointing out that several councillors were teachers or used to sit on school boards.

City manager Tim Commisso opened the meeting by reminding the public that the city doesn‘t have jurisdiction with health or environmental concerns, those concerns are up to the province.

“The Green Energy Act in 2009 changed how projects are approved. The city made it clear (that it) deals with land tenure.”

Commisso said Horizon also must get approvals through the Ontario Power Authority, the province‘s Renewable Energy Approval process and the Independent Electrical System Operator.

Coun. Frank Pullia said he wanted more information. He tried to get council to wait a week before making a decision so administration can bring back more information.

Only Coun. Linda Rydholm supported his referral.

Coun. Aldo Ruberto shook his head when Pullia said he needed more information.

“These wind turbines will take away from that . . . it‘s about beauty, it‘s a simple thing. It won‘t change my mind, more information won‘t change my mind. . . If we‘re going to go green why do we have to destroy something that is already green?” Ruberto said later.

Coun. Linda Rydholm said she‘d also vote against the project.

“It‘s not because it‘s election time. . . . I would have voted against this anyway. Someone tonight said there might be political reasons around this table, but not from this person.”

Coun. Iain Angus said the city needs to balance the broader community needs and the wants of part of the community.

“I will vote in favour of the resolution, but I suggest opponents hold out hope for what happened recently in southern Ontario where to protect one seat in legislature the government cancelled a gas plant,” he said.