At its rescheduled meeting tonight (Thursday), Dufferin County Council might expect to be faced by a host of opponents of a proposed 230-kilovolt power line along an abandoned rail corridor, but it’s difficult to assess whether the opposition is to the power line so much as to the creation of a wind farm in the north of Melancthon.
The main purpose of tonight’s meeting is to draft comments to the Ministry of Environment (MOE) on Dufferin Wind Power Inc.’s (DWP) proposal for the power line, for which it would require an easement from Dufferin County, which owns the corridor.
DWP had originally sought approval for both the rail corridor route to the Orangeville transformer substation (Option 2) and for a dual 69kv line across Mono to a new 100MW transformer to be installed at a new substation there (Option 1).
DWP subsequently withdrew the Option 1 proposal in favour of Option 2. Mono, by resolution, agrees with the choice but Shelburne’s planner and the council have opposed it.
The county agenda tonight has more letters in favour of the corridor power line than opposed. However, the opposition includes a massive petition against it, which includes signatures of many who live nowhere near Dufferin.
A Tuesday evening information session, organized by the county to present an independent consultant’s report on the corridor proposal, was attended by an estimated 200 at Centre Dufferin Recreation Complex. Of those, about a dozen had questions, some had arguments, and some attempted to convert the meeting to one about turbines as well as power lines.
At the outset, however, MMM consultants Jim Bertulli and Rick Rakus emphasized the purpose of the public meeting: “The County wishes to provide comments on the proposed transmission project to the Ministry of the Environment, wishes to share the findings of the overview exercise (the MMM study) with the public, and requests the assistance of the public regarding additional comments in response to the transmission line proposal.”
MMM’s final report would not be available until at least Wednesday afternoon but was needed by the county by tonight for its comments to the MOE re the proposal.
The consultants reiterated that both the county and the municipalities play “minor roles” with “no overall project approval authority” beyond building permits and road use agreements.
“The County must decide on appropriateness of granting the transmission easement to DWPI.”
But, the consultants warned that the Ontario Energy Board (OEB) “has the right to consider/order (through expropriation) granting of the easement, if agreement between the County and DWPI is not forthcoming.”
They did not elaborate on the implications of expropriation, but later in the presentation did discuss the international preference for public ownership of abandoned rail lines.
Can humans live and play adjacent to power lines? There was a photo of an overhead 230kv power line along a trail in Toronto, showing hikers using the trail.
Through the consultants, the county had about 100 questions of DWP. According to the rated responses on “procedural,” “Natural Environment (Vegetation clearing, wetland protection, and soil/water analyses,” “Social Environment (trail usage, noise issues, health issues, setbacks),” “Infrastructure (Constraints on municipal ROW, buried utility impacts, permits),” “Project Cost (who pays for construction and decommissioning),” the consultants said DWP had approximately a 90 per cent acceptability score.
Things remaining to be resolved included
“[N]et benefits to the County associated with granting the easement;
Clarification of the use of municipal road allowances;
Review of construction timing relative to bird and amphibian critical periods, and
Provision of requested reports – stormwater management plan, erosion and sediment control, environmental management and protection plan, among other things.
Consultant Jim Bertulli was challenged to say “which side of the fence” he was on. He emphasized that he is neither with the ministry nor DWP, but an independent consultant hired by the County to conduct an independent review of the proposal.
On the information still required, the consultants said that “from our perspective it’s still a preliminary design.”
One woman accused the consultants of not commenting on the effects of the transmission line close to a school.
She said, almost tearfully, that the children at Hyland Heights would be susceptible to leukemia and a host of other health problems.
An unidentified audience member said there are a couple of places where the overhead line would be too close to homes. The consultants said DWP would mitigate, and the county would discuss those.
County CAO Sonya Pritchard reiterated for the audience that DWP and the county have a memorandum of understanding whereby DWP is paying the county its costs of the independent study.
Payment for an easement would be negotiated in the event the easement wins approval.
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