MATTAWA – The Antoine First Nation will use every means available to stop a proposed wind turbine development near this community, including protests and blockades. That was the message Chief Davie Joanisse delivered Feb. 23 at an open house concerning the proposed industrial wind turbine farm on Crown land west of Mattawa and north of the Mattawa River. “We firmly oppose this project, the company involved and the Algonquin group,” Joanisse said, pointing at the Pikwakanagan First Nation, which has allied with Innergex Renewable Energy Inc. on the project. “We will use every means available to stop this project. That includes protests and blockades.”
The proposal-still in its early stages-would see up to 60 wind turbines producing 150 megawatts of electrical power near Talon Lake. An overflow crowd crammed into the Mattawa Golden Age Club to get information on the project -one of at least three in the region -and to let representatives of Innergex Renewable Energy Inc. know where they stand on the idea.
Joanisse, Chief Dan Paquette of the Mattawa-North Bay Algonquins and the Lake Talon Conservation Association were all lined up against the proposal. “It’s not just the land selections that are important to us,” Joanisse said. “The entire Mattawa River corridor between Mattawa and North Bay is our traditional hunting grounds. We share this area with thousands of other users on a regular basis.”
He said ATVers, snowmobilers, hunters, campers and tourists use the land. But if the project gets the green light, there will be major impacts to the local tourism industry and our communities.
“The temporary jobs, the noise, the sight of windmills, the destruction of land, the implications to people and wildlife, the implications to our existing way of life and all the financial benefits going to the company and its partner are all good sound reasons for us to reject this proposal.”
Joanisse is a member of the Algonquin land claim negotiating committee, and said the $100 million spent on the land claim over the past 20 years will “go up in smoke” if the wind turbines are allowed to go ahead.
He also criticized the Pikwakanagan community, which has allied with Innergex, saying that community is based 200 kilometres away and is willing to “destroy our lands” for their own purposes.
Brian Baker, communications officer for the Lake Talon Conservation Association, said there is no need for the development.
Baker said demand for electricity has been decreasing in the province every year.
“In fact, you would have to go back to 1999 -16 years ago – to see demand equal to what it was in 2014,” he said.
He said the Canada Wind Resource Atlas shows the proposed site “is one of the lowest areas on the map” for potential wind energy. But the company and its partner propose erecting 50 to 60 wind turbines that are up to 135 metres tall – equivalent to a 40-storey building.
“We will fight this tooth and nail,” he said.
“I’m not impressed,” John Kelsall said. “This is the wrong project in the wrong place at the wrong time.
“It’s just awful. The power (the site would create) is not needed. There’s already surplus power in Ontario. This has to be stopped cold in its tracks.”
Francois Morin, senior adviser for public affairs with Innergex, said despite the venom with which people attacked the proposal, he was satisfied with the open house.
“We know people have concerns,” he said. “It may sound strange, but we were here exactly for that. We want to hear their comments.
“The purpose of this meeting was to present the project. We are being transparent. We want the people here to give us their comments and concerns. That’s the way it is done in Ontario.”
Morin said the project must go through a series of presentations, hearings and challenges. The soonest the company could begin construction would be 2019. He also said the project is not related in any way to a proposal for a wind turbine farm in Merrick Township near North Bay, although that proposal is barely out of the starting blocks.
“We know the airport will be an issue,” he said, but there is no estimate yet for how large such a project could be or even if it is feasible.
“We know we have the potential for 150 MW here,” Morin said. “In Merrick Township, we don’t know if there will be the resources on the terrain, or how much (electricity) might be produced.
“There is some wind there, and that’s the first step. To get the wind. But we also know there are constraints, such as the airport, and we would have to talk to the stakeholders.”