UPDATED: Wind energy talk divides rural community

MCLEAN, SK – The divide among residents in the R.M. of South Qu’Appelle is growing over wind energy.

Supporters and opponents of wind turbine development in the region butted heads at a public meeting in the village of McLean on Tuesday night.

Critics cite land rights and health concerns, while also questioning if residents are being provided enough information.

“The main concern I had is the lack of transparency on how the decision is being made and the progress,” said Susan Kalcsits, a resident who opposes wind turbines.

Some residents have already signed on with Renewable Energy Systems, the American company that has expressed interest in developing wind turbines in the area.

“I can’t find any health issues. I didn’t have any concerns that way,” said Curtis Wass, a landowner near McLean. “If it goes through, there would be some profit, some to be made for me, but I also like the idea of the amount of money that could go toward the RM.”

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Wass has heard that amount could exceed $500,000 annually.

Health Canada is studying the effect turbines have on nearby communities – including sleep disturbance – although the findings will have limitations.

Without past medical history, researchers say the numbers can be spun any way you like.

“We can’t say whether or not the wind turbine noise is causing elevated hair cortisol levels, even if we see these trends statistically, or that it’s causing increased blood pressure levels,” said David Michaud, a Health Canada research scientist.

Still, it’s expected to be the most comprehensive data available on wind farm effects – even if it won’t be complete until the end of 2014.

That’s not soon enough for the R.M. of South Qu’Appelle, where a difficult resolution awaits.

“This is a project that will be in place for many, many years, so we’ll all have to live with our decision,” said South Qu’Appelle reeve Jeannie DesRocher.

Two meteorological test towers would be required to assess wind speeds before any turbines are constructed.

The R.M. council will decide on March 5 if it will amend a bylaw to allow that.

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