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REA on the horizon

Shadow flicker, low noise levels, ice throw and impact to nearby nesting birds from a proposed 18-turbine wind park on the Norwester Mountain Range will be negligible, according to a 700-page draft report produced for Horizon Wind Inc.
Nyhung Nguyen (Leith Dunick

Shadow flicker, low noise levels, ice throw and impact to nearby nesting birds from a proposed 18-turbine wind park on the Norwester Mountain Range will be negligible, according to a 700-page draft report produced for Horizon Wind Inc. that delves into a number of concerns expressed by the public.

The long-awaited preliminary renewable energy approval, expected to be released on Friday under the requirements of the provincial Green Energy Act, was produced with the input of more than 20 different outside sources.

Among its highlights: under worst-case scenario, low-noise impacts will meet Ministry of Environment levels of 40 decibels; only seven houses will be affected by shadow flicker, the worst for no more than 92 minutes a year; citing several sources, including a recently released report from Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, there are no adverse health effects; an ice throw assessment showed the probability of anyone living near a turbine being struck as being a once-in-every-500,000-year event; the 600-volt capacity of the turbines is 40 times less than voltage in power lines; the site is not a major migration route for birds; and finally construction will be timed to lessen the impact on nearby residents.

Project co-ordinator Nhung Nguyen said the report goes beyond the scope of what’s required under the Green Energy Act, but added she’s not sure if it will placate the wind farm’s opponents.

"I think this is part of the process and we have been asking for them to give us feedback. We have received feedback comments. This is our response with the EA and this is how we plan to mitigate those concerns," Nguyen said after providing media with an executive summary a day ahead of the full report’s public unveiling.

"Now we’re asking again, what do you think about our proposals for mitigation, and give us more feedback."

A pair of public hearings on Aug. 4 and 5, the first at the Blake Community Hall in Neebing, the second at the Lakehead Labour Centre, will be held more than 60 days after the report is released, in accordance with provincial policy. It will then be presented to the province as an official REA.

Margot Freitag, a vocal opponent of the wind farm and the spokeswoman for the Norwester Mountain Escarpment Protection Committee, said she didn’t need to wait two months to give an opinion.

After being read the details of the executive summary, Freitag said everything Horizon Wind will present in the report is easily refutable, adding the company should put its money where its mouth is and conduct a full environmental assessment, something it would have been required to do under federal regulations had the company continued with its plan to seek federal funds for the $75-million, 30 MW project.

"You don’t have to be a real expert to understand that there are major flaws in this process," Freitag said, reached Thursday afternoon.

The noise modeling conducted for the study is just one example, she noted, stating that the World Health Organization standards say that a 30-decibel threshold is the maximum people should be exposed to on a regular basis.

"An increase of 10 decibels is perceived by the human ear as doubling in sound," she said. "The WHO recommends 30 decibels to protect the most vulnerable groups – children, the elderly and the chronically ill."

Freitag also dismissed the REA’s shadow flicker results, saying they were conducted by computer modeling and not from real life experience.

She then attacked Ontario’s chief medical officer of health’s report, remarking that her federal counterpart has taken a more cautious approach and won’t rule out possible risks to humans from wind turbines.

"Health Canada says there are peer-reviewed articles indicating that wind turbines can cause adverse health effects."

Freitag concluded the Horizon Wind report is nothing more than smoke and mirrors, a sham conducted with the complicity of the provincial government.

"This is not an environmental assessment. This is a renewable energy approval process. There is no way this process will be denied. This report will not be denied. They just aren’t, because the (Dalton) McGuinty government is pushing them forward," Freitag said.
"The thing is there are huge problems clear across the globe (with similar projects). There is so much suppression going on that we need to stop the suppression and get the real information out to the public. People are getting sick, abandoning their homes, wildlife is getting wiped out.

"We need the wind industry to at least come out and acknowledge there are issues and they need to cite these (studies) properly and responsibly," Freitag said.

Nguyen said Horizon has bent over backwards to make nearby residents more comfortable with the plan and have maintained an air of transparency throughout the planning process.
But there’s only so much the company can do and some compromise must be met in order to secure the green energy she believes is the way of the future in Ontario.

"People will see the turbines. We can’t hide behind them behind the mountain. There will be construction for a short period of time, we estimate about eight months, where trucks will be going by. But we’re scheduling things so that we do it during the daytime when people are away," she said.

In addition to online versions of the report, available on Friday at, hard copy versions will also be housed at the Brodie Street and Waverly resource libraries, Thunder Bay city hall and the municipal office in Neebing.

Leith Dunick

About the Author: Leith Dunick

A proud Nova Scotian who has called Thunder Bay home since 2002, Leith is Dougall Media's director of news, but still likes to tell your stories too. Wants his Expos back and to see Neil Young at least one more time. Twitter: @LeithDunick
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