Wind industry threatens navigable waters

Kingston Whig Standard

The Whig-Standard responded in an editorial to the announcement of the latest local wind speculation on the shoals of the St. Lawrence River by questioning the government’s wisdom of awarding a contract for an unprecedented offshore project in advance of any regulatory framework or environmental assessment regime.

“Why has the government approved a project for which it admits regulations must be created? This creates an unfair process.” (Renewable energy projects pose unanswered questions, April 21).

It would seem clear from subsequent statements by Ben Chin of the Ontario Power Authority and by the silence of local MPP and Minister of Environment, John Gerretsen, that the government intends to continue to invite private industry to shape the regulations for wind energy experiments, including the first offshore development in Canada at the mouth of the St. Lawrence River.

And while mariners, fishers and divers watch from the shoreline, they and generational residents of the area who are personally invested in the sustainability of the river are beginning to formulate some important questions for their elected representatives.

Has the government of Canada confirmed that Ian Baines’ foreign backers will be granted a lease for the lakebed? What type of restitution will be provided to Canadians for the amount of lakebed occupied and fishery destroyed? Will they be permitted to flip the lease to a succession of investors and companies — Canadian or foreign- owned — as Baines did previously with the Wolfe Island onshore project?

Will the navigable waters surrounding the turbines be leased for the exclusive use of private industrial interests? What expanse of waters surrounding these turbines will our government cede to Baines and his backers? Will others be prohibited from navigating the waters, fishing the ancient network of reefs and shoals, diving the historic wrecks, sailing the Olympic circuits or otherwise using the river for research or recreation?

How will the private control of these shoals be policed? Will the Ontario Provincial Police or the Coast Guard control the waters on the company’s behalf? Will taxpayers or the company pay for the acquisition and installation of buoys, markers and other devices to aid policing? Will boaters in the area be required to produce identification or written permission to navigate the water? What will be the consequence for non-compliance?

Many residents of Kingston, Wolfe, Simcoe and Amherst islands, Cape Vincent and Prince Edward County — the people of the northern United States and Ontario who have for generations traversed this river — believe that the use, preservation and enjoyment of the mighty St. Lawrence’s navigable waters and fishery is their birthright. At what point and by what means will they be informed that they are wrong?

Leslie Kaduck Ottawa