PLEVNA – North Frontenac Township is to appeal any large-scale wind energy project approved for the township.
Township council agreed on Friday that an appeal to the Environmental Review Tribunal would be pursued if either of the large wind energy projects proposed for the area are approved.
“We just had a general discussion and I asked council that if the wind turbine decision was in favour of the proponents, are we agreed that we would appeal it based on our position paper and our decisions made back in October?” Mayor Ron Higgins said. “They all agreed yes.”
NextEra Canada has proposed two projects for North Frontenac and neighbouring Addington Highlands Township.
The Ontario government is expected to announce in the coming weeks which of the almost 120 proposed energy projects would be approved.
The government is seeking to add up to 565 megawatts of renewable energy to the province’s electricity supply.
Of that new energy, up to 300 megawatts is to come from new wind projects, 140 megawatts of new solar power, 50 megawatts of bioenergy and 75 megawatts of hydro electricity.
The NextEra projects include the 100-megawatt, 50-turbine Northpoint I in North Frontenac and the 200-megawatt, 100-turbine Northpoint II in Addington Highlands and North Frontenac.
Seven of the 100 turbines proposed for the Northpoint II project are in North Frontenac, and the township provides the shortest, most affordable route to connect the project to the transmission lines.
In early June last year, citing public opposition, North Frontenac council unanimously voted to declare the township “not a willing host” for the proposed wind energy projects.
The council voted not to provide municipal support to the project.
Next door, Addington Highlands council voted to support the proposal.
Higgins said the whole process of new energy procurement has been marked by secrecy and a lack of information being shared amongst involved parties.
“There was no collaboration from a number of different ministries within the Ontario provincial government,” Higgins said. “Everything came on us without any communication or collaboration whatsoever. We were kind of taken off guard.”
Higgins said he has asked four times to meet with Ontario Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli but has received no response, something Higgins described as “personally frustrating.”
At Friday’s council meeting, North Frontenac became the 19th municipality to pass a resolution originally passed by Wainfleet Township council calling for the provincial government to cancel plans to approve new wind energy projects. North Frontenac added solar projects to the original Wainfleet resolution.
In a letter to be sent to Chiarelli, Higgins wrote that even the proposals to build wind energy projects have affected the municipality.
“We are saddened and disappointed at the approach your ministry and the province is taking to implement Green Energy and very disappointed that the government of Ontario has stripped municipalities of their democratic right to manage our townships,” Higgins wrote.
“Just the threat of (industrial wind turbines) has halted any and all progress we have tried to implement with regards to economic development, viability and sustainability in our township. We have a great economic strategic plan in place, but all potential investment has come to a halt due to this ill-fated act and Ontario government policy.”
North Frontenac’s economic development strategy includes a collection of 184 backcountry campsites, many accessible only by water, along 12 lakes in the Madawaska highlands and Mississippi Valley watershed.
The backcountry camping is operated by the North Frontenac Crown Land Stewardship Program, a partnership between the township and the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources.
Revenue from camping and road access permits funds the stewardship program, which manages and maintains 58 kilometres of Crown roads, campsites and boat launches.
In 2014, 2,655 campsite bookings provided the township with revenue of $136,000. That year, the township hired a new facilities and recreation supervisor, a stewardship program field supervisor and two summer students. The stewardship program also hired a part-time office support worker.
That most of NextEra’s proposed wind turbines would be built on Crown land, Higgins said the presence of wind turbines could destroy the appeal of backcountry camping in the township and destroy a local economic development effort.
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