The proponents of a 60-megawatt wind farm in the Montreal River area say they hope to hear soon about environmental approval from the province.
Blu Earth Renewables and Batchewana First Nation have proposed a 36-turbine wind farm on Bow Lake, just south of Montreal River and close to the shores of Lake Superior.
Details of the project were posted to the Ministry of Environment’s Environmental Registry on May 13 for a 45-day comment period that ended June 27.
“The review process has been very thorough, and we have worked hard to answer all questions raised, so we are hopeful a decision will be made soon,” said Kelly Matheson, Blu Earth’s vice-president regulatory and communications, in an e-mail Thursday.
The MOE conducts a six-month review of all such applications, putting the target date for a decision on Nov. 13, though Sarah Raetsen, of the MOE’s environmental approvals branch, said a decision could come before or after that date.
Raetsen said she could not comment on how many comments the MOE received during the 45-day comment period until after a decision is made. She said comments that do not contain personal information will be published once a decision is made.
The Bow Lake project has been in the works for five years and, if approved, construction could begin this year, with the wind farm’s first phase beginning to generate power as soon as August of next year. The second phase would come online in October, 2013.
The project has faced criticism from area residents and from a group studying the history of the Group of Seven.
Art historian Michael Burtch and artists/adventurers Gary and Joanie McGuffin have urged the government to turn down the project due to the cultural significance of numerous sites depicted in Group of Seven works. The trio has spent the last several years documenting sites where Group of Seven members painted, the tourism potential of which, they charge, would be diminished by the wind farm development.
Meanwhile, Batchewana First Nation is putting $32 million into the $240-million project and is projected to reap roughly $2 million a year, once debt is serviced. Chief Dean Sayers has said the money would help pay for education, housing, infrastructure, health care and efforts to preserve language and culture.
Premier Kathleen Wynne responded to opponents of the Bow Lake project in a two-page letter sent in March that states the province will ensure communities are consulted about the green energy products and is working to provide increased local control in the energy projects.
Wynne wrote that during the 45-day review, the province would be “actively identifying whether the proponent has responded to the issues that have been raised.”
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