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Turbines could affect flight safety at Grimsby Airpark

Concerns about flight safety and the impact wind turbines could have on operations of planes falls much closer to home than Hamilton.

The Grimsby Airpark, located on Mud Street on the Grimsby-West Lincoln border has also been vocal with two wind turbine projects on the horizon for west Niagara communities – particularly West Lincoln.

Ralph Meyer, manager of the airpark, said nearly all of the concerns raised by NAV Canada, the country’s civil air navigation service, regarding the impact on radar at Hamilton airport are also relevant to the small unmanned airport, which has been in operation since 1978.

A March letter from NAV Canada indicates the agency “objects to this project moving forward” because of the “nature and significance of the negative impact” on NAV Canada’s services. Concerns, shared by Meyer out of Grimsby, include a reduced ability to identify and track “surveillance targets”, the potential for “false returns” on the radar and an overall decrease in flight safety for aircraft operations in the area.

The operations aspect, said Meyer, is particularly relevant in Grimsby – especially with the Airpark hoping to one day successfully receive two satellite GPS approaches they applied for over a decade ago.

“Our concern is the approaches – the let down procedures out of the clouds and into the airport,” said Meyer, noting the wind turbines could have an impact on the technology. “The impact very much depends on the location of the wind turbines. You want to make sure they can come down in safe skies and at a proper altitude.”

Meyer said he has communicated back and forth with IPC Energy, the first proposal for five wind turbines. It was that communication, he said, that actually spawned NAV Canada to get involved and look at the impact on Hamilton’s radar impacts. He has yet to see, however, whether or not the new, much larger proposal by Niagara Region Wind Corp., for a 230-megawatt wind farm, will breach the area of the airport.

The study area outlined in a newspaper ad which appeared in the July 14 edition of The News, does indicate a second study area which stretches into Grimsby and Lincoln, but NRWC spokesperson Randi Rahamim said there are no plans to erect turbines in those communities, noting the purpose of that study is to identify infrastructure upgrades needed at transmission stations to ensure the power generated will reach the grid.

Meyer said he has presented IPC suggestions as to what corridors should be avoided when it comes to erecting the storeys-high turbines. He has not received a response, however, that indicates they will alter their plans to consider the airpark’s concerns. He said he now plans to further communicate the same issues with NRWC.

The proposal Meyer submitted includes a several kilometre radius, from the centre point of the runway, that should be avoided to minimize impact.

“It’s not a large chunk of the area, but we’re suggesting the corridor to ensure there is no impact on approaches at either end of the runway,” said Meyer, a Grimsby resident who has attended many of the West Lincoln Wind Action Group meetings to keep informed about the proposals.

John Andrews, president of IPC Energy, said the company feels it has addressed concerns from Meyer and NAV Canada “every possible way we can.” He said he would like to meet with Meyer to discuss the issues in person, but has not been able to come together with him yet.

“We approached the airport in the early stages of the environmental assessment we did, and we have tried to answer all of their questions,” said Andrews. “They are certainly part of the discussions we have are having at NAV Canada.”

Andrews said he is confident the IPC project will not have an impact on the Grimsby Airpark, the Stoney Creek airport, or the larger Hamilton airport – especially after ongoing dialogue with NAV Canada.

“We think we are far enough from the airport that we should not impact any takeoff or landing. We don’t think there will be any issues,” he said.

The airpark, while unmanned and primarily used for private aviation, does have some charter airplanes that come in and out of the airport at times. Even more important, said Meyer, is the use of the province’s air ambulance, Ornge, which uses the airport at times when it is not able to land at the scene of an emergency locally.

“We have a fair bit of traffic in the area – particularly in and out of Hamilton,” said Meyer. “Hopefully the companies will listen and alleviate the problems for our area.”