A letter has been penned to Premier Kathleen Wynne asking her to intervene and “halt the further industrialization of Algoma’s iconic landscape” by ensuring the Bow Lake Wind Farm project – and others – do not proceed.
Gillan Richards, an executive member of the Save Ontario’s Algoma Region (SOAR) is asking the newly appointed premier to “help save the economic future of Algoma” and protect Lake Superior’s coast and watershed from any negative economic impact.
She’s hoping the Ontario Cabinet will discuss the issue when it meets in Sault Ste. Marie Friday for its first cabinet caucus in Northern Ontario, or at the very least, raise the issue so it is on her agenda in the near future.
SOAR has been advocating against Algoma area wind projects for several years, arguing that the communities where they are proposed to be built on Crown lands should have a local say.
New government legislation now offers communities and planning boards the right to comment and advocate for or against newly proposed projects, but not ones already in the process.
Richards said she’s hoping that will be reconsidered and the government looks closer at the “industrialization” of the Algoma Region and see how it will impact culture and tourism.
The Bow Lake Wind Farm project is a 60-megawatt project estimated to cost about $240 million.
Led by BluEarth Renewables Inc., the lead partner in the two-phase wind-farm project, the wind creation project is expected to create 36-wind turbines along Lake Superior’s eastern shore. Each turbine will have the capacity to produce 1.6mW of electricity.
Batchewana First Nation has entered into an agreement with BluEarth Renewables and is an “economic partner” on the project, which is expected to create 60-80 jobs during construction and decommissioning and up to six permanent positions while the wind farm is operating.
Richards, in her five-page letter, said the Algoma area is rich in culture and tourism, as seen in the Group of Seven artwork and with various tourism based destinations in the rural area north of Sault Ste. Marie.
Richards said the Bow Lake Wind Project believed to be“on the brink of receiving Renewable Energy Approval” is immediately adjacent to the popular Lake Superior Provincial Park.
The park, a major tourism destination for regional residents, could be negatively impacted by the development with the nearby industrialization.
“In Algoma, a sustainable economy can be based on environmental and cultural tourism,” she writes.
SOAR has taken the position that all political parties in Ontario must work together to ensure economic growth is desirable – including to protect significant job opportunities in rural Ontario.
She argues that the project will cut jobs in tourism in the area as well as significantly impact the locations where the Group of Seven based their paintings from.
“There is no approval or contracts for this project yet and there is still time for the government to pull back,” Richards said.
In addition, SOAR fears that this project will be precedent setting and lead the way for a second wind project, the Goulais Wind Farm, to proceed with future Feed-In Tariff contracts.
Algoma already has 126 wind turbines on the coast north of Sault Ste. Marie. “It can be argued that Algoma has already made a considerable contribution to the renewable energy plan of the Ontario government,” the letter reads.
In addition to the wind farms, Sault Ste. Marie is already the site of several large solar farms and Algoma has been producing hydro-generated electricity for the province for Ontario.
Richards believes that the solution for the region is to build economic activity and local jobs by investing in cultural and environmental tourism, while preserving the cultural and natural surroundings of the North’s landscape.
She argues that in 2011 the Northern Ontario Regional Tourism Organization was established by the Ministry of Tourism Culture and Sport to lead tourism marketing, investment attraction and capacity across the North.
The focus, she said, should be to create practical jobs in the tourism industry with government support, especially as the 100th anniversary of the Group of Seven approaches.
“The local residents live here because they choose this type of outdoor lifestyle,” she said. “There are many ways culture and tourism can create jobs in this area.”
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