Both sides of debate respond to wind farm assessment

by Robin Burridge

LITTLE CURRENT—Community members both for and against wind energy have begun reviewing and preparing letters to submit to the Ministry of Environment (MOE) as part of the Northland Power (NPI) McLean’s wind farm renewable energy assessment (REA), which was posted on November 24 as part of a 60-day public review and comment period.

Last week The Expositor spoke with the McLean’s Mountain wind farm project manager, Rick Martin, who was excited for the project to be entering its next phase. “It has been a long time in the making and something we have been working on for the last eight years,” said Mr. Martin. “It’s important for the public, regardless of opinion, to take the time to view the information and comment.”

He stated that he hopes those who read the final reports will see all the careful work that NPI has done to ensure the environmental, ecological, aquatic and sociological integrity of the project.

The Expositor contacted various community members who have expressed public opioion regarding the project to see how they feel about the REA public review period and if they will be submitting comments.

Ray Beaudry, a spokesperson for the Manitoulin Coalition for Safe Energy Alternatives (MCSEA), said his organization has been reviewing the REA documents since they were posted online and discussing several issues they have found so far.

“A lot of it is propaganda,” stated Ms. Beaudry. “We have found several flaws that we are discussing and will be addressing.”

Mr. Beaudry said one of the issues that MCSEA has concerns about is a protected species permit the project would require to collect the bodies of eagles and hawks killed by the turbines.

“We discovered that they are actually allowed to have 18 eagles and hawks die per year before the government will intervene,” Mr. Beaudry stated. “This is just one example.”

“The big thing for us is that MCSEA and the opposition to the project is growing and this public review period will show the MOE just how much opposition really exists in the community,” added Mr. Beaudry. “MCSEA has already sent some comments in, but we are still reviewing and discussing. We will be submitting comments as a whole, as well as individuals submitting their own concerns and comments.”

He said it is MCSEA’s hope that after the public review session, the MOE will not approve the project due to “environmental and cultural endangerment to Manitoulin.”

Rosemary Wakegijig, a member of MCSEA and Wikwemikong elder said she too might be submitting comments during the pubic review and comment period.

“It is a lot of propaganda,” Ms. Wakegijig echoed. “They (NPI) are only telling us what we want to hear.”

Ms. Wakegijig told The Expositor that she thought it was unfair the REA documents were only available online and at the Northeast Town Public Library.

“They need to be transparent and should be available at all the Island libraries,” said Ms. Wakegijig.

She explained that her group of Wikwemikong elders and community members has already submitted an ‘anti-wind on Manitoulin’ petition to the MOE with over 545 signatures.

“We have a right to be concerned and to be skeptical,” said Ms. Wakegijig. “And we have a right to protect our mother earth.”

Bud Wilkin of Little Current said his son might be submitting comments as part of the REA public review period.

“It (the McLean’s wind farm) has been a long time in the making,” said Mr. Wilkin. “It has had a lot of opposition, but I would like to see it go forward for the community.”

Mr. Wilkin explained that he had been part of an economic development committee representing Island farmers, and has heavily explored wind energy prior to formulating an opinion. He said he went “down south and spoke with landowners and neighbours who were directly impacted by wind farms and did a lot of research.”

“After all my work I came to the conclusion that they were well received by most community members and landowners where I spoke with people and their research shows that they are environmentally friendly,” added Mr. Wilkin. “Some people are vocal about the way the turbines look, but that is in the eye of the beholder. I think that McLean’s Mountain is a good location, set back from town, but this is all just my opinion. I’ve been in favour of the project since it started.”

Mr. Wilkin concluded that he does not have a computer, but that his son might be submitting comments.

“I am hoping that others will as well, “ said Mr. Wilkin. “Again, I think it is a good thing for our community.”

The REA will be available online and at the Northeast Town Public Library until Monday, January 23. REA comments are to be submitted the senior project evaluator with the MOE, Kristina Rudzki, at the Environmental Approvals Branch, 2 St. Clair Avenue West, Floor 12A, Toronto, Ontario, M4L 1L5, or on the ministry website at, project reference number, 011-5195.