New wind farm causes storm of controversy in eastern P.E.I.

Steve Sharratt comment@theguardian.pe.ca
Published on June 5, 2012

SOURIS — Wind power is creating a storm of controversy these days as a battle is erupting over the location of a second wind farm that could generate $9-million for the region of eastern Kings.

Camps concerned with noise and health issues, losing potential income, and summer cottagers from the U.S. threatening legal action, are all part of the mix that’s whipping up windmill woe for the local community council representing the area east of Souris.

And the issue, that exploded at a meeting last week with upset landowners, is now on the agenda of the North East (P.E.I.) Community Alliance which has been asked to provide input when it meets this week.

“It’s not our jurisdiction, it’s up to the community, but we will provide some help if we can and if we’re asked,’’ NECA interim chairman Steve Cheverie said Monday. “We won’t tell people what to do, but we do support the council who are not opposed to windmills, just the site proposed by government.”

The request for NECA to review the situation follows a meeting held last week by landowners at the Munn’s Road Community Centre. Some landowners are upset the Eastern Kings community council — which was not present — has failed to support a community referendum held this spring that approved the proposed second wind farm in a 171 to 137 vote.

However, the meeting wasn’t unanimous against the council’s change of heart. Many were concerned about the health effects of more windmills and the possible property devaluation. Some have even threatened the council with legal action over the matter if they allow the turbines to go ahead. The government is now considering an alternate site at the crossroads of Hermanville on the northeastern shore where barely two dozen people reside.

“It’s getting to be a very hot issue,’’ said Souris Mayor David MacDonald.

“Some of the most vocal are some wealthy from away people who have cottages in the region and say it will spoil their properties. They weren’t allowed to vote as I understand it and not being full-time taxpayers, why should they?”

Cheverie said NECA — a new group representing the entire eastern peninsula — would support the local community council, but not tell them what to do. The council had recommended a second site for government (further from homes in the area), but the province found it unacceptable because of less wind.

“I think the landowners called the meeting last week to drum up more local support for their cause, but it didn’t quite turn out that way,’’ said Cheverie, who was not in attendance. “There’s a misconception that the council has said no to windmills….that’s not the case, they just wanted a second location to be used that was less invasive.”

A second wind farm would add 30 megawatts to the province’s electricity production and bump total production from wind to the 30 per cent range. Finance Minister Wes Sheridan said there will be about $9-million over a 15-year period on the table. The financial incentives include $200,000 for landowners, and a $125,000 annual trust for the community.

The landowner meeting last week said it would form a corporation to take control of the proposed wind turbine expansion and sue the council for lost revenue. Fisherman Walter Bruce said council failed to honour a referendum in April in favour of the wind farm and some residents were fear mongering over adverse health effects. There is also controversy over the wording of the referendum question; “are you in favour of a new wind farm in our community?”

The council, which did not attend the landowners meeting, opted against the referendum decision saying the province would not consider another location for the new wind farm further from private homes. Many at the meeting cited health concerns and applauded the council for proposing a less populated area.

MacDonald said hosting a referendum was a mistake made by his colleagues on the Eastern Kings community council and he questioned how many will want to re-offer for the upcoming fall elections.

“A referendum is the American way,’’ he said. “In my opinion, they’d been better off to hold a public meeting and if there was a large enough outcry….deny the permit. But considering the options we have in Atlantic Canada, wind farms are the way to go.”

 

montague@theguardian.pe.ca