Wind farm stirs up friction between first nations

The Globe and Mail
The rugged shores and forests that skirt Lake Superior have long lured natural-resource hunters. In the mid-1800s, British and Canadian prospectors came in search of copper and other lucrative minerals. Nearly a century later, the Group of Seven visited to draw inspiration from the land and water for their unforgettable canvases of Canada.

Today, the wind is drawing a new breed of resource seekers to the region and stirring up friction between some aboriginal groups. One energy project in particular is dividing the Batchewana and Anishinabek first nations. Led by Calgary-based BluEarth Renewables, the Bow Lake Wind Farm proposes to erect 36 turbines predominantly on provincial Crown land about 80 kilometres northwest of Sault Ste. Marie, near the eastern edge of Lake Superior and just south of the Montreal River.

The crux of the dispute isn’t the size of the turbines or their noise, factors that underlie myriad other wind-farm battles in Ontario. This quarrel centres on territory and which aboriginal group has the right to an economic share of the 60-megawatt project and its guaranteed cash flow under Ontario’s green-energy program.

For Batchewana, the stakes are high. The first nation, which includes about 2,500 members, has a 50-per-cent stake in the $240-million wind farm, which has been in the works since 2007. Once the Bow Lake energy project is connected to the power grid, it is projected to deliver $2-million annually for nearly two decades to the Batchewana community, money that Chief Dean Sayers said will be used to address local needs, such as housing and economic development.

The Anishinabek’s opposition, which surfaced publicly last week, could delay the project’s construction and lead to financial penalties for missed deadlines, Mr. Sayers said. Read article

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