In an unprecedented move in Ontario, Transport Canada has ordered the removal of eight wind turbines in close proximity to the Chatham-Kent Municipal Airport because of height restrictions.
However, the company that owns the turbines Transport Canada wants dismantled – GDF Suez Canada – claims it hasn’t been contacted by the federal agency.
David Timm, vice-president of GDF Suez Canada, told The Chatham Daily News late Friday afternoon: “We can’t comment or provide any information, because . . . we haven’t spoken with Transport Canada at all this week.”
When asked if the company has turbines near the airport, Timm reiterated: “I don’t know whose turbines are involved, because we have not been contacted.”
Chatham-Kent Essex MP Dave Van Kesteren confirmed the action Friday morning.
A Transport Canada spokesperson told The Daily News eight wind turbines violate height limits at the Chatham-Kent Municipal Airport, which are subject to airport zoning regulations.
“Transport Canada is enforcing safety rules and requires the removal of the turbines,” said Tina Morris.
She emphasized the turbine company was advised of height restrictions on two occasions prior to turbine construction.
“While Transport Canada is willing to work with the wind turbine company to set a practical deadline, the illegal turbines must be removed,” she said.
Morris said federal airport zoning regulations (AZR) at the airport protect a radius of approximately four kilometres around the airport.
“The AZR protect the operations of an airport and help ensure that development surrounding the airport remains compatible with safe operation of aircraft and the airport itself,” she said. “These regulations include obstacle height restrictions.”
However, the agency didn’t provide the name of the company that owns the turbines.
Chatham-Kent Mayor Randy Hope deferred comment on the matter to Don Shropshire, the municipality’s chief administrative officer. John Norton, the municipality’s chief legal office, also said he preferred not to comment on the report and deferred comment to Shropshire.
In an interview with The Daily News, Shropshire said the municipality received a “verbal message” from Transport Canada, saying, “if there are any wind turbines in the restricted zone, they would have to be removed.”
He said the message was sent as a courtesy, because the matter is in Chatham-Kent’s jurisdiction.
The CAO said, “there’s no impact on the airport and the airport is continuing to operate as normal.”
Shropshire said the province is responsible for determining and approving where wind turbines can be erected.
The municipality is responsible for approving the building permits to construct wind turbines. But, Shrosphire said this is based on whether the turbines are structurally sound, adding the building department does not determine where they go.
Chatham-Kent Essex MPP Rick Nicholls said he complained in a recent letter to the federal transport minister of the turbines that were in close proximity to the airport.
“Not only do they make it unsafe for pilots but I’m told the spinning blades affect radar,” he said.
Nicholls said he is also concerned that the turbines would limit use of the airport by larger companies that might consider locating in Chatham-Kent and make use of company planes.
The MPP said the turbine company and not Chatham-Kent taxpayers should be billed for the cost of removing the turbines.
Chatham councillor Michael Bondy said he heard about the mistake from an anonymous source.
Airports and wind turbines don’t mix,” he said. “Why would you risk the life of a pilot for a little bit of turbine-generated electricity?”
Bondy said his concern is that the municipality may end up having to pay the huge demolition cost because the turbine company was issued municipally-approved building permits.
“This is a major story and we haven’t heard the end of it,” he said. “In fact, it’s just begun.”
Ulrike Kucera, media relations officer with the Canadian Wind Energy Association, said the organization doesn’t comment on specific projects.
However, she stated: “To the best of my knowledge, this is certainly not a situation that I have heard of before, where turbines that were actually in the ground and operating, were taken down after the fact.”
– with files from Daily News reporter Ellwood Shreve
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