The atmosphere inside Kincardine council chambers was ripe with tension last Wednesday as a Pattern Renewable Holdings developer took the floor to review a plan aimed to avoid impacts to Kincardine’s airport from the Armow Wind Project.
Before launching into his presentation, Jody Law expressed disappointment that council had approved a motion, moments earlier, stating that it is not a willing host community to industrial wind turbines. He told council that approving such a motion flew in the face of the spirit in which the memorandum of understanding (MOU) was developed between Pattern and Samsung Renewable Energy and the Municipality.
Deputy mayor Anne Eadie, who chaired the meeting in place of mayor Larry Kraemer, who was absent, said she was disappointed, in turn, that the Municipality had not received a copy of the letter sent from NAV CANADA a year ago that outlined an area within the project boundaries where turbines could be placed without impacting the municipal airport.
“We made it clear that our airport was our number one priority, along with our buffer zones and protecting for future growth,” she said. “We feel, in the spirit of the MOU, that our airport vicinity was not as big as it should have been. Had we heard about that letter a year ago I would have wanted NAV CANADA’s input.”
Law said that in the letter NAV CANADA did not offer a conclusive opinion on the impact of wind turbines to the airport because of the large size of the project area and the fact that the project was in the preliminary stages.
An excerpt from the letter, shown during Law’s presentation stated, ““We kindly request that when a turbine layout becomes available it be provided to NAV CANADA…so we may conduct a turbine-location-specific analysis and provide a more specific conclusive assessment.”
It was an inconclusive assessment that was returned to us, said Law. The developers provided a turbine layout to NAV CANADA last August.
Law said the developers are committed to preserving the airport. He pointed to current uses of the airport by air ambulance services, Bruce Power, recreational pilots, resources for training and testing, as well as for charter flights and site seeing tours.
“There are a lot of great features at this airport and we completely understand that the Municipality wants to protect these opportunities for the future,” he said.
NAV CANADA’s complete assessment of the turbine layout identified five approach procedures and one departure procedure that would be affected by 43 turbines out of 99 in the layout. Pattern and Samsung hired consultant and aviation expert Charles Cormier to review the layout and come up with a plan to mitigate the impact of the turbines to the airport. Cormier, who worked with the Municipality of Kincardine two years ago and designed its GPS procedures, said his goal was to protect the effectiveness of the airport and maintain safety while allowing as many turbines as possible.
Councillors told Cormier to expect plenty of questions, because they were seeing the report for the first time. Cormier, who had sent his report to the developers, was surprised, stating that he had hoped council would have had a chance to review the report prior to his presentation.
In his plan, Cormier said he is able to eliminate the impact of all 43 turbines. He said his proposal will even improve flight approaches to the airport.
“By applying appropriate procedures we can comply and still preserve excellent flight procedures at the airport,” he said.
For approaches to the main runway, Cormier is recommending adjusting the step down waypoint by 0.3 nautical miles. As well, distance measuring equipment should be installed to complement the non-directional beacon, which tells pilots how far they are from the runway. In addition, two turbines that still impact the flight approach would be lowered by 20 metres.
For the second runway, Cormier again recommends distance measuring equipment and adjusting the missed approach waypoint by 0.4 nautical miles. In approaching the airport, pilots would be 471 feet above the wind turbines when they fly in, he pointed out.
The departure procedure that is impacted can be fixed by designing a departure route with a slightly higher climb gradient. This means the pilot would have to climb faster than normal to reach 1,000 feet.
Councillor Jacqueline Faubert expressed concern that changes to the flight approaches and departure procedure might deter some pilots from using the airport.
“We fear these changes will affect the health and vitality of our airport,” she said.
“The changes that I have proposed are flyable by any IFR (instrument flight rules) qualified pilot,” Cormier said.
Councillor Randy Roppel said he would feel more comfortable if the Municipality received input from airport manager Blake Evans and local pilots before making a decision. Faubert said there is little the Municipality can do.
“I want to remind my councillors that we don’t have a decision to make,” she said. “This will be sent to NAV CANADA and they will approve it because it was done by an expert.”
She said the Municipality needs to ask itself if it allows companies to come in and change its infrastructure.
Law took offense to comments that were being made around the council table.
“We were invited here, we don’t have to come here,” he said. “You talk about the health and the vitality of the airport; we have to consider it, but we do. I thought we had a good relationship. We went through all of this.”
He added that he felt like he had been put in an awkward position.
“We’ve been put in an awkward position,” Eadie fired back, “because if we had seen that letter a year ago…we had an ad hoc committee meeting in May and I knew I would have said we need to take another look at our vicinity mapping. That would have been a big concern to me.”
Councillor Ken Craig said another consideration in dealing with the project is future plans to expand the airport.
“The airport will do a better job if it is able to service bigger airports with a longer runway,” he said.
He questioned what would happen if the Municipality decided to extend the runway by 1,000 feet. Cormier responded that the approaches would need to be re-examined if any changes were made to the runways.
“The turbines will be here for 20 to 40 years and we don’t want to limit our airport for 20 to 40 years,” said Eadie.
The report by Cormier will be sent to NAV CANADA for evaluation. If it gives the report its blessing the new flight approaches will be designed.
Council is opening the doors at its next two meetings to allow local pilots and representatives from Genivar Consulting, the firm designing its airport management plan, to provide input regarding the report. Evans is certain pilots will want to be involved.
“I’m sure pilots will give very, very serious consideration to this report and future discussions will bring out concerns and questions,” he said.
As airport manager, Evans has his own concerns.
“My primary concerns are serviceability, safety and operational aspects of the airport,” he said. “I believe the Municipality will ensure that these aims are met.”
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