Speaking to a Honeywood gathering of about 200 in opposition to a quarry proposed by The Highland Companies for ultimately 2,400 acres of largely potato fields, Bernard Pope urged a diligent fight in defence of farmland, plus closer attention to the reported effects of infrasound on persons living close to wind turbines.
Mr. Pope is the founder of Oro-Medonte-based Ontario Farmland Preservation, a group formed principally in opposition to massive solar energy farms which, it says, could cover as much as 800 acres of arable land in the township.
Other opposition to solar is often based on the costs, which range between 44.3 and 80.2 cents a kwh. Wind energy is often viewed as too costly at 13.5 cents a kwh.
On wind, Mr. Pope cited several professionals who say they have established infrasound effects. But a panel of Canadian, U.S. and British experts sponsored by the wind energy associations recently said sound levels would have to reach 170 decibels before there would be any effects from infrasound.
The gathering was an information meeting called by North Dufferin Agriculture and Community Taskforce (NDACT), a nearly 600-member organization formed in opposition to a quarry, and was moderated by NDACT spokesman Carl Cosack. Speakers also included Bracebridge-based Planscape planner Margaret Walton who generally reiterated NDACT’s stated reasons for preserving the Honeywood loam soil with a specialty crop designation, but who also said that such a designation would not necessarily trump aggregates.
NDACT’s position is that a limestone quarry to a possible depth of 200 feet (about 60 metres) below the water table would imperil the water supply and forever remove land from food production.
Mr. Pope made reference to another avenue in defence of foodland, the Purchase of Development Rights (PDR). Such a mechanism is used in parts of 18 U.S. states, but how to finance it isn’t entirely clear. Someone, or the local municipality, would have to pay a farmer the difference between the capitalized value of income produced by the farm and the market value that would be paid by developers.
As the rights would be retired upon purchase, no one could ever alter the property in any way. The farmer would remain on the farm, and would retain all rights to the land except development. At any time after selling the development rights, the landowner may sell the property itself, lease it, or pass it on to heirs with the deed restriction attached.
In his closing remarks, Mr. Cosack predicted Highland would have five sidings at the proposed quarry and would be running 25-hopper trains six times daily. He painted a scenario of slow-moving trains of that length taking perhaps 20 minutes to cross roadways. Outside the meeting, he said he could verify his information.
However, Highland spokesman Michael Daniher says there is no certainty there would be a rail line, although the quarry application would provide for such.
“Information on activities associated with the proposed quarry will be contained in the application. Regarding NDACT’s comments at the meeting, rail operations often contain multiple tracks at the end of the line to accommodate and shunt traffic,” he said.
On water, Mr. Cosack said the area recharges the Nottawasaga and Grand rivers, a primary source of water “for a million people from Lake Erie to Georgian Bay.” He said Highland intends to pump water out of the pit and return it pure to the water table “after it has been mixed with dirt and oil” in the mine.
In a response outside the meeting, Mr. Daniher said: “We realize the importance of water; that’s why the company has spent considerable time and effort studying the nature and movement of water in the area.
“The proposed quarry will not and cannot have the impact alleged by NDACT. Quarries are highly regulated, and a water management plan must be contained in the application. That plan will be public and will undergo thorough review. Like any other aspect of the proposed quarry, water issues will be determined by fact, not rhetoric.”
The quarry application has yet to be filed. But NDACT, along with Mr. Pope, urged the public to be involved in the fight against it.
It appears both sides have an uphill struggle.
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