The municipal district of Pincher Creek has received a petition with 400 signatures signaling opposition to the proposed Castle Meridian Wind Facility.
The project from Clem Geo Energy would be bordered by Highway 507 to the south and Highway 11 to the east, and is expected to generate 22 Megawatts of power.
According to the Clem Geo website the company is currently at the feasibility study stage with the development.
“As landowners, public stakeholders and members of the local community we are stating our opposition to the project as whole, specifically to the siting of four proposed 180 meter [high] turbines,” the petition read.
The petition made the case that wind development involves more than just turbines including “transmission lines, substations and other electrical infrastructure including service and access roads.”
“This industrial creep is impacting the regions (sic) scenic views as well as the flora and fauna plus the depreciation of land values,” stated the petition.
“The decisions today will not only affect our generation, but generations to follow.”
The petition was brought forward in a report to council on the wind power development approval process at their May 25 meeting. “Obviously we’ve all been thinking about this a lot because it’s a big concern to our residents, and we want to get it right,” said Councillor Bev Everts.
“I guess the constituents are out there wondering if we’re listening, and I think they’ve made a lot of noise and want to make sure that we’re listening. It’s pretty loud and clear where they stand with this,” said deputy reeve Rick Lemire.
A separate letter from residents living in zone 3 also expressed concerns about the project particularly about the information process the project has had.
“As ratepayers in zone 3 we are disappointed that we were not informed by an official letter when this development was initially proposed,” the letter said.
“Many residents understood that additional turbine developments were off limits in the southeast quadrant of the district as a tradeoff for agreeing to allow development in the north and east areas of the MD. Approval of this project could wedge into further wind farm developments.”
Another concern brought up at council was how a new wind farm development would impact other industries including the airport.
“I just want to make sure that, and I’m not an opponent to wind but I just want to make sure that it’s done properly. I also sit on the airport committee, and if we want to put a bunch of money into our airport, and make it a tourist destination and everything else we have to look really hard at these windmills… If we’re going to allow them, then I think that we should fold the towel in on the airport development,” said Lemire.
Lemire also pointed out that the airport has an important air tanker base. He was also concerned that while this project would only have four turbines it could potentially lead to several more.
“Where I’m coming from if we’re going to allow this, or whatever to go on we have to look at the collateral…impact,” he said.
Coun. Everts agreed and said tourism would be impacted as well.
“We could also throw in tourism there to throw in the towel on the airport if we have more windmills west of 6, because people aren’t coming down here to look at our iconic mountains, through wind towers that are supposedly almost as tall as Shell plant towers,” she said.
“It is a hard conversation to have, but we have to have it.”
In the meeting council also discussed the rezoning bylaw that the project would be allowed under and the municipal development plan which is currently in the process of being updated. The role the Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC) would play in the approval process was also discussed.
Councillor Terry Yagos acknowledged the concerns of the residents, but pointed out that there is a process to follow.
“I’ve been part of this since I’ve been on council in 2010, and it’s been the same thing we ask what can we do what we do, let’s just redo the bylaw, set some rules we’ll all agree on some government agency challenges those rules will we’ll deal with it then,” said Yagos.
After Lemire reiterated that there are 400 signatures on the petition, Yagos said he sees their concerns, but there
“That’s not the process we have to follow. Let’s do it the proper way and not say ‘whoa is us this might happen’. Let’s set rules that we’re happy with that people who signed this petition will be happy with. And then go ahead with that, instead of talking around in circles like we’ve been doing for years and years,” he said.
Yagos proposed a moratorium against any wind development until the bylaw is updated saying that it would be fair to anyone who wants to do a development.
Reeve Brian Hammond agreed that there is a process to follow, but said the public needs to be aware of the process.
“I think that one of the fundamental pieces going forward is that we spell that out in a very obvious way to the public. There’s nothing wrong with us…to say this is the process that we have in place. These are the ones we’re currently following,” Hammond said.
Hammond also said that a decision on the development has yet to be approved because the MD has yet to receive an official application for the development.
“There is nothing wrong with being proactive and asking the question, ‘look regulator, we have these sets of rules that we expect developers to adhere to. We’re still expecting that we have the authority to request that from developers, and we need to know if that would, that would be respected,” he said.
Doing so would make it so that the AUC would have to deal with the public if they overruled that MD’s process Hammond said.
Council unanimously adopted a motion to accept the report as presented, and to communicate with the AUC and the public what the approval process is.
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