TROUT CREEK – Representatives from Schneider Power were faced with waving picket signs Tuesday night at their public meeting in Trout Creek.
“We’re being railroaded,” said Colleen Goupil, chair of the Laurier local services board. “Because we’re so small, they think they can just bypass us.”
On Aug. 21, the company held a public meeting to discuss the Trout Creek wind energy project, which is actually located in Laurier, as a mandatory requirement of the Ontario Renewable Energy application review process.
Members of the anti-turbine group STILT – Stop Turbines In Laurier/Trout Creek – as well as members of its affiliate STOMP – Stop Turbines on Maple Hill Powassan – attended the meeting to get answers and to make their position known.
According to Schneider Power Director of Energy Projects Mathieu Archambault, the company has already received Feed-In Tariff (FIT) program approval and has plans to be in full operation by October 2014.
Goupil said she furious there has been no public consultation before the project got this far.
“About two years ago, Schneider Power held a meeting in Trout Creek and the project was all sort of glossed over. There were no solid answers,” she said. “And now here they are two years later saying they are going forward with it?”
The proposed wind farm will encompass more than 450 hectares of Crown land approximately one kilometre southeast of Trout Creek. The area being studied is located south of Forestry Road, west of Ralph’s Road, and east of Highway 11 in the Township of Laurier.
“Why hasn’t there been a moratorium?” Goupil questioned. “The healthcare system is already suffering as it is and they want to add more? I’m very scared. What about pregnant women, people with pacemakers, and seniors?”
Trout Creek resident Craig Steward asked Archambault those same questions on behalf of his nine-year-old daughter, who suffers from 22q11.2 deletion syndrome – an illness caused by a missing section of chromosome 22, which is present from the time a child is conceived.
Because of this illness, Steward’s daughter was born with a cleft palette and underdeveloped muscles in her mouth. She is also highly sensitive to sound, vibrations, and electromagnetic fields.
“As a mechanic, I know a lot about electromagnetic fields,” said Steward. “People with pacemakers can’t go near transformers because of it. I want to know how the field will affect them and my daughter.”
Steward asked Archambault what the affects of the turbines will be on those sensitive persons and was told turbines are no different than any other electromagnetic field.
“I can’t get any response,” said a frustrated Steward, as he was leaving the meeting. “I signed the petition, but it sounds like it won’t matter anyway. We didn’t get enough notice.”
Steward said he will be carefully watching to see if the turbines affect his daughter once erected.
“I take my daughter to Sick Kids (hospital) once every three months, so I’m going to know if this affects her,” he said.
Adverse health affects isn’t the only issue on the mind of local residents.
Goupil said property values will plummet if this project goes forward.
“I live within a short distance of this proposed area,” said Goupil. “Are they going to pick up the difference in my property valuation? It’s all very frustrating.”
According to Archambault, the project consists of three wind turbine generators with a maximum sound power level of 106 dBA. Also included in the plans for the site as a permanent meteorological tower and a maintenance building. Access roads will also be created during construction, as well as temporary crane paths, each being eight metres wide.
Up to nine trucks per turbine are required to transport the parts during the construction phase and a “laydown” area must be created for the assembly of the parts, which will require the clearing of vegetation and topsoil to be replaced with 600 millimetres of gravel per turbine.
Archambault said the company has already cleared a 100-square-metre area on the mountain in order to erect a meteorological tower to measure wind speed.
In recent months, MP Jay Aspin called for a moratorium on wind projects until Health Canada completes its extensive study into their affects. The study is expected to take up to two years to complete.
Archambault said the company’s position is that a moratorium is unnecessary because they are confident the Health Canada study will reiterate previous studies saying wind turbines are safe.
“In our perspective, the Health Canada study will summarize what other studies what other studies have found,” he said.
When STILT founder Patricia Brown asked which studies he was referring to, Archambault was unable to think of any.
Brown mentioned that in early discussion on the project, Schneider announced plans to have a local advisory committee made up of affected residents to help give input on the project. She said this info is currently posted on the company website.
“That surprises me,” responded Archambault, noting he would look into it.
Archambault said the local response to the project is noting he hasn’t seen before.
“People are concerned, but we feel the reports will alleviate any major issues,” he said.
When it comes to a moratorium, Archambault said he would follow the law, but isn’t in favour of it.
“Schneider Power is in the business of developing energy projects, so of course we don’t want to see that happen,” he said. “This is our livelihood.”
Archambault said the company owns or has otherwise helped develop three other wind projects in the Province with no negative impacts of record.
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