By Jamie Smith, www.tbnewswatch.com
A city councillor doesn’t know what to expect when Horizon Wind Inc. makes a deputation before council Monday.
Coun. Linda Rydhom said she wants to know why the company’s proposed 18-turbine wind farm has moved closer to Loch Lomond Ski area and Neebing residences since entering into a lease agreement for 17,000 acres of land with the city in 2007. The Big Thunder Wind Park was supposed to be closer to the former Big Thunder site and further away from people, Coun. Rydhom said.
“Horizon has moved the proposed location of the turbines over to Loch Lomond Ski Hill area and they have not as of yet explained why,” she said.
The company told Coun. Rydholm that they can’t provide an explanation until an environmental assessment is released. Coun. Rydholm said she hopes that she receives an explanation Monday, but admits she isn’t sure if the environmental assessment would be released to the public by Feb.1.
In a letter to the city from Horizon CEO Anthony Zwig said the assessment is “expected to be released to the public shortly.”
Coun. Rydholm said the city and community are just in negotiations with Horizon until the assessment is released. She added that so far information from Horizon has been general.
“Until we can get to the specifics it is really hard to gauge council support or indeed community support across the city,” she said.
Coun. Rydholm is also a director with the Federation of Canadian Municipalities. Last September the FCM requested a moratorium on wind farm developments until health issues were studied further. The Neebing councillor, who supported the request, said the FCM resolution was passed after European reports of heart trouble, learning deficiencies in children and disturbed sleep patterns from people living close to wind turbines.
“Even the wind turbine companies recognize that. That there are sleep disturbances for a certain percentage of people living close to a wind turbine,” she said.
Coun. Rydholm said the city would be put in an awkward position with Horizon if they requested a moratorium now. Because they are negotiating in good faith with the company, a moratorium on the Big Thunder project isn’t likely. No one on council knew about health concerns regarding wind farms in 2007 Coun. Rydholm added.
The councillor admits that the first time she heard of health concerns was last September at an FCM meeting.
“Three years ago when our city earnestly went into these negotiations theses health and environmental issues were not well known,” Coun. Rydholm said. “They’re just coming to light now.”
City council still has final say on where the turbines are located on the city owned land as the intent to lease states the city must agree with the location of wind turbines. Once the environmental assessment is complete and the project is clear, Coun. Rydholm said they city plans to hold a special committee of the whole session to discuss the entire Big Thunder project with the public.
“Anyone and everyone can come and have their say about the proposed wind farm project,” she said. “We want to know what the actual final scheme looks like before we have an informative meeting with the public.”
On top of being such complex and new issues, Rydholm said new provincial regulations for wind farms under the Green Energy Act have made it more difficult for members of the public to be consulted. In the past, members of the public could have spoken at city council meetings to address their concerns. Coun. Rydholm said the province has stripped the municipality of their authority when it comes to green energy projects.
“They (the province) took away really the opportunity for input at the local level,” she said. “The environmental approval process now rests between the company and the province. The local municipalities have less of a say…then that leaves our citizens trying to deal with the province which is a tougher thing to do.”