By Karen McKinley
The debate over the proposed Big Thunder Wind Park is far from over as corporate representatives and private citizens debated the merits and concerns of the project this week.
Horizon Wind, Inc., held open houses in Thunder Bay on Wednesday and Thursday. The Nor‘Wester Escarpment Protection Committee held its own open house on Thursday, across the hall from the Horizon Wind forum.
“Generally, I am pleased with how people are receiving our project,” Horizon Wind CEO Anthony Zwig said Thursday in an interview. “(Wednesday‘s) meeting got a little heated with a few people, but overall most people seemed happy with what we had to say to them and were in favour of the park.”
The heat Zwig referred to came from a group of opponents at the first open house. He said he‘s seen them before and expected more of the same Thursday.
“We‘ve answered their questions many times before and they keep asking the same things over again,” Zwig said. “We‘ve shown in opinion polls most people in the city support the wind farm and we are happy to answer any questions the public may have.”
The open houses included one-on-one sessions with representatives from Horizon Wind, Firedog Communications and M.K. Ince and Associates, and covered topics,like the environment, corporate interests and public relations.
Residents were also invited to write down questions to be read to Horizon Wind representatives during Thursday‘s forum, a change from Wednesday‘s format, which Zwig said almost got out of hand because of a few people dominating the discussion.
The protection committee, said president Irene Bond, held an open house in the interest of fairness.
“We want to give people a balanced picture over the wind park and let others know there‘s another side to this,” Bond said.
The concern she and other wind farm opponents have, Bond said, is missing information in reports and mistakes in research.
“Some seen small, but if Horizon Wind supposedly needs to follow provincial guidelines, then what are they doing to address these holes in their research papers?” Bond asked.
She said the committee wants the province and Horizon Wind to conduct more research on the Nor‘Wester Escarpment to make sure there will be little to no negative impact on the environment and residents should the park be built, rather than refer to research conducted in other parts of the world.
Debate arose Thursday among residents.
Jason Susin, a member of Opportunity Thunder Bay, said his group supports the proposed wind farm as a chance to encourage economic growth and attract tourists.
“What we want to do is build an international athletics school preferably on the escarpment and form a partnership with Horizon Wind to expand our interests,” Susin said. “I‘m glad there‘s a company that wants to invest $70 million in our city and move here. We should embrace them, not get angry.” He said the group sees the potential for tourists coming to the city to see the turbines up close, adding he‘s convinced they are safe.
“I believe most people are in favour of these turbines,‘‘ he said. “It‘s just a small but loud group that is against this. “It‘s a pattern with any kind of development in Thunder Bay.”
Neebing resident Kim Manduca questioned how wind turbines could be good for the area.
“I do believe there is a place for wind energy and it has its benefits, but I don‘t think they should be that close to people,” she said. “Furthermore, I want to know how an outside corporation can cut down the equivalent of two football-sized fields of trees, when residents like me can‘t cut down a tree without risking being fined.
“Progress for the city shouldn‘t come at the expense of those living here.”