By Denis Langlois, Owen Sound Sun Times
Officials at the Bruce Trail Conservancy say the charitable group is “neither for nor against” industrial wind turbines, but “objects strongly” to the lack of public consultation for the proposed Silcote Corners Wind Farm northeast of Owen Sound.
“The BTC is deeply concerned about the process that is being followed in siting these kinds of facilities. Under the Green Energy Act, local input to the decision-making is minimal to nonexistent,” Ed Hazell, president of the Hamilton-based group, wrote in a letter to Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty.
“We wish to reiterate our opposition to any project that does not take into account the impact on the escarpment environment, the views of the local community and in particular the landowners who are most affected by these projects. For this reason we object strongly to the process being followed for the Silcote Corners Wind Farm project.”
International Power Canada has announced plans to erect 26 wind turbines, capable of producing 48.6 megawatts of electricity, in an area near Annan.
The proponents are waiting to find out if there’s capacity in the area’s transmission system to take electricity produced by the turbines, company officials told Meaford council in May.
The Bruce Trail Conservancy wrote a letter to McGuinty on Feb. 18. Executive director Beth Kümmling said the group received a letter back from the premier’s office, which says their letter has been received and forwarded to the Ministry of the Environment. The group has not yet received a response from the MOE, she said.
Kümmling said the purpose of their letter was not to object to the Silcote Corners project, but to urge the province to consider “more carefully” the views of local residents and “take their views into account in a more meaningful way.
“It’s our observation that the process that these types of things follow is not appropriate,” she said in an interview this week.
The Bruce Trail Conservancy decided to add its voice to the discussion on the proposed wind farm because the plan is to install turbines in an area that includes “land on and adjacent to the Niagara Escarpment and the Bruce Trail,” the letter to McGuinty says.
“In the course of our work in establishing and maintaining the Bruce Trail, our volunteers maintain close contact with landowners along the trail route who allow passage of the trail across their land. In recent discussions with landowners in the vicinity of the Silcote project, we have come to understand how disruptive and divisive the project has been to the local residents.
“Many residents are landowners along our trail and/or members of our organization. They have their personal views on the proposal, some for and some against, many raising concerns about health impacts, devaluation of their land, and general loss of aesthetic enjoyment of the rural landscape.
“In April 2009 we wrote to the province expressing our concern over the implications of Bill 150, which, under the Green Energy Act, overrides local planning considerations and the input of the local community.”
Kümmling said Bruce Trail Conservancy members, who are “deeply concerned” about the Silcote project, asked the group to make a formal statement on the plan.