By Jonathan Sher The London Free Press
Wind farms shouldn’t be allowed offshore in Lake Huron until there is peer-reviewed research to assess risks to the lake and its shoreline, an advocacy group says.
The Lake Huron Centre for Coastal Conservation was formed in 1998 by former conservation officials after environmental cuts by the Mike Harris-led Tory government.
But now the centre has set its sights on the push by Dalton McGuinty’s Liberals to create wind farms across the province — there have been 12 applications to build them offshore in Lake Huron.
“We felt there wasn’t enough research to understand what the implications are,” said Geoff Peach, who spent 10 years co-ordinating shoreline management for the Saugeen Valley and Maitland Valley conservation authorities.
It’s true there are offshore wind farms in Europe but those are in salt water and not subjected to the ice of the Great Lakes, he said.
“Can (wind turbines) withstand wind, waves and ice?” he said.
Peach fears that turbines will:
- Interfere with the passage of birds and bats that tend to fly near the shore; bats elsewhere have been often killed by turbines.
- Damage the ecology in the lake bed and along the shore.
- Hurt sport and commercial fishing.
- Jeopardize drinking water from leaks of lubricant fluids.
It’s not enough, said Peach, to accept the research of wind companies who want to build in the lake — all levels of government should insist on independent research that is peer reviewed.
Such research will take time, and until it’s finished, Queen’s Park shouldn’t allow wind farms in the lake, he said.
“It makes sense to slow down and catch your breath.”
The Ontario government should also commit to meaningful consultation with citizens and First Nations people especially, Peach said.
He owns a cottage along the lake but he and his professional partner, Patrick Donnelly, bring years of experience to the issue of protecting the lake and its shoreline,
Donnelly is the watershed program manager for the City of London that draws most of its water from Lake Huron, and formally worked for and advised conservation authorities along Lake Huron.
Their objection adds substance to complaints by cottagers that have emerged over the summer as they learned of the applications for wind farms.
“There’s been a groundswell of people expressing concern,” Peach said.