HAGERVILLE – A hearing into a proposed wind-turbine project near Jarvis is tentatively scheduled for Hagersville at the end of the month.
The province’s Environmental Review Tribunal has pencilled in 10 days of testimony beginning May 28. The tribunal will confirm the appointment if several motions of dismissal are themselves dismissed at a preliminary hearing in Hagersville this Friday.
At issue is the 58-unit Summerhaven wind farm in west and central Haldimand. The Ministry of the Environment approved the Nextera development earlier this year.
Appealing the decision are Haldimand Wind Concerns and subsistence hunter Bill Monture of Six Nations. Several others were granted participant and observer status at a preliminary hearing in Hagersville Monday.
The tribunal has a mandate to hear challenges to projects that may pose a risk to human health, wildlife, plant life and the well-being of the environment.
There were several testy exchanges during Monday’s proceedings. Monture began by chiding the tribunal for setting up the hearing so that the appellants were speaking with their backs to the audience.
“I’m not accustomed to this,” said Monture, who was wearing a colourful feathered headdress. “We should turn the tables so we are at least facing the people. To me, speaking with my back to the people is disrespectful. To me, it is ignorant.”
Tribunal chair Heather Gibbs was flanked by co-adjudicators Robert Wright and Dirk Vanderbent. Gibbs told Monture that the proceedings were organized for the benefit of the tribunal and not the 40 seated in the gallery, many of whom voiced their displeasure when they couldn’t make out what the participants were saying. Gibbs finally agreed to re-arrange the tables during a break.
Peter Sleeman, of Port Dover, also took the tribunal to task for having too narrow a mandate. According to the rules, Sleeman said it was virtually impossible for anyone to provide input.
“Your focus is so narrow that ordinary folks can’t even address it,” he said. “I believe the onus that wind farms are not detrimental should be on the wind farm operators and not the poor farmers and ordinary people who have to live with them. Your focus is so narrow that ordinary folks can’t even speak to you.”
The Six Nations band council was granted permission at Monday’s hearing to present testimony. Lonnie Bomberry, director of land resources for Six Nations, said Canadian law requires developers to “consult and accommodate” First Nations on projects affecting their interests. Six Nations has an interest in the Summerhaven project, Bomberry said, because it will impact hunting rights on land covered under the Nanfan Treaty of 1701.
“It could be jobs in construction of the project,” Bomberry said. “Or permanent jobs in the running of the wind farm. It could be economic benefits to the community. Six Nations should benefit from their land and resources, just like everyone else.”
Norm Negus of Hagersville will also be allowed to testify. He will speak on the potential health consequences of living near high-voltage transmission lines.
Mike Meghar, a representative of the Canadian Gypsum Company of Hagersville, wanted to provide testimony on the location of mine shafts in the affected zone and the risk of a cave-in if a turbine is built on a weak spot. However, Meghar was told he did not require intervenor status to share this information with the relevant parties.