Horizon Wind Inc. is once again bullying the province and the city into moving forward with its proposed wind farm project, says the president of an opposition group.
Construction crews started clearing paths in the bush area about five kilometres from Loch Lomond Ski Area’s main lodge about a week ago. Horizon Wind sent out a newsletter in July telling neighbours in the area that they were tree trimming in order to do tests and studies.
The company is still waiting to hear from the province for approval before moving forward with its project to build a wind farm on the Nor’Wester Mountain Escarpment.
John Beals, president of the Nor’Wester Mountain Escarpment Protection Committee, said Horizon hasn’t received approval to start construction in any form and believes the company doesn’t have permission to clear or cut any trees down.
“One-hundred-and-twenty-year-old trees are getting cut,” he said. “Birch trees that you can’t put your arms around are being cut. It’s just wrong and they shouldn’t be allowed to do it. I think Horizon is once again bullying and pushing the Ontario government and the city to their limits.”
Beals admitted that he doesn’t know if the company is in violation of its agreement with the city since he hasn’t seen it but said that he believes city council and the community have been misled.
Horizon Wind spokeswoman Kathleen MacKenzie said the company is doing a geotechnical assessment where they need to drill into the soil for samples and to test the geological conditions. The drilling is a necessary step before moving forward with the design work.
But in order to bring the machines up the side of the mountain, construction crews have to do tree trimming. The trimming resulted in a wide trail that’s big enough to drive an excavator through.
She said this process is done for all construction projects and added she doesn’t recall the city saying that the company couldn’t cut down any trees. She did say they would keep the trimming to a minimum.
“We’ve only done it to the extent necessary to bring up the equipment,” she said Wednesday.
“Luckily for us there’s a ton of existing trails in the area. That has saved us from doing a lot of tree clearing. It’s necessary to clear a path for some of these drillings machines but that’s all we’re doing. We’ve been criticized in the past for not doing enough of these soil samples, which can only be obtained by drilling. It’s so routine.”
MacKenzie added the lease they have with the city allows for this kind of study to happen.
She suspects the on-site testing will be wrapped up within a month.
“Horizon knows how important the trees are to the Thunder Bay community,” she said. “We’re taking great care to preserve as much as many of them as possible.”