Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority board members deferred a report on allowing Niagara Region Wind Corp. (NRWC) access to 635 metres of the Gord Harry Trail in Wainfleet at its meeting last week.
The wind turbine company wants to use the trail to run collector and fibre optic lines for part of its wind turbine project in the northwest end of Wainfleet.
Seventy-seven wind turbines are proposed to be constructed in West Lincoln, Wainfleet and Haldimand County, with two close to the trail in Wainfleet.
While Wainfleet Mayor April Jeffs, a member of the board, was glad to see the deferral, she would have preferred to see the report defeated that night.
“We have been completely crystal clear from the beginning, we don’t want NRWC to have that access,” she said.
The township had previously consented to a single crossing over the trail for the lines, with the company paying $2,500, plus $250 per year for 20 years.
“It was a big step for us to allow a single crossing,” said Jeffs.
The report brought forward at last Thursday’s meeting showed NRWC offering a $100,000 donation to the conservation authority’s foundation, plus $20,000 a year for 20 years for trail improvements and continued access to the two turbines.
Not only would the trail be used for the lines, but also also during the construction process.
Despite being told the funds offered by NRWC would be used in Wainfleet to improve the Gord Harry Trail, Jeffs said she was torn on whether authority staff should have brought the report forward given the township’s stance on the issue.
During Thursday’s meeting, City of Thorold board member Dominic DiFruscio said he wasn’t in favour of the report being brought forward or NRWC coming on to conservation property.
DiFruscio said he wasn’t even in favour of the wind turbine company crossing the trail.
“I said once they had their foot in the door they would come back and back. We need to turn this down,” DiFruscio said.
Also opposed to NRWC’s request and the conservation authority’s report were Linda Rogers of Mothers Against Wind Turbines Inc., and Loretta Shields, a member of Niagara Peninsula Field Naturalists.
Rogers said to allow the trail to be used during the construction process would be a big change from its current use.
“To change it into a road during construction will create a conflict with recreational use of the trail,” she said.
She raised concerns over species at risk along the trail corridor, species such as the Blanding’s turtle, Eastern Hognose snake, and others. Rogers said opening the trail up and identifying where the turtles are could lead to poaching of the species.
Shields said there is little to no public confidence in NRWC’s Natural Heritage Assessment and Environmental Impact Study report concerning the use of the trail and surrounding area.
She too raised the issue of species at risk and traffic on the trail, with nearly 700 trucks moving back and forth to build one turbine.
“There’s no need to destroy the trail,” she said.
The report was deferred until the June conservation authority board meeting to allow staff time to gather more information, such as whether the transmission lines would be overhead lines, or underground, consultation with Wainfleet, and looking at a transmission line agreement used by the Town of Lincoln.
Staff would also look at NRWC’s proposed payment $20,000 a year and whether the company would be willing to increase that figure to match inflation each year of the next 20 years.
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