Now is not the time to give up.
That’s the message Huron East Against Turbines (HEAT) brought to a half-empty Knights of Columbus Hall in St. Columban last Thursday, May 3 when organizers presented their financial statement and offered to help local landowners present their concerns about the proposed 15-turbine St. Columban Energy LP wind development.
“The crowd is a little bit small tonight and we know the community is losing faith in what’s going to happen here. But, it’s not the time to lose hope,” said HEAT member Gerry Ryan, who encouraged St. Columban residents to continue to make their concerns known to the Ministry of the Environment, the municipality of Huron East and the wind development company’s consultant Stantec.
With the final public meetings being held this week (May 8 and 9) by St. Columban Energy LP in Seaforth and Brussels before the proposed project is submitted for approval to the Ministry of the Environment, HEAT members urged local landowners to have their say as soon as possible.
“On May 8, we will have 30 days and in theory, they could make a decision on the 31st day so in June, we could hear if the wind project’s been accepted by the MOE. And, then that would give us 15 days to appeal the approval if they get it,” said HEAT member Jeanne Melady.
While HEAT received a binder containing the 1,354-page St. Columban wind draft plan two weeks ago, Melady said HEAT members had pledged to Huron East council that they would do their best to plow through the report and bring their questions to council, who could then pass them on to the MOE.
“We should all be screaming about the pressure to do consultation when there is no time. We need to tell the Ministry that this is not true consultation,” she said.
HEAT asked for an extension of the 30-day consultation period to 90 days, a request that was endorsed by Huron East council at its May 1 meeting but Melady encouraged ratepayers to contact their councillors asking Huron East to write a letter of their own to the MOE with the same request.
Ryan showed community members a map of the location of proposed turbines in the project, pointing out circumstances when turbines are located too close to the roadway or close enough to a bordering neighbour that they would end up on the neighbour’s property if they fell over.
He pointed out that Huron East has already written a letter to the MOE with concerns about turbines No. 9 and 10, which are less than the recommended 99.5 metres from municipal road allowances, and the municipality expressed concern about ice throw from those turbines. Ryan said the two would also land on the roadway if they fell over.
“There are at least seven turbines, that, if they fall, will fall into someone else’s fields. If you own the farm next to it and don’t say anything, it’s going to go through because they say they’ve mitigated,” he said.
“In this case, it’s the individual landowner’s responsibility – the municipality is not going to look after this. That’s why it’s imperative we identify where they have improperly placed a turbine,” added HEAT member Tom Melady.
Ryan added that while the draft report says St. Columban Wind LP will compensate farmers in the event a turbine does fall on their properties, there is no mention of how that will be done.
Ryan encouraged local landowners to write to the MOE if they have concerns that their health might be affected by the proximity of the industrial wind turbines to their homes, adding that HEAT research has found examples of people living between 600 and 800 metres from turbines who have had negative health effects.
“Don’t think you won’t be affected. Everybody thinks they’re immune but that might not happen,” he said. “If you think the sound is going to bother you, tell them. Tell them you don’t want this project.”
HEAT members offered to sit down with any local landowners to help them determine how a turbine may affect their property.
Dennis Mueller, who got involved with HEAT last December when he discovered the transmission lines from the St. Columban wind project would be going past his house, said he’s also encouraging his neighbours in the Cranbrook area to voice their concerns about stray voltage.
Jeanne Melady said the heritage impact assessment in the draft report identifies a number of heritage properties along the route of the transmission line, which could be impacted by the vibrations from drilling for the underground line.
Tetu told those at the meeting that HEAT has received $92,275 in donations so far towards the fight against the proposed industrial wind development in St. Columban, $90,174 of which has gone to the law firm of Fogler Rubinoff. He said HEAT still owes $2,600 and asked the community if they want to proceed with the fight, pointing out that more donations will be necessary if they do.
Jeanne Melady recommended local landowners start accumulating documentation about their health status, their property value, a noise study and any other information that will allow them to measure the effect of the wind turbines if they do go ahead.
“That’s the kind of evidence the tribunals are looking for,” she said.