MATTAWA – It was not hard to see which way the breeze was blowing during a community consultation held at the Mattawa Senior Citizens Club on Monday, Feb. 23.
Arranged by Innergex Renewable Energy, a Quebec-based company that specializes in wind, solar and water power generation, the meeting was a packed standing room only affair.
François Morin, senior advisor of public affairs for Innergex, was there with several support staff to unveil his company’s plan to build a 50 to 60-tower wind farm on Crown land in Mattawan Township. Morin said the towers would likely visible from the Town of Mattawa as well as Samuel de Champlain Provincial Park and Lake Talon in Bonfield. More than 150 local residents attended the meeting but, other than the Innergex employees, no one in the room appeared to be in favour of the plan.
Jeff McGirr, executive director of the Mattawa-Bonfield Economic Development Corporation, said the wind farm proposal does not make sense.
“A few years ago, there was a proposal to build a biomass energy power producing station in this area,” McGirr said. “That would have meant a lot of permanent jobs but we were told by the province that the current electrical grid could not support the additional power. Why is the grid suddenly okay for a 150 Megawatt wind farm?”
The energy grid could be the least of the concerns with the project. Dave Joanise, Chief of the Antoine First Nation near Mattawa, said he was prepared to organize protests and close roads if Innergex persisted with its plan. “We’ve done them before and we’re prepared to do them again because this time it’s our ancestral homeland at stake.”
“This isn’t a public consultation. It is a one-way monologue,” protested Brian Baker, a spokesperson for the Lake Talon Conservation Association (LTCA). Baker attended with a PowerPoint presentation only to be told speeches from the public would not be permitted. Joanise of the Antoine First Nation and Don Paquette of the Mattawa/North Bay Algonquin First Nation were also told they would not be allowed to speak.
Around 6:30 p.m. Baker, Joanise and Paquette announced they were each going to make a short speech anyway. When the room broke into loud applause, Morin of Innergex yielded and allowed them.
Paquette said the Mattawa/North Bay Algonquin First Nation opposed the wind farm.
“The project would devastate our harvesting activities and our small acreage land parcel selections that were designated for traditional harvesting camps,” Paquette said. He also criticized Innergex for failing to contact his community until this meeting while the company had already signed an agreement with the Algonquins of Pikwàkanagàn First Nation, who are based near Pembroke.
After the meeting Morin explained that the Pikwàkanagàn First Nation were asked by Innergex to be partners because the Ontario government fast-tracks wind farm applications if they have First Nation partners. The First Nation partners, however, have to be a Status Indian community. The Pikwàkanagàn First Nation is the only Algonquin Status Indian community in Ontario.
Baker’s presentation highlighted the negative impact a 50 to 60-tower windfarm might have on the local environment, tourism and economy on Lake Talon and the provincial park.
“Simply put, it is the wrong project in the wrong place at the wrong time,” Baker said.
“This project seems more about green money than green energy,” said Chief Dave Joanise. “Millions of dollars have been spent on land settlement negotiations but all that will be wasted if this wind farm is approved. We have asked for approximately 3,500 acres of Crown land in that area to be left undeveloped for cultural practices. If this project is allowed to proceed, there will be major impacts on the local tourism industry and our communities.”
Joanise urged his fellow Algonquins in the room to not sign the provincial/federal land settlement agreement-in-principle until the wind farm proposal is resolved.
For his part, Morin remained polite and unruffled despite the audience’s open hostility to Innergex’s proposed wind farm. If all goes according to their plans, Morin says Innergex hopes to begin constructing the wind farm within four years.
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding