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Snowy Ridge ERT hearing postponed and final arguments for Settlers Landing coming up Oct. 22

JANETVILLE – An Environmental Review Tribunal (ERT) hearing to hear opposing arguments for Snowy Ridge, a provincially-approved industrial wind turbine farm in Manvers Township, has been postponed until later this month.

In the meantime, the Tribunal will hear final arguments for the Settlers Landing ERT on Oct. 22 at the Pontypool Community Centre. The hearing is open to the public. The Settlers Landing ERT took place in early September.

Both wind projects belong to Capstone Infrastructure and have received Renewable Energy Approvals (REAs) from the Province.

Settler’s Landing (Pontypool) runs just west of Hwy 35 along Telecom and Drum Roads. Snowy Ridge (just west of Bethany) runs east from Hwy 35 along 7A and Beers and Twigg Roads. Each proposes to build five 46-storey turbines.

Ron Awde and SR Opposition Corp. represent the appellants (residents opposed to the turbines being built, especially on the Oak Ridges Moraine).

Lawyers for the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change and Capstone Infrastructure make up the ‘other side’ of the proceedings.

The Snowy Ridge hearing began on Sept. 28 and was initially expected to conclude on Oct. 2, but Mr. Awde emailed to say it would be postponed as one of Capstone’s expert witnesses was unavailable.

“At this point, the tentative date for the rescheduled final day of testimony from their witnesses is Oct. 20, with the location to be determined, although it is likely to be Janetville or Pontypool again,” Mr. Awde wrote.

Mr. Awde and Manvers Wind Concerns emailed This Week a recap of testimony during the week.

The panel heard extensive testimony from residents concerned with noise levels, potential harm to the water in the area and also to the local flora and fauna.

Some of the testimony included:

– Resident Bill Bateman showed how his home would be surrounded by 10 turbines from Snowy Ridge and wpd Canada’s Sumac Ridge if both wind farms are built. He talked about the cumulative noise from multiple projects and potential harm to human health for people with sensitivities to noise over 32 decibels (a level identified as problematic for people with sleep disorders.)

– Another, Peter Beer, who lives adjacent to the property where two Snowy Ridge turbines are proposed to be located, presented 60 photos taken in June 2013, showing many subsurface water features. His presentation demonstrated that even in shallow tile drained fields, in a typical June season, the area slated for three of the turbines is saturated with groundwater and actively-flowing surface water.

– David Kerr, manager of environmental services for the City of Kawartha Lakes testified about concerns with the hydrogeology, expanding on the potential serious and irreversible harm that would result from any spills or other contamination in tile drained areas. He testified the hydrogeological study (conducted by Capstone) did not cover a full season or necessarily capture all the features and potential damage from the construction of the turbines.

The panel also heard testimony from witnesses for both the Province and Capstone, with more to come when the ERT resumes.

Ward 16 Coun. Heather Stauble also testified. She told This Week in an email that noise is a central factor in the hearing, as it was in the ERT for wpd Canada’s Sumac Ridge project.

The appellants’ point is while noise from five turbines is a concern, the cumulative noise from 15 (five in each of three wind farms) is a different matter entirely.

Coun. Stauble said a 2012 letter to her from the Ministry assured that the Province was “committed to seeing that renewable energy facilities are developed in a way that is protective of human health and the environment.”

Coun. Stauble said City’s CAO Ron Taylor also received a letter from the Province in 2013, assuring the City that “the Sumac Ridge, Settlers Landing and Snowy Ridge wind farms are proposed in proximity to one another and would like to assure you that the Ministry of the Environment (MOE) will consider the cumulative noise impact of the three wind farms as part of the REA process.”

Coun. Stauble said the Tribunal was also told that the project had originally appeared as one much larger project and was split into three smaller projects.

“The ERT asked why it was significant. The ERT was told that if the project had been considered as one large project, a noise impact study which looked at the cumulative noise impact of all turbines and transformers on all the noise receptors (homes) would have been required. As it is, the wind companies have managed to exclude the at least one project of turbines and transformers in all cases and the cumulative impact on the noise that are most affected by all three projects.”

Coun. Stauble said the proximity of the turbines to area homes continues to be a key issue.

“The noise guidelines for Wind Farms require that the impact of adjacent wind farms within approximately five kilometres be considered,” she explained.

“Chair Gibbs asked why they had not included Snowy Ridge in their Settlers Landing noise assessment because it was so close to 5 km (at 5,138 metres). During the Snowy Ridge ERT, Dave Eva (vice president of Capstone Power Development in charge of development for both Settlers Landing and Snowy Ridge) was asked, as the person in charge of the project, if he knew the distance from Snowy Ridge to Settlers Landing. He responded ‘about 7 km.’

“The MOE has withdrawn their noise expert from the Snowy Ridge Hearing. The calculations of the distance between the closest noise receptors in Snowy Ridge and the contributing noise sources in Settlers Landing…confirm a distance of approximately 5,000 metres.”

Mr. Awde noted taxpayers pay the legal costs of an ERT for the Ministry, and the approval holder (in this case, Capstone) pays its costs. But, it is only through donations that the appellants can mount a challenge.

“The interests of the community have to funded out of our pockets,” he wrote. “Thanks again to everyone who has made a contribution…if you can assist us with any amount, please make a contribution, by cheque payable to: SR Opposition Corp. c/o P.O. Box 142 Bethany, Ontario L0A 1A0.”

Noise assessment reports for both Snowy Ridge and Settlers Landing wind farms may be viewed at www.capstoneinfrastructure.com/assets.