Mayor John Oosterhof isn’t surprised that the province has given Grand Valley Wind Farms Inc.’s latest project the green light, but he doesn’t have to like it.
Whether his municipality accepts or rejects the Ministry of the Environment’s (MOE) decision doesn’t matter much though, according to the mayor.
When it relates to wind turbines, Oosterhof argued the province is going to do whatever it wants.
“We have declared ourselves as an unwilling host,” he said. “But that is just the way it is. The province rules in all this. Basically we can say, ‘Yes, amen, thank you very much and go home’.”
On Wednesday (Oct. 15), the Ministry of the Environment (MOE) approved the third phase of the Grand Valley Wind Farms project, which will see a 40 MW wind farm operating in the area when construction is complete.
As per that Renewable Energy Approval (REA), Grand Valley Wind Farms has gained permission to construct and operate up to 16 wind turbines and a 45 MVA (million volt-ampere) transformer in Grand Valley and Amaranth.
Veresen Inc., the developing partner of Grand Valley Wind Farms, has been given a period of three years to connect the entire facility to the grid.
Grand Valley Wind Farms applied for REA approval earlier this year and received it on Wednesday (Oct. 15) following a comprehensive review and consultation period, according to MOE spokesperson Kate Jordan.
“Many of the conditions, including the requirement for a traffic management plan, noise requirements and the requirement to create an emergency response and communications plan, address comments we heard from the public and Town of Grand Valley,” Jordan said in an email.
Those previously opposing the proposal cited concerns relating to noise, health, water, safety, loss of property values and farmland, among many other issues.
Chief among the town’s concerns were the wind farm’s “close proximity” to a residential subdivision being built north of the 2nd Concession, Oosterhof said. The outer edges of the wind farm are located south of those lands near the 3rd and 4th Concession.
“The main beef was they were getting too close to the urban centre for future development,” Oosterhof said, noting the town was also concerned about the transformer’s proposed location on County Road 25.
“You are not going to have people move in next door to a wind turbine,” he argued. “I’m very disappointed that the province is still pushing this.”
Others commenting in opposition cited the project’s vicinity to the Luther Marsh Wildlife Management Area as a concern.
Considered a provincially significant wetland, the Luther Marsh is home to more than 250 bird species, some of which are listed as endangered, threatened or at risk, including Bald Eagles, White Egrets, Bobolink and more.
As part of the REA process, officials with the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) had the developer complete an Environment Effects Monitoring Plan (EEMP) to monitor bird and bat populations. The REA approval requires Grand Valley Wind Farms to implement the mitigation and monitoring methods outlined in that plan.
“The project is not located in the marshland but the Ministry of Natural Resources did review and confirm the natural heritage assessment work completed by the developer,” Jordan added.
Any Ontario residents wishing to appeal the MOE’s decision to the Environmental Review Tribunal (ERT) must submit written notice within 15 days of the REA approval. It is not yet known whether any formal appeals have or will be made.
In the meantime, Oosterhof will continue to oppose the province’s push toward wind power. The mayor fails to see how the cost payment structure makes any sense.
“At the school that I went to, you don’t make money buying something for more than what you can sell it for,” Oosterhof said. “That is exactly what is happening. It is an issue that we can’t afford.”
To view the REA decision, click here.
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