Wind projects dividing communities

by Ruth Farquhar, Sudbury Star

This is the second instalment on the industrial wind turbine project on McLeans Mountain here on the Island.

After attending the open house put on by Northland Power and Mnidoo Mnising Power Corporation (MMPC), I received a couple of phone calls telling me I had missed an example of how this project has divided the community.

According to the local press, tempers flared at the end of the meeting, with Bud Wilkin, a farmer and landowner who has leased land to Northland Power, yelling at Ray Beaudry, one of the Directors of Manitoulin Safe Energy Alternatives and accused him of dividing the community. Beaudry calmly said, “This is what projects like this do, I’m not dividing the community, this project is.”

That’s it in a nutshell. It seems to be happening wherever turbines are proposed in Ontario. These projects have divided communities from one end of this province to the other.

Currently, there are 80 municipalities that have asked the province to put a moratorium on wind turbines, but those requests have fallen on deaf ears. As a matter of fact, the province’s Green Energy Act takes away municipalities’ power on the siting and approval of turbines.

So, even if the township of Central Manitoulin has concerns about turbines going up in Sandfield and the residents are letting their councillors know they don’t want them, the township won’t be able to stop them.

This scenario isn’t as far away as you might think. According to an Ontario Power Authority document, there are “projects which are awaiting electrical connection test,” which means they are waiting for room on the grid.

The locations of these projects are identified as Gore Bay, Billings with access through Rockville and Wikwemikong.

Then there are the projects that may proceed once existing transmission lines are expanded. Looking at the map in the document, it appears to be McLeans Mountain another 73 turbines, Sandfield area south of Lake Manitou, South Bay Mouth and Kagawong areas. The total turbines, should these projects go ahead, are 347.

In a 2009 column, I quoted a letter that was written on Dec. 14, 2006 to the Ontario Power Authority, which said, “Manitoulin has been identified as an area to be exploited for wind generation.” At the time, I found it hard picturing what this could do to Manitoulin, not anymore.

If residents of Northeastern Manitoulin and the Islands have been so divided on the McLeans project, imagine what it will do to the rest of the Island with the number of projected industrial turbines proposed.

If I had any doubts as to the conflict in communities, I don’t after the open house. Walking around the room, I overheard comment after comment from people concerned about health issues, property values, property rights and wildlife.

Then I heard this: “If we can just hold out until October.”

One small group of people were discussing what would happen if Premier Dalton McGuinty loses the election. If anything changes should the Liberals lose remains to be seen but, it’s not hard to see that McGuinty is losing traction in areas where conflict exists because of turbine projects. Was McGuinty so out of touch with Ontarians that he thought no one would oppose turbine projects in their own communities?

If he didn’t see his Green Energy Act coming back to bite him, he should have and as a result, we are all paying the price.

I keep thinking of an article I read in the Ottawa Citizen that quoted a couple from Wolfe Island. Gail and Edward Kenny say the 28 turbines they can see from their house have devalued their property and have destroyed their natural heritage. Gail said the once abundant deer have fled and the short-eared owl has all but disappeared from the Island’s west end. They also talked of the red lights on the turbines that flash every three seconds.

I keep wondering if the same will happen here. Will the deer disappear? Will the flashing red lights destroy the Dark Sky Preserve designation for the Island? Will we go from being a renowned tourist destination to just a place with industrial turbines?

The elders also had concerns about tourism, with Mary Gaiask saying, “If they are allowed to put these monsters up, our tourists won’t come and then what will happen to the people of the Island?”

Good question. One all Islanders need to ask themselves before more projects take place.

Ruth Farquhar is a freelance writer based on Manitoulin Island.

4 thoughts on “Wind projects dividing communities

  1. I think Dalton needs to realize that it takes a big man (or woman) to recognize a mistake, admit it, and do what he can to correct it. It might not save him in the election but it would save his self respect.

  2. I feel for the people of Manitoulin Island. It is criminal to see the devastation proposed for such a beautiful place.
    On a lighter note… maybe all those propellers will lift the island right out of Lake Huron and it could drop down in Toronto at Queen’s Park. Then the Golden Horseshoe voters would get to see what these IWT things do to communities.

  3. Among other things…

    Wind farm security: Taking the wind out of protesters

    30 May 2011

    Whether their arguments carry weight or not, anti-wind protestors can cause significant headaches to wind farm operators. There are ways to lessen the level of opposition, however.

    By Jason Deign in Barcelona

    Anyone who thinks anti-wind farm protestors are essentially a harmless bunch should consider Richard Herbert. On Monday evening, May 21, 2007, the 47-year-old father of three drowned himself in a water-filled drain near his farm at St John’s Fen End, King’s Lynn, UK.

    It is believed Herbert, who had been getting treatment for mental health problems, cracked over opposition to a wind farm planned on his land. Protestors had threatened legal action and brought down a GBP£100,000-plus anemometer in previous weeks.

    But ultimately the easiest and most successful strategy for dealing with unhappy neighbours may be to pay them, either directly with a small annual sum or through a community fund.

    That is because, irrespective of what they say, most protestors’ main concern is financial, says Brett Prior, senior analyst at GTM Research, the market research arm of Green Tech Media. “A lot of people have a huge chunk of their total net worth sunk into their home,” he says.

    “And if this is going to affect the value of their home, they will fight it.”

    To respond to this article, please write to: Jason Deign:

    That about covers it….

  4. Hey Ruth…
    You can be sure Manitoulin will suffer the same fate if the turbines go up!!!! Living in a 100 MW project… the red lights are horrific (but we were all told that a new radar system would turn the lights on only when aircraft approached). The light pollution is hugely added to by the lights from the transformer stations. I have yet to hear any screech owls (I used to hear them a lot!) or the Great Horned that hooted around 4:30 AM in the trees towering over my house since the turbines started up.
    Don’t fool yourselves … there is nothing environmentally friendly about turbines .

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