May 30, 2011
Ontario, Opinions

Wind projects dividing communities

By RUTH FARQUHAR, The Sudbury Star, 30 May 2011

This is the second instalment on the industrial wind turbine project on McLeans Mountain here on the Island.

After attending the open house put on by Northland Power and Mnidoo Mnising Power Corporation (MMPC), I received a couple of phone calls telling me I had missed an example of how this project has divided the community.

According to the local press, tempers flared at the end of the meeting, with Bud Wilkin, a farmer and landowner who has leased land to Northland Power, yelling at Ray Beaudry, one of the Directors of Manitoulin Safe Energy Alternatives and accused him of dividing the community. Beaudry calmly said, “This is what projects like this do, I’m not dividing the community, this project is.”

That’s it in a nutshell. It seems to be happening wherever turbines are proposed in Ontario. These projects have divided communities from one end of this province to the other.

Currently, there are 80 municipalities that have asked the province to put a moratorium on wind turbines, but those requests have fallen on deaf ears. As a matter of fact, the province’s Green Energy Act takes away municipalities’ power on the siting and approval of turbines.

So, even if the township of Central Manitoulin has concerns about turbines going up in Sandfield and the residents are letting their councillors know they don’t want them, the township won’t be able to stop them.

This scenario isn’t as far away as you might think. According to an Ontario Power Authority document, there are “projects which are awaiting electrical connection test,” which means they are waiting for room on the grid.

The locations of these projects are identified as Gore Bay, Billings with access through Rockville and Wikwemikong.

Then there are the projects that may proceed once existing transmission lines are expanded. Looking at the map in the document, it appears to be McLeans Mountain another 73 turbines, Sandfield area south of Lake Manitou, South Bay Mouth and Kagawong areas. The total turbines, should these projects go ahead, are 347.

In a 2009 column, I quoted a letter that was written on Dec. 14, 2006 to the Ontario Power Authority, which said, “Manitoulin has been identified as an area to be exploited for wind generation.” At the time, I found it hard picturing what this could do to Manitoulin, not anymore.

If residents of Northeastern Manitoulin and the Islands have been so divided on the McLeans project, imagine what it will do to the rest of the Island with the number of projected industrial turbines proposed.

If I had any doubts as to the conflict in communities, I don’t after the open house. Walking around the room, I overheard comment after comment from people concerned about health issues, property values, property rights and wildlife.

Then I heard this: “If we can just hold out until October.”

One small group of people were discussing what would happen if Premier Dalton McGuinty loses the election. If anything changes should the Liberals lose remains to be seen but, it’s not hard to see that McGuinty is losing traction in areas where conflict exists because of turbine projects. Was McGuinty so out of touch with Ontarians that he thought no one would oppose turbine projects in their own communities?

If he didn’t see his Green Energy Act coming back to bite him, he should have and as a result, we are all paying the price.

I keep thinking of an article I read in the Ottawa Citizen that quoted a couple from Wolfe Island. Gail and Edward Kenny say the 28 turbines they can see from their house have devalued their property and have destroyed their natural heritage. Gail said the once abundant deer have fled and the short-eared owl has all but disappeared from the Island’s west end. They also talked of the red lights on the turbines that flash every three seconds.

I keep wondering if the same will happen here. Will the deer disappear? Will the flashing red lights destroy the Dark Sky Preserve designation for the Island? Will we go from being a renowned tourist destination to just a place with industrial turbines?

The elders also had concerns about tourism, with Mary Gaiask saying, “If they are allowed to put these monsters up, our tourists won’t come and then what will happen to the people of the Island?”

Good question. One all Islanders need to ask themselves before more projects take place.

Ruth Farquhar is a freelance writer based on Manitoulin Island.

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