Detroit Free Press: Will Canada’s wind turbines invade lakes?

Plan would put 700 towers, each 40 stories tall, along St. Clair, Erie shores

BY TINA LAM   DETROIT FREE PRESS

A proposal to put 700 wind turbines along the shores of Lakes St. Clair and Erie, each about as tall as a 40-story building, is provoking controversy in Canada and the U.S.

The turbines, planted on the lake bottom and arranged in grids jutting more than 3 miles out into the lakes, easily would be seen from the marinas and mansions of the Grosse Pointes, as well as from Rockwood, Gibraltar and Grosse Ile.

Some residents on both sides of the border are worried about how the windmills would affect shoreline property values, fishing, boating and bird migration. The turbines would be on major migratory pathways for birds at several major wildlife refuges, including Point Pelee, Ontario, and the Detroit International Wildlife Refuge.

The province of Ontario, which recently lifted a moratorium on offshore wind projects, is aggressively pursuing green energy under a new law because it hopes to close its coal plants within five years.

“I am furious at our provincial government for doing this,” said Maureen Anderson, a resident of Amherstburg whose family has a charter fishing business. “Who wants to go relax in a giant industrial zone?”

Storm brews over Ontario winds

A plan by SouthPoint Wind, a Canadian firm, to pepper the shores off western Ontario with 700 spinning wind turbines is setting off alarms.

“There’s already a groundswell of opposition,” said Rick Fryer, a councillor in Amherstburg, just north of one of the 13 proposed wind farms. “People are already unhappy with these on land, let alone what the sunset will look like through these in the lake.”

Charles Parcells, who lives in Grosse Pointe Park, has modeled how the turbines would look from the Grosse Pointes: like a long line of skinny palm trees on the horizon. “The view of Lake St Clair from the American shore will be transformed for the worse,” he said. Property values of expensive shoreline homes could drop, he said.

“The turbines could have a huge impact on boating and fishing on the lake, especially for those of us whose livelihood depends on the lake sustaining the quality of the recreational fishing it provides,” said Doug Cummings of Chesterfield Township, who runs a fishing charter business.

But some say it’s the future. Mark LaBelle of Clinton Township owns a powerboat and spends lots of time on Lake St. Clair. “Other countries are doing it, and if we want to stay a world leader on technology, we need to embrace some of these things,” he said. “I look at it as job creation.”

3 farms in Lake St. Clair

The turbines in the SouthPoint Wind project would be in 13 rectangular farms, three along southern Lake St. Clair and 10 along northern Lake Erie. The rectangles would be a mile out from shore, about a mile wide and 3 miles deep, with 55 turbines each.

The turbines would stick up 410 feet out of the water, atop pillars hammered into the lake bottom.

SouthPoint Wind is to submit its plans to the province of Ontario, which is pursuing large wind projects under its new Green Energy Act. The province had a moratorium on offshore wind projects on the Great Lakes after an outcry over plans by SouthPoint to put turbines in Lake Erie in 2006, but lifted the ban in 2008.

SouthPoint’s project would be larger than a similar plan on Lake Michigan near Ludington and Pentwater, which has drawn strong opposition from local residents and officials. That project was to have 100-200 turbines and generate 1,000 megawatts of power, 40% less than the Ontario wind farms.

Those two projects, plus an even larger one proposed for northern Lake Ontario, are “validation of the keen interest from wind developers to go offshore,” where wind is stronger and steadier than on land, said Skip Pruss, chairman of Michigan’s Great Lakes Offshore Wind Council. The council has identified Michigan waters where turbines could go and is working on legislation for such projects, which should be ready in March.

Officials at SouthPoint, headquartered in Leamington, declined to be interviewed, but answered questions by e-mail.

The company said many states around the Great Lakes are looking at wind power offshore, and by getting out in front with its plans, it hopes to spur wind manufacturers to locate in Ontario and create jobs.

Environmental concerns

The turbines would be near Point Pelee, a Canadian wildlife sanctuary, and the Detroit International Wildlife Refuge. “We’re in a sensitive eco-corridor,” said John Hartig, director of the Detroit refuge, which stretches along the shore 48 miles between Monroe and Detroit. The refuges are in a major pathway for migrating birds, bats and waterfowl. “Those are issues that would have to be dealt with,” he said.

In plan documents, SouthPoint acknowledges the wind farms could have an effect on animals, but says the effects would be small and outweighed by the benefits.

Gord Meuser is a member of Citizens against Lake Erie Wind Turbines, which has fought SouthPoint’s plans for turbines near Point Pelee since 2006. The group has consulted experts who have said wind farms could harm birds, waterfowl, bats and fish and the noise from them would disturb humans. The group is also concerned that building turbine bases on the lake bottom will kick up sediment contaminated with toxins.

“From everything we’ve seen, the government is plowing ahead without those concerns being answered,” Meuser said.

A spokeswoman for the Ontario Ministry of Environment said the company will be required to do environmental studies.

Ontario is to decide

Local residents don’t call the shots; the provincial government does, said Ruth Coursey, chief administrative officer in Lakeshore, Canada, on Lake St. Clair. Coursey likes the idea of wind energy replacing polluting coal plants. “I believe the province will act responsibly,” she said.

On the U.S. side, few people are aware of the project, since no notices are required here. But some are bothered by the prospect of turbines on the horizon and whether they’ll disrupt fishing and boating.

“I think the public outcry will be huge, since visually, they’re ugly,” said Cummings, who operates bass charters. “I do a lot of fishing in Canadian waters. The amount of turbines sounds insane.”

The turbines could be a boating hazard, he said.

“If they don’t let me fish in that zone, I’ll be vehemently opposed,” said John Maniaci, a professional fisherman who works with Bass Pro Shops. “But I know I’ll have no say-so, it’s the government of Canada.”

Contact TINA LAM: 313-222-6421 or tlam@freepress.com

6 thoughts on “Detroit Free Press: Will Canada’s wind turbines invade lakes?

  1. It is the government of Ontario. As so duly stated, the local residents, otherwise known as citizens of Ontario, have no say.
    Both countries have to protect our wonderful fresh water lakes, we citizens need to make that clear.

  2. This is what the wind companies and Dalton McGuinty feel is insignificant. Let’s throw Al Gore and David Suzuki into the mix too. How many more birds (bats and butterflies) will be maimed and killed along their migratory corridors because Mr. McGuinty and his cronies promoted their ideology based on the voodoo science published by the discredited IPCC?



  3. Why did Germany build two NEW coal plants? To power the turbines!!! This has never been tried in freshwater lakes. The sludge on the lake bottom will be stirred up, bad toxins will rise and get into our water system! Europe reports many bird deaths, Hawks, swans etc! This is a nightmare brought on by the McGuinty government of Ontario. I hope the Yanks declare war on us….. I’ll join THEM.

    How come we do not here about co2 Emissions being cut in Europe? Because they haven’t made a dint! BOON DOGGLE of the century!

  4. McGuinty and Gang Green will not even look up from their “Green Playbook” to address any concerns from anyone UNTIL their Wind Dream (nightmare) is completed!

    Then they will make comments that will make absolutely no sense in the real world about how Ontario “now leads the world in Green Technology” and “We have planted our flag on the world stage” and and…………so many more buzz words that makes absolutely no sense that your head will begin spinning before you can even understand one single explanation.

    These are the tactics being used now to deflect criticism and forge ahead with their money making “Wind Scam” and once completed all the Gang will retire into cushy feathered chairs lined with tax payers dollars while WE deal with a Province that will be not worth a “tinkers damn” to live in!

  5. What local residents have not yet considered is the effect that all these turbines will have on the night sky. I live near 126 wind turbines and find all those red lights blinking on and off very disturbing. So much for sitting on your deck on a summer evening and looking out over the lake, or taking a stroll along the beach. At night here, it looks like the middle of an industrial zone.

  6. It`s evident that the gov`t and South Point Wind WILL be going head on this 700 windmill project, reguardless what the people say! Now what happens when we find that the eco systems have been affected by these windmills…who pays..the citizens? What happens to the peoples livelyhoods that have been shattered..will the govt compensate them?
    I don`t believe they will, without a fight anyway.
    The gov`t says it will be a huge benifit to have clean energy..but when they find out that after the fact it has destroyed lives and eco systems..what benifit will that be anyone.
    What I do see is that public money will erect these clean energy monsters that need to be took down in 15 to 20 years because that is thier running expectantcy…then it will be public money to dismantel these monsters too..so I dont get how this will benifit us?
    Thats not even mentioning how ALL OUR hydro bills will sky rocket! Makes no sence

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