STELLA – The group fighting a proposed wind energy project on Amherst Island is mounting a two-pronged attack in its appeal to of a recent ruling in favour of the project.
On Friday, lawyers for the Association for the Protection of Amherst Island (APAI) were in an Ottawa courtroom to file a legal challenge to last month’s Environmental Review Tribunal ruling that dismissed the group’s appeal to Algonquin Power’s subsidiary Windlectric Inc.’s proposed 26-turbine project.
The legal appeal is to be processed within 30 days and a future court date set in early October.
In addition to the court challenge, the group filed appeals earlier this week directly to Glen Murray, Ontario’s minister of the environment and climate change on “matters other than law.”
“We wanted to give the minister the chance to make the right decision,” said APAI’s newly elected president Michele Le Lay.
“The Green Energy Act is very restrictive in what could be looked at. The onus of the proof, it’s like you have to prove you’re not guilty rather than they have to prove you are not innocent.”
“We wanted to give the minister a chance to look at the risk that is not considered, that have been overlooked by the tribunal,” Le Lay said.
“We wanted to give the minister a perspective that no authority, no agency, no law would give him.”
In a seven-page letter to Murray, APAI outlined what it said was errors and omissions made by the tribunal in reaching its decision.
The tribunal, the group argued, did not consider that the project’s conditional approval in August 2015 lacked plans to protect the island’s wildlife, including bats, birds and the Blanding’s turtle.
Mitigation plans were presented verbally during tribunal hearings.
The group also objected to the company introducing into the hearings a construction schedule that was different than what was outlined in the conditional approval.
APAI also argued the environment ministry did not compel Windlectric to consider alternative locations for key parts of the project, including the batch cement factory, which is to be built close to the island’s elementary school, and the mainland dock, barges from which will cross the path of the Frontenac II.
A separate 40-page submission to Murray included a dozen letters from island residents and groups concerned about the project’s potential impact on the island.
“The families that are affected by this project, they don’t feel they have a voice with the Green Energy Act, they don’t feel that they are listened to,” Le Lay said.
The residents who submitted letters to Murray wrote individually of their worries about the impact on their health and that of their children, what they describe as insufficient fire and paramedic response planning and the impact on the ferry service.
Island resident Julie Leeder wrote about the risk the project construction could potentially impede emergency responders.
As a wife of an Emergency First Responder, I understand the real challenges that my husband and his colleagues from the fire department face when an emergency occurs. The roads are narrow, and detours are sometimes impossible,” Leeder wrote. “The responders travel from all points of the Island to reach the Fire Hall, and then they travel to the emergency site. The risk that roads will be blocked is unacceptable.”
In their letter to Murray, Sheila and Peter Whiting wrote that no plan has been put in place to safeguard the island ferry. They wrote that the risk of the Frontenac II colliding with a barge carrying construction materials from the mainland.
“It is impossible to exaggerate the importance of this right of the ferry to pass freely on its scheduled route: it is literally a lifeline for Island residents,” they wrote.
Barges from the mainland are expected to cross the ferry route about 1,400 times during the project’s construction.
“This hazardous situation is exacerbated by the fact that the barge traffic, unlike the scheduled ferry crossings, would be constant but irregular, increasing the risk of a marine collision.”
Island resident Andrea Cross of Dry Stone Canada wrote that she fears the construction will damage the island’s historic stone walls.
“Construction, operation and ongoing maintenance of industrial wind turbines will destroy dry stone walls built with no mortar along narrow carriage roads. Road widenings and upgrades, thousands of oversized and overweight construction vehicle trips, and excavations to bury power lines will decimate the walls,” Cross wrote. “Vibration from traffic, blasting and ramming action on the Island’s limestone base will cause their failure.”
Susan Caughey, owner of Poplar Dell Farm Bed and Breakfast, also wrote about the impact of heavy construction vehicles could have on the island.
“Our dry stone wall (600 feet in footprint) will be destroyed, either to make room for the road or by the vibrations from two years of construction traffic,” she wrote. “Our 19th century drive shed, restored to be used for weddings and other events, is only inches from the existing road. It will suffer the same fate as the stone fence. Our large old house is also built on a nearly 200 year old foundation that makes it vulnerable to serious structural damage from industrial traffic.”