By BARB PACHOLIK, Regina Leader-Post
REGINA — Some landowners in southeastern Saskatchewan have turned to the courts to press for significant changes to a $60-million wind farm project.
“We think we’re going to be successful in preventing them from building this close to people’s houses,” said Brad Jamieson, the Saskatoon lawyer representing area residents who recently filed a class-action lawsuit.
His clients are concerned by the proximity of the turbines to be erected under the Red Lily Wind Farm Project. The 25-megawatt wind farm will be located about five kilometres west of Moosomin, the first wind power project in that corner of the province.
The Red Lily Wind Power Limited Partnership, owned by Algonquin Power Inc. and Gaia Power, got approval from the rural municipalities of Martin and Moosomin in the spring. Work on roads and foundations to prepare for the planned 16 turbines got underway this summer.
Jamieson said that while his clients aren’t opposed to wind power or the Red Lily project itself, they simply want to ensure the location of the turbines is much further from homes than is currently planned.
After some landowners first raised concerns earlier this year, setback distances for the turbines were increased to a minimum of 550 metres from any residence. An Algonquin spokesperson said at the time that the distances would in fact be greater for most of the turbines.
However, Jamieson said his clients want assurances that the turbines won’t be any closer than 2,000 metres.
Saskatoon lawyer Doug Hodson, who represents Red Lily, said it was just served with the lawsuit last week, but certainly intends to file a defence.
The landowners want work on the project put on hold while the lawsuit is outstanding.
An interim court order was made last week bringing “all construction-related activity” to a halt pending the outcome of an injunction application. Hodson said Red Lily has since applied to have that interim order set aside. Arguments will be heard in a Saskatoon courtroom today.
Regardless of whether or not the interim order stands, both sides are scheduled to be back in court Sept. 7, when a judge is to hear the application for the injunction.
Earlier this year, some residents in the area circulated a petition seeking a “health, welfare and safety zone” around the turbines. As a result, the RM of Martin, where 14 of the turbines are to be located, struck a committee for further study. Ultimately, the RM council decided the project, which has been in development since 2004, should proceed. However, setbacks were increased from the original plan of a 400-metre minimum.
Some residents have raised concerns about potential health impacts from the turbines. Algonquin has responded by citing an industry study that disputes a link between wind turbines and health.
The wind farm was expected to be operational by late this year or early next year.