[Editor: If this is such a great thing for rural communities, why are police and extra security now necessary at all meetings?]
By Jamie Smith tbnewswatch.com
Security was beefed up to include extra guards and two police officers at Monday’s meeting. The crowd overflowed, leaving some members of the public to sit in the main lobby at city hall. Horizon Wind Inc. president Anthony Swig, project manager Nhung Nguyen and consultant Steven Wright spoke of the benefits the proposed 18 turbine project would bring to the region.
Nguyen said the project would bring 30 direct and 60 indirect jobs. She said the city would also benefit from the lease agreement with Horizon because Thunder Bay doesn’t have to invest in the project.
“What we’re talking about here is rent to the city coffers, taxes, knowledge transfer, a $15 million tax infusion and jobs,” said Nguyen. “These are the direct benefits.”
City development manager Mark Smith estimated the lease agreements could bring the city as much as $275,000 a year once the turbines become active.
When questioned about health and safety concerns, Zwig said the concerns are “last year’s news”. Through restrictions under the Green Energy Act, Zwig said the province spent 18 months developing a policy that they feel is safe. With the nearest turbine expected to be around 600 metres from the nearest resident, Zwig said Horizon is following rules that the province has governed as safe.
“We feel comfortable that if we follow the rules, that everybody’s health is not in danger,” Zwig said.
As for light flicker, Nguyen said tests done by Horizon show that at a worst case scenario, the closest house to a wind turbine would see six hours of flickers in a year.
The project could attract manufacturing jobs as more turbines are being proposed around the region said Wright. Although he couldn’t speak about specifics, he said the region could see as many as 350 turbines around the North shore. With shipping costs of the wind turbine equipment being prohibitive, Zwig said manufacturers are looking at producing turbines in Ontario because of the steps taken by the Ontario government.
” Ontario right now is almost unique in Orth America in employing that system and it’s very attractive and frankly more attractive than the traditional system,” Zwig said.
When councillors such as Frank Pullia and Aldo Ruberto questioned Zwig about moratoriums on wind projects requested by 41 municipalities across Ontario, Zwig said the requests are probably out of frustration more than health concerns. As the province took authority away from municipalities under the GEA, Zwig said the municipalities probably felt that requesting a moratorium was all they could do.
” They’re doing this because it’s the only way they can make a statement,” Zwig said.
While Zwig seemed satisfied with his answers to council , members of the Nor’Wester Mountain Escarpment Protection Committee weren’t convinced. Sam Bachinski said Horizon didn’t do a very good job addressing the concerns his group have been raising since last fall.
“They didn’t deal with anything other than saying ‘we’re all going to rely on the Green Energy Act,” said Bachinksi. ” The province didn’t do independent health studies when they did this we know that. There were no health studies done….what they’re (Horizon) saying is wrong.”
Bachinski said his group wants to see the city break the contract they have with Horizon or at least request that the company move their proposed sites further away from residents.
“They can do it and they should do it now while Horizon still hasn’t invested a lot of money in this,” said Bachinski.
The group is planning on making their own deputation to council. An environmental assessment of the project is expected in the next few months.