By Jonathan Sher The London Free Press
Ontario’s Natural Resources Ministry is considering constraints on offshore wind farms but it’s not clear the limits will appease a wave of protest from those living along Lake Huron.
The ministry published a draft policy this week that, if adopted, might exclude from development areas in the lake where there are:
- boating lanes
- core commercial fishing
- sensitive ecology
- important recreational uses
- cultural heritage
- natural-gas activity
There also may be limits on development in inland lakes and other water bodies.
The proposed limits drew a quick and co-ordinated response from Southwestern Ontario MPPs who’ve been criticized by constituents for doing little to create safeguards against land-based and offshore wind turbines.
Carol Mitchell of Huron-Bruce and Pat Hoy of Chatham-Kent-Essex both issued releases saying, “These tough new regulations would make sure our drinking water and the sensitive Lake Huron environment are protected.”
They were joined by a third Liberal MPP, Bruce Crozier of Essex, who wrote, “This is yet another clear sign that the government has listened to the residents of my riding and I encourage the public to continue (making) their views known by commenting on this proposal.”
His claim might anger residents in Huron County, who say their pleas have long fallen on deaf ears.
The head of a citizens’ group called Huron-Kinloss Against Lakeside Turbines (HALT) could barely contain her anger when asked about how the Liberal government had responded to complaints and fears over turbines that can be placed as close as 550 metres from farm homes.
“Dammit. People matter, too — we are getting sick out here,” said Cheryl Murray.
Still, she said, she was relieved the Natural Resources Ministry had proposed some limitations on offshore turbines. She encouraged residents and cottagers to e-mail and phone the ministry to make sure it follows through with tough rules.
“They need to submit comments,” she said.
Those who want to make comments must do so by Oct. 4 by phoning the ministry at (705) 755-1499 or by going online to www.ebr.gov.on.ca, typing in the registration number of 011-0907 and clicking on the submit button.
Meanwhile, a Tuesday deadline for public comments is approaching for a proposal by the Environment Ministry to forbid wind-farm development within 5 kilometres of shore.
Mitchell, who is also Ontario’s agriculture minister, has asked the Environment Ministry to extend that deadline. Many residents just learned of the proposal in the last week or two.
Three companies whose identities the Ontario government hasn’t disclosed have applied to build 12 wind farms in Lake Huron, one as close to shore as 50 metres, the hoped-for development and uncertainty fueling anger among cottagers and residents who fear turbines.