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Fighting turbines by any means necessary

A Port Ryerse woman leading the fight to keep wind turbines out of her village says residents will do everything they can to stop the project and haven’t ruled out civil disobedience.

Heather Walters has sent petitions to both Queen’s Park and town hall and has developed an aggressive strategy of trying to block the permits the company, UDI Renewables, will need to erect the towers.

But residents are so upset that if all else fails, they may resort to direct action, Walters warned.

“I have people say to me ’I will park my RV across the road if I have to (in order to block delivery of the towers),’” she said. “They’ll fight.”

Port Ryerse residents have joined a chorus of protest against wind turbines that is growing across rural Ontario. Some people living next to turbines complain the infrasound emitted from spinning blades sickens them and their property values plummet as a result.

Also at stake, Walters said, is political openness. The Green Energy Act, she noted, has taken the power to approve alternative energy projects away from town halls and given it to Queen’s Park, in effect pushing decisionmaking behind closed doors.

When she first heard the rumours turbines were coming to the village, “it took me more than two months of digging” to find out who was behind the project and where it was going, she said.

“That was my first alarm bell. If it’s such a good thing, I don’t think it should have to be a secret.”

Walters estimated that more than 90% of village residents have signed the petitions opposing construction of four turbines in a field east of the community.

Local MPP Toby Barrett, a Progressive Conservative, read the 420-name petition to the legislature this week – just one of about half-a-dozen such petitions read out by MPPS on behalf of constituents.

It calls for a minimum setback between homes and turbines of 2,000 metres, for Queen’s Park to “reinstate” municipal powers in the approval process, and for Port Ryerse residents to be compensated for lost property values.

When she presents her petition to Norfolk Council on Dec. 6, Walters said she will ask elected officials to go one step further and refuse to issue permits needed to upgrade roads that would allow delivery of the turbines.

Walters said she will also pursue provincial and federal agencies that must issue permits before the turbines can go up.

One project in Thunder Bay, she said, was scuppered by a government agency because it was too close to nesting sites for peregrine falcons, an endangered species.

Port Ryerse also has peregrine falcons as well as bald eagles, she noted.

“We intend to slow them down,” Walters said. “Whatever angle we have, we intend to go after. We hope to stop them one of these ways.

“We want to make it inhospitable for this company,” she added. “Hopefully, they’ll do the right thing and go elsewhere.”

Barrett said the towers proposed for Port Ryerse are 425 feet in height at the tip of the blades and will be visible to residents living west of Port Dover.

Some of them bought their houses for the views of the lake, woods, and marshes and have complained to him about the project, he said. “They feel very threatened.”

The area between Port Dover and Port Ryerse “is a significant area for future home building,” Barrett noted. “What land developers think of this, I don’t know.”