The Wallaceburg and Area Wind Concerns group is prepared for a fight.
The group held their first public meeting last week at the UAW Hall where they outlined their concerns, as well presenting their plan on fighting the proposed Otter Creek wind project.
The group is currently raising money so they can try and stop the wind turbine project. The group has set up an account at Wallaceburg’s TD bank, and estimates that a legal fight will cost at least $10,000 and possibly much more, depending on a number of variables.
Earl Towell, Wallaceburg and Area Wind Concerns organizer, said the group is prepared for a fight.
He said a big issue with the proposed wind turbines is with land values.
“It’s clear that a series of 650 foot turbines just on the north of Wallaceburg is going to have a huge impact on that,” Towell said, adding that the Otter Creek turbines will be the biggest wind turbines in Canada.
Towell said there’s environmental issues with the project, specifically with endangered species.
Otter Creek announced its Renewable Energy Approval (REA) application has been submitted to the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change in March, for the 50-megawatt, 12-turbine project which is proposed to be located north of Wallaceburg.
Once the REA is issued by the province, anyone can appeal the REA to the Environmental Review Tribunal and require a hearing with respect to the decision. The hearing process must be initiated within 15 days of the MOECC’s decision to issue the REA.
Towell said he’s unsure when the REA will be issued, but it’s expected to come in the next couple of months, which makes planning for an appeal timely.
“We have to get our ducks in order,” Towell said.
“Our main concern is being able to challenge that REA as it comes up and be prepared for it.”
There are two grounds which may be considered on appeal, with the appellant demonstrating that the project will either cause serious harm to human health or cause serious and irreversible harm to plant life, animal life or the natural environment.
Towell urged all water well owners in the Otter Creek project area to get their water tested. He said they should get it done independently and pay for it themselves so that they own the data.
He said it will give water well owners proof that their well was fine prior to wind turbine construction and operation.
Stantec Consulting is offering water well testing as well, with it being paid for by the Otter Creek group. Towell said there is no downside to getting that testing done as well.
“I will leave that up to the individual to decide. If I were to get Stantec to do the testing, I would get my own testing done as well,” Towell said.
Many of the organizing members of Wallaceburg and Area Wind Concerns are also members of Water Wells First, which has lobbied hard against the North Kent wind project southeast of Wallaceburg. That group has argued against that project due to the damage they say the construction and erection of the wind turbines has had on local rural water wells.
Towell said the new group is friendly with Water Wells First and will work closely with them.
“They have their own fight to deal with and we have to take on our own as well. We hope we’re able to work on it together because we’re all in it together about the same issue,” Towell said.
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