by Lindsay Kelly Manitoulin Expositor
NORTHEAST TOWN-With less than a month to go before Northland Power holds its final public consultation session for the proposed McLean’s Mountain Wind Farm project, the nearby Sheguiandah First Nation has voiced its opposition to the project.
In a letter addressed to the Northeast Town council, the community makes a brief, but unequivocal, statement that suggests the project should be halted until proper consultation is done with First Nations.
The letter is “a response to the proposed wind farm at McLean’s Mountain,” and advises the Northeast Town “that Sheguiandah First Nation supports a wind turbine moratorium at this time, and further, Sheguiandah First Nation opposes the use of unopened road allowances by Northland Power until the matter of ownership is settled (1990 Land Claims), and we ask that this moratorium stay in place until there is meaningful consultation with Northland Power, the government of Ontario and local First Nations.”
The statement follows a similar letter submitted in January by Aundeck Omni Kaning First Nation chief and council that indicated it would not support the project. In it, they cite a need for studies on the effect of wind turbines on human health, as well as establishing appropriate turbine setbacks from dwellings before the community would get on board. As the project stands now, “the council of Aundeck Omni Kaning is vehemently opposed to any such project development,” the letter reads.
Sheguiandah First Nation Chief Orville Augonie was not available for comment at press time to comment on the issue. However, Northeast Town Mayor Jim Stringer said the matter is out of the hands of the Northeast Town council.
“It’s really and truly addressed to the wrong people in an important way,” he said of the letter. “It’s Northland that has to do the consultation with the First Nations, not us.”
The letter should more appropriately be sent to Northland Power or the province, since “we’re not the approving agency” to make changes to the project, the mayor added.
The Northeast Town council will be meeting tonight (Wednesday, March 3) to discuss the McLean’s Mountain Wind Farm project; specifically, council will look to approve a road use agreement with the developer, as well as the municipal response to the consultation required by Northland.
Regarding the road use agreement, council will focus on laying out Northland’s responsibilities to the municipality to ensure no damage occurs to its infrastructure during the construction and maintenance of the project. For example, if Northland were to cause damage to a local road during winter maintenance, the company would take responsibility for its restoration.
But because of the structure of the Green Energy Act, the municipality has no authority to deny the company access to the road allowances, the mayor said; still, the municipality can lay out stipulations regarding the condition of the infrastructure.
“Northland, assuming they’re granted the approvals, would be the power producer and transmitter, and therefore would have legal right under the Electricity Act to use the road allowances for this purpose,” Mayor Stringer said. “So, really, all this agreement that I believe we’re going to finalize on Wednesday will do is just spell out the details of that.”
The response to Northland’s municipal consultation is due in a few weeks, so council will also be finalizing that document for submission to the province. It will outline any concerns the council has with regard to municipal infrastructure that could be impacted by the project, such as roads, water or sewer.
Developers are required, under the Green Energy Act, to provide the municipality a consultation form to complete before its final public consultation; Northland has scheduled the information centre for Monday, March 22.
Mayor Stringer reiterated that the municipality is limited in its ability to influence the project in its late stages, noting that, should the town voice major concerns with the project, the ministry would mandate that Northland meet the town’s conditions before providing approvals.
But the mayor said it’s unlikely the town would introduce concerns that could not be overcome, especially to the extent that the project could be halted, as some opponents of the wind farm might like to see happen.
“I doubt that we would come up with anything, in terms of infrastructure, that would stop the project,” Mayor Stringer said. “Realistically, there isn’t any significant infrastructure that would be seriously impacted, and the impacts are easily dealt with.”