Citizens of West Hants have had their first opportunity to weigh in on a wind project proposed for Three Mile Plains.
More than 50 people attended an information workshop on the subject that was hosted in the Three Mile Plains Community Hall Jan. 9.
Developers Scotian WindFields Inc. are seeking permission from the Municipality of West Hants to construct three large-scale turbines in a protected water supply area along Martock Ridge.
Karen Dempsey, director of planning for the Municipality of West Hants, said the proposed wind project comes with a steep learning curve.
“This is a first in many ways for West Hants. It is the first time that this municipality has been involved in an environmental assessment process. It’s the first time that this municipality has had a wind energy project come to the municipality,” she said.
It also puts the Town of Windsor in a unique position. The developers are asking to construct the turbines in the town-owned Mill Lakes watershed, the Town of Windsor’s only source of consumable water.
West Hants planner Jeanne Bourque noted that the Town of Windsor signed a lease option agreement with Scotian WindFields in December 2011, but the Municipality of West Hants could only begin the development agreement process after the project passed the environmental assessment phase in July.
“The planning staff recommendation has been that this application does meet the municipal policies… however it is not a planning staff decision. It is a decision that is supposed to be made by the council of West Hants,”Bourque said.
Connie Shay-Browning, a West Hants resident, asked if the company putting the turbines in place will be required to put up a bond that will cover the cost of correcting any adverse impacts the project may have on the environment.
“The Town of Windsor, they have a lease option agreement done but they need to have a lease agreement so it is appropriate for the Town of Windsor to require a bond, or a surety or some kind of financial security,” Bourque replied.
Dan Roscoe, the chief operating officer of Scotian WindFields, noted that the lease agreement remains a work in progress, but the company’s insurance policy will cover damage caused to any third party.
Steve Sanford, an environmental assessment officer with Nova Scotia Environment, stressed that the environmental assessment for the project has been approved on a number of conditions outlining actions that must be taken to protect the environment from harm during the lifespan of the project.
“The bad projects, they fall off in that pre-registration stage. There are plenty of wind projects that have never been presented to the public just because they are in a bad location,” said Sanford.
He said the project would not have received a nod of approval from Nova Scotia Environment if the department believed it would have negative impacts on the surrounding communities.
“With wind, it’s wildlife, it’s human health and it’s public consultation – those tend to be the three components that play a large part in our review process.”
He added that the greatest risks associated with this project would be the potential for erosion or contamination in the construction stage.
“The risk we saw with this wasn’t the wind turbines. It’s road development,” said Sanford.
“That’s the biggest risk here with respects to impact to your water.”
He said the noise produced by the turbines will be heard, but it must not exceed 40 decibels outside of a dwelling.
“Forty we would typically associate with whispering six feet away.”
Roscoe noted that a community dividend would be created to ensure one per cent of the revenue generated by the project went back into the community. A community liaison committee, comprised of residents, will determine how the dividend dollars are spent.
The town and municipality will each receive payments of about $35,000 annually if the wind project is constructed at Martock Ridge. It is estimated the turbines will generate electricity for up to 1,700 homes.
Still, that’s not enough to earn West Hants resident Elliott Daniels’ support for the project.
“I haven’t heard anybody yet say, ‘I can guarantee that this project is not going to affect your watershed,’” Daniels said.
‘The fact is that the watershed is now pristine and why would we even consider doing anything that would jeopardize that in light of the lack of fresh water that there is in Canada?”
Daniels said he’s yet to be convinced the dollars produced by a relatively small-scale wind energy operation are worth the risk.
“Once this development has been put in there it might have a lifespan of 25 years, but the repercussions of it is going to go on forever,” he stressed.
“I personally think that we’re bordering on almost criminal by actually exposing the next generation to the possible contamination that can be created through this venture,” concluded Daniels, to applause.
Additional public meetings will be held as the Martock Ridge Community Wind Project proposal makes its way through the development agreement process.
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