VARNA – Bluewater has filed an appeal against an approved Grand Bend wind farm.
The deadline to appeal the 40-turbine project was last Friday.
The application went through their legal counsel, Eric K. Gillespie, who lodged the appeal on Bluewater’s behalf. The Ontario Power Authority selected the area as one of Northland Power’s projects.
The appeal is on the grounds of environmental and health concerns. Setbacks would fall under the health concerns category.
The wind farm’s proposed location is north of Grand Bend and running north, east of Highway 21. According to documents on the project’s website grandbend.northlandpower.ca, the closest turbine is 650 metres from Highway 21, while the majority of them are 1,000-m away from it.
“This is the first project that’s been accepted that’s going to be this close to the highway,” Councillor-at-Large Tyler Hessel explained. “Basically it’s going to be setback from the highway, which I think is like 500 metres or something. It’s not that far.”
Hessel estimated the appeal process could go on for a few months, possibly into the next term of council elected this October.
Bluewater Mayor Bill Dowson was used as a source for a story on the Northland project in a June 29 article in the London Free Press.
Hessel took him to task at their council meeting last week for Dowson’s statements in the article, written by veteran Free Press reporter John Miner, claiming that Bluewater hasn’t taken an official stance on wind turbines, and they could benefit financially from such projects through building permits and tax assessments
Dowson felt what he said was taken out of context.
The Times-Advocate contacted both Dowson and Hessel later in the week – both men are running for mayor in the upcoming municipal election – to let them explain their side of the story.
Hessel: “I believe the statements to be false, to be honest. They were false statements. Bluewater’s always had a position on wind turbines. In the article it stated that we really didn’t have a position, which was incorrect. And there was a philosophy in the article, too, that we were going to gain financially from it. And as we all know, like on the current NextEra one, we’re really gaining approximately $600 per turbine, and that is for the county for the education system and Bluewater. So it doesn’t leave Bluewater with much.”
“As for our building permit fees, they’re to cover the cost, and that’s why we have them at the rate we do because we’re going to make sure they’re properly engineered. That’s our own engineering that we have to hire out to do all that, because we aren’t experts in industrial projects.”
“He felt he was misquoted and I can’t argue with that. So I guess from my perspective, if I thought I was misquoted in a paper I would have contacted them immediately after I read the article to help justify it, and I probably would have brought it up right away at the beginning of the (council) meeting. And that’s just my style, maybe, versus his. I think personally if there’s something that was misrepresentative I’d want to have it corrected right away. We had to bring it forward, which I thought was unfortunate.”
Dowson: “I’m waiting on a call back from the press. There was a little miscommunication on the question. So they’re looking at it and going to get back to us in a few days or a week. They have a process they’ve got to go through even to do a correction on what may have been said or not said. So they’re getting back to us with that one.”
“Yes it was (taken out of context). I said I would answer questions on Northland, then it looked like it was what Bluewater may have – we haven’t had any personal contact at the council table with Northland, but the municipality has sent an objection in on (they’re) not welcome in our community. And they kind of tied that in, which that wasn’t the plan. But anyway, they’re going to try to straighten that out.”
“The question really was to me was: What dealings, what papers have been signed, what dealings has the municipality had with Northland? And I said, ‘At the table with Northland? Virtually nothing’.”
“So those things happen and they’ll get straightened out.”
Miner offered an email update on the situation Monday morning: “(The) last story I did clarified that Bluewater had repeatedly declared itself an unwilling host and that Northland was putting the brakes on the project until the appeals were heard. Dowson had told Free Press reporter Hank Daniszewski that there hadn’t been much opposition to wind farms in Bluewater and that had been published in an earlier story.”