Bruce County councillors have turned down a request to lease one of the county’s premier recreational woodlands for industrial wind development.
Councillors accepted a request by Chris LaForest, the county’s director of planning, to decline a proposal from Elexco Ltd. on behalf of its client, Pattern Ontario Wind Development, to lease the entire 850-acre Brant Tract County Forest as an industrial wind energy park.
“Department staff have evaluated the proposal and it is felt that the proposal is not consistent with the initial intent of the agreement forest program, nor is consistent with the managed forest objectives adopted by the county,” LaForest said after a meeting of the agriculture, tourism and planning committee in Port Elgin Thursday.
The Brant Tract, between concessions 13-15 in the former Brant Township, was given to the county in the 1940s by the province as an “agreement forest.”
Agricultural practices of the day were causing erosion and soil degradation. Tree plantations were established as an experiment in hardwood succession management.
LaForest said the idea at the time was that tree plantations would help re-establish forest cover and rebuild healthy soils. The evergreen plantations would eventually be thinned out, allowing a mixed hardwood uplands bush and associated wildlife habitat to be established.
“Seventy years later we’re starting to find that is happening . . . we’ve done some thinning and all of a sudden seeds are blowing in from the southwest, we have hardwoods starting to establish in the understory. It’s finally becoming a forest,” he said.
The property generates commercial forestry revenue, provides habitat animals and is prized for its multiuse recreational trail system.
“The experiment worked and the Brant Tract remains an excellent example of reforestation effort in Ontario and is considered a significant woodland,” LaForest said.
According to documents supplied by Elexco Ltd. of London, Ontario, Pattern Ontario Wind Development has partnered with Samsung Renewable Energy Inc. on a proposed project to develop a sizeable green energy source within the next few years.
The proposed agreement submitted to the county included an up front payment of $1,035 per acre of land optioned plus a 2.5% royalty should a turbine be placed on the optioned lands. The estimated payment received for each turbine would amount to $20,000 a year. Until it was decided where and how many turbines would be built the county would receive a yearly payment of $10 per acre of optioned land.
Committee chairman Larry Kraemer said in an interview that the proposal to lease the tract runs counter to the long-term use of the area as a woodland reserve and recreation area with a trail system.
To allow development that was proposed would have meant cutting roads all through the area, digging up areas with more mature trees for concrete footings and would be “totally contrary to the purpose that it was formed,” said Kraemer.
“It just seemed completely incompatible with the purpose behind it,” he said.
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