Should attempts to thwart a developer’s plan to erect wind turbines on Amherst Island fall short, those who stand opposed to the project have a plan.
“So, if all the efforts of Save (Amherst Island) and (the Association to Protect Amherst Island) fail to stop the project, then the citizens’ coalition will interfere with the developer’s ability to move through the village,” said Marc Raymond, who belongs to the two groups.
Windlectric Inc., a company formed by Oakville’s Algonquin Power Co. and Kingston’s Gaia Power, plans to erect 36 turbines on the island just west of the city. The company has a contract with the Ontario government, but the project has yet to be approved.
Raymond, for one, is concerned not just about the effect the turbines would have on the island’s wildlife, residents’ health and property values – arguments that have been made before – but also on the hamlet of Stella, where the ferry arrives.
He’s afraid that the hamlet – which is about the same length as five city blocks and features between 30 and 50 homes – will be ruined by the construction.
“They’ll have bombed the island to smithereens, building roads and digging holes,” Raymond said. “For a year and a half, we’ll be a construction site.”
Windlectric – which held the second of two public meetings Wednesday night, this time in Bath – has already laid out its plans as to what can be done to accommodate the heavy trucks and enormous turbines.
Stella’s main street – Front Road – is one on which traffic takes a backseat to pedestrians in the hamlet, which is home to a little more than 400 permanent residents that doubles come summertime.
“It’s not a road that would be friendly to heavy-lift trucks,” Raymond said.
He’s particularly concerned about the route those trucks will take every day. One truck will drive by the island’s school every six minutes for 18 months, he figures.
“So the citizens do not want these trucks driving by the school for safety reasons and distraction, and they do not want them going through the village because it will destroy the village,” Raymond offered.
Members of the informal coalition were to show up at the meeting, as they did at the one held Tuesday evening on the island, wearing paper signs —ones attached to sticks aren’t allowed inside because they could be perceived as a weapon – that read, “You’re not coming through the village.”
“We hope it doesn’t come to that, but, you know, read my lips: you’re not coming through the village with 11,000 loads of concrete and sometimes stone, with our kids playing on the sidewalk,” Raymond said.
Nothing has been formally planned, said Raymond, nor is even the coalition formal at this point.
“The community over there is very close, and if somebody gets a good idea that sounds like a good idea to everybody else, it happens,” he said. “You don’t have to talk about it a lot.”
For example, someone’s car might break down on the road, Raymond suggested, or perhaps the drivers of two cars heading in opposite directions might stop, roll down their windows and have a chat, making it impossible for trucks to pass by.
The delays will frustrate truck drivers, Raymond foresees, and they will call their bosses, who will in turn call the police. The police will then arrive by ferry and move people along.
“Then the police will go back home, and the next truck will have the same problem,” he said. “And so this isn’t a truck every six minutes, is it?”
Interfering with the construction would be a last resort, Raymond said.
“It doesn’t even have to be yet,” he said.
“We’re all pretty confident that we’re going to stop this project, though no project has ever been stopped no matter how much sense it made to stop it.”
The issue remains a divisive one among island residents, as the project has its proponents, too.
A recent going-away party held on the island was missing a couple of dozen people, Raymond recalled.
“There are people who were great friends before,” he observed, “but they’re not talking anymore.”
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