If two wind turbines are constructed nearby Skydive Burnaby, it will only be a matter of time before someone from the parachuting club is killed, says a lawyer representing the business in its battle with Wainfleet Wind Energy Inc.
But the legal team representing turbine stakeholders said Friday that’s sheer speculation, and, as an environmental review tribunal hearing wrapped up at the township’s firefighters memorial hall after three weeks of testimony, that Skydive Burnaby has failed to prove a tragedy will happen.
Lawyer Scott Stoll, representing Tom Rankin-owned Wainfleet Wind Energy and its partner the Loeffen family, said, as an appellant to the project approved by the Environment Ministry, the onus is on Skydive Burnaby to demonstrate the turbines will have a negative impact – not may.
During the hearings’ closing arguments Friday, he also said any risk to skydivers would be “abnormal,” basing his statement on appellant testimony that at times referred to turbines being a navigation risk subsequent to a parachute failure.
A turbine cannot be a cause of a collision – it’s a point of impact, he said.
Calling Skydive Burnaby an “Internet business” that operates only a few months of the year during daylight hours, and whose members sign waivers acknowledging risks, Stoll said the club can change its flight plans – not unlike for wind conditions – if it deems turbines a risk to its members.
He also said the business has no rights to airspace over the project site, at Station Rd. near Concession 1.
Any decision by the tribunal other than to allow the turbine project to proceed as planned would be tantamount to expropriation of his client’s property, Stoll said.
Lawyer Eric Gillespie, speaking for Skydive Burnaby owners Mike and Tara Pitt, earlier Friday argued about turbines being not only a physical obstacle, but ones that cause turbulence.
“This is a hearing essentially about parachuting, about skydiving,” Gillespie said.
“It’s not a question of if there’s going to be a serious accident, but when,” he said.
“We can’t afford to have one event because the effect is going to be very serious or fatal.”
Ministry counsel Nadine Harris, who echoed many comments made by Stoll, said the severity of harm that could be incurred by striking a turbine should have no extra bearing on the tribunal’s decision.
“The test is: will cause serious harm,” she said.
Gillespie had argued that for the 10,000 jumps each year at Skydive Burnaby, there is a probability for 10 malfunctions. He said that’s enough of a risk to warrant the turbines not be built some 1.5 kilometres from the skydiving club, and that the tribunal to rule otherwise would be taking “a gamble.”
If there’s a parachute failure, a skydiver has only seconds to react then subsequently adjust. He said a parachuter in distress can’t simply steer around a 140-metre-tall turbine tower and its 90-metre blades.
He said there’s a “massive difference” between being able to train skydivers to avoid a 10-metre-tall utility pole or trees and a 30-storey-tall turbine.
The case at hand, he noted, will set a Canadian precedent for proximity of turbines to established skydiving clubs.
“Rarely killing somebody … doesn’t come close to being acceptable for a project like this,” Gillespie said.
Hearing chairman Dirk vanderBent closed the hearings after nearly six hours of submissions Friday, but did leave an opening for possible submissions regarding mitigation.
No indication of when a ruling could follow was offered.