by Scott Dunn, Collingwood Enterprise Bulletin
Some Grey County councillors Tuesday criticized Hydro One for what some said appeared to be a “lack of clarity” concerning its power line upgrades for a wind farm.
The company which owns Plateau Wind Farm, south of Maxwell in southeastern Grey County, is paying Hydro to upgrade the lines, county meeting minutes say. A Hydro One spokeswoman confirmed Wednesday that’s common practice.
Blue Mountains Deputy-Mayor Duncan McKinlay told county council Tuesday that Hydro One approached him for permission to anchor new, bigger hydro poles on his family’s property at Ravenna.
Hydro called the work, along Grey Road 2, “routine” and never mentioned upgrades were to service power from the planned Plateau Wind Inc. project down the road, he said. That company is part of what was formerly International Power Canada Inc, now IPR GDF Suez.
McKinlay said he’s not necessarily opposed to wind farms but objected to a “lack of clarity” from Hydro One as to the purpose of the upgrades.
“I was left with the understanding this was just a routine improvement to the power grid,” he said. Grey County council signalled its concerns about wind power a year ago when it asked staff to investigate whether to prepare a bylaw to control turbine development based on health concerns.
Tuesday county council passed a committee recommendation calling for Hydro One to hold a public information session regarding its tree-cutting project related to the line upgrades along Grey Rd. 2, and made that request on behalf of the lower-tier municipalities too.
At a council meeting break, McKinlay said Hydro told him replacement of existing hydro poles on municipal road allowances with larger poles required anchors placed on private property, including his.
“I’m a reasonable fellow, I thought if it’s for the good of the country I’d go along, right? There’s some debate whether wind power’s for the good of the country though, isn’t there?”
Hydro contacted him two or three weeks ago for permission. “But I guess they want to get going right away.”
He understands the line construction could affect some of the county’s “living snow fence,” planted years ago to reduce drifting snow on Grey Rd. 2 near Ravenna.
County input should be sought to ensure new poles don’t have to be moved for future road widening.
At minimum, the county is seeking a public meeting, he said. Asked if he’s opposed to wind power, he said “I haven’t been convinced that it’s the best option.”
But he said concerns about wind power is “the subtext, I mean, the long and the short of it is, just tell us what’s going on and let other people know.”
“I’m not inferring there was an agenda. I’m just saying there’s an opportunity for more communication. And I hope Hydro will take this opportunity.”
Gary Shaw, director of county transportation and public safety, told council Tuesday he already contacted Hydro One about the meeting request. “Hydro said they don’t have time to hold a public information session,” Shaw said.
A lawyer was consulted and believes Hydro can’t cut trees and locate poles on county road allowances without county permission.
Hydro One spokeswoman Daniele Gauvin said once it receives the county resolution it will contact the warden.
Hydro will also contact the Grey Highlands mayor about that community’s request for a public meeting for the same issue. She said Hydro received its resolution Wednesday.
County Warden Arlene Wright said “we really do need to be forceful” and added “Ontario Hydro can be a bit of a bully.”
Grey Highlands Deputy-Mayor Paul McQueen started the council discussion about the Hydro One work. He said his main concern was to ensure the public is informed about the tree-cutting because “nobody knows what’s going on.”
Gauvin said: “I am told that we will be following up with the (Grey Highlands) mayor to discuss the resolution and how we could communicate with residents about the line upgrade.”
At a recent Grey Highlands council meeting, David Timm, IPC’s vice-president of strategic affairs, expressed frustration with Grey Highlands council for causing costly delays in its project.
The municipality has not granted building and entrance permits after application was made one year ago and now the turbines are coming in June/July, he said.°