(PONTYPOOL) The allegation that building industrial wind turbines on the Oak Ridges Moraine will cause irreparable harm continues to be a key argument in the appeal of a controversial wind energy project approved for Manvers Township.
Wind energy company wpd Canada received provincial approval last December for the Sumac Ridge project, the first of three proposed wind turbine farms in the area. Sumac Ridge will have five mega-turbines at the site on Ballyduff Road on the Oak Ridges Moraine.
Three groups appealed the decision; Manvers Wind Concerns (MWC), a group of local residents and opponents, Cransley Home Farm Ltd. and the Cham Shan Temple. Eric Gillespie is the lawyer representing the appellants.
The Cham Shan Temple is a multi-million dollar initiative of the Buddhist Association of Canada, which will mirror pilgrimage at the four great Temples in China. They have already built one Temple near Omemee and planned three more in the City, but, that will be jeopardized if the wind turbines are installed.
Heather Gibbs is vice-chair of the Environmental Review Tribunal, an independent body hearing the appeal in Pontypool. The appellants’ case began Monday (Nov. 17) and concludes on Nov. 24 with an extra day set aside in December.
Also present were the director for the Ministry of the Environment and John Richardson, lead counsel for wpd Canada.
The hearing takes a structured format; some people are permitted to speak as participants, others designated as presenters and still others are qualified as witnesses. All of those speaking during the hearing were cleared under their specific designations during preliminary hearings earlier this year.
Opening statements began Monday, in which those who will appear during the process outlined what they will focus on when they are called.
The Chair advised provincial law requires the appellants must show that the wind energy project will “cause certain harms.”
Mr. Gillespie said there are three primary issues on which the appeal will focus;
-the concerns of First Nations, both Curve Lake and Hiawatha, which he said the appellants fully support;
-the “serious and irreversible harm to plants, animals and the environment, particularly the Oak Ridges Moraine (the thrust of the appeal from MWC and Cransley Home Farm) and;
-the Cham Shan Temple, whose main concern is the impact of the turbines’ “audible noise” on human health; specifically the Buddhists right to have a quiet and peaceful atmosphere for their pilgrimages.
Mr. Gillespie noted the Cham Shan Temple is the only one of its kind in the world outside of China. He said that the Province requires setback limits for wind turbines so they do not disturb people’s sleep.
If they are set back so people can sleep, he said, they should also not interfere with people’s right to meditate and pray.
In his opening remarks, Mr. Richardson said wpd Canada complied with all of the rules and regulations required by the Province when they applied to build the wind farm. He said “all the prescribed steps were completed” and there was no evidence the project would cause any harm to people, animals, plants or the environment.
“The evidence will demonstrate those harms don’t exist,” he said. “Allegations of possible harm won’t be substantiated.”
Monday’s proceedings included testimony from expert witness Victor Doyle. He is a planner with expertise in environmental policy who works for the Province. He worked on the original Moraine conservation plan in 1989.
He testified the Moraine, at 160 km in length and of varying widths is the “rain barrel of southern Ontario” and crucial to the water sources that feed its surrounding areas, including the GTA.
Guidelines established years ago for the Moraine’s protection did not address wind turbines, Mr. Doyle said. Roads, pipelines and wires were permitted to cross it, but, it was “never meant to be an infrastructure reserve for the communities outside it.”
Mr. Doyle said that opening the Moraine to turbines will have a negative impact long term. He noted the Province has called for a review of conservation plans, including the Moraine’s and wind energy development should wait until that review is completed.
City of Kawartha Lakes director of development services Ron Taylor also spoke, and later told This Week that wpd Canada plans to put two of the five turbines on an unopened section of Wild Turkey Road to access Sumac Ridge.
He said using that road would mean the company would have to build a road capable of handling the heavy trucks bringing in wind turbine components. (Council has opposed that and did not approve opening the section of the road.) Mr. Taylor said if the road was rebuilt, it would then become the City’s responsibility to maintain at taxpayers’ expense, which council adamantly opposed.
“The City is not obligated to open or reconstruct Wild Turkey Road,” he said, adding wpd was “advised several times” but have not presented an alternative plan.
David Kerr, the City’s manager of environmental services testified on Tuesday, and later emailed This Week recapping his statements.
“The Moraine was laid down by glaciers thousands of years ago and many pristine private well water supplies and municipal well supplies come from [its] aquifers,” he wrote. “[It] is vulnerable to contamination and needs to be protected from any contamination risks wherever possible.”
Mr. Kerr said he testified to three key points.
1- Some of the proposed turbines are located on or close to vulnerable aquifiers that are at risk from turbine transformer oil spills.
“If spills were to occur they would be more than likely absorbed into the ground very quickly and contaminate groundwater and surface water supplies. Due to the complex geology of the moraine there would be little chance to properly clean-up the spills and as a result there would be irreversible impact on shallow groundwater, natural springs and recharge water to the wetlands and woodlands.”
2- There are areas proposed for buried servicing (poles) and access road construction to the turbines which are directly above sensitive cold water springs and headwaters to Fleetwood Creek and the Pigeon River. The infrastructure would likely cause diversion of shallow groundwater water which would cause irreversible impact to the wetland areas and headwaters.
3- The large concrete foundation pads that house the turbines will likely cut into shallow aquifers which recharge Fleetwood Creek and/or the Pigeon River and would cause diversion of the natural ground water flow pattern on the Moraine.
Mr. Kerr said he was “cross examined for two hours on these points.”
On Tuesday, the hearing began with a site visit in the morning and testimony in the afternoon, lasting into the evening.
Paul Reid of Manvers Wind Concerns also emailed with a recap. The residents expressed their concern for the potential environmental impact.
Former Ward 16 Councillor David Marsh was also a speaker, Mr. Reid wrote.
Mr. Marsh “spoke regarding his public service roles as a Councillor for 25 years…and, his real estate role for the Cham Shan Temple. In 1990 the purchase of the Buddhist lands was contingent on the Feng Shui of the property at Ski Hill Road. Other properties purchased on their behalf had to conform to the same standards…meditation, prayer and pilgrimage. He advised that these temple projects and property acquisitions would never have transpired if the Buddhists had known what was coming…
Mr. Marsh also discussed how property values will be hammered in the area and that prospective buyers are already walking away the minute they hear the word ‘turbine.’
Mr. Reid noted Tuesday night’s proceedings did not include expert testimony, “just real people who simply do not want their communities destroyed by industrial wind turbines; people who have struggled and sacrificed to enjoy life in a bucolic countryside, only to find themselves powerless in the face of their own government.”
Newly re-elected Ward 16 Coun. Heather Stauble is attending each day and emailed This Week to say several of the experts appearing for the appellants are challenging some of the Province and wpd Canada’s documentation, including setbacks of the turbines.
“The testimony by experts showed that the setbacks were not adequate…,” Coun. Stauble wrote. “The testimony was clear, precise and provided an clearer picture of the issues.”
She said residents “rounded out” the evening with testimony to the history of the area.
“After a very cold and snowy day, even in the midst of a snow squall, there was a large turnout, leading the ERT to comment on how impressed they were to see how many people had shown up – that they could see their passion,” Coun. Stauble wrote.
The appellants’ case concludes on Monday with an additional day in December for participants. The hearing then breaks until Dec. 3 with about two weeks scheduled to hear the Province and wpd Canada’s arguments.
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