Ontario residents fight wind turbines planned near Collingwood airport

A wind farm near Shelburne, Ontario. Nicole Mortillaro / Global News

TORONTO — Opponents of a wind power project in the Collingwood, Ont., area warned Thursday that it will put lives at risk because giant industrial turbines will be built less than four kilometres from an airport runway.

Three local municipalities, residents and a pilots’ association say they don’t want eight 50-storey-tall wind turbines so close to the Collingwood airport and the nearby Clearview Aerodrome.

“The province is knowingly approving turbines that are a hazard,” said Kevin Elwood of the Canadian Owner and Pilots Association.

The wind turbines will be “jammed” between the two airports, which operate mainly on visual flight rules, and will “penetrate the arrival and departure airspace as defined by Transport Canada’s guidelines,” added Elwood.

“Does this province want to be the first government with blood on its hands after they cause the first aircraft-turbine crash in Canada?”

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Eldwood warned that pilots could have trouble seeing the giant white turbine blades, especially in snowy, cloudy or rainy conditions, and said they produce strong wake turbulence that is invisible.

Progressive Conservative house leader Jim Wilson said a gap in responsibility between the province, federal regulator Transport Canada and Nav Canada, which owns and operates the civil aviation service, means there are “no rules” on locating wind turbines near the two small airports.

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“A senior official with Nav Canada said one of the reasons they don’t have any real rules around this for these aerodromes is they didn’t think any government would be stupid enough to put 500-foot wind turbines near airports,” said Wilson.

“Every other province except Ontario has planning authorities, so the local municipalities would simply say you can’t put them there, but of course the Green Energy Act stripped local planning authority from our municipalities.”

Environment Minister Glen Murray insisted there are no safety concerns with the wind turbines near the regional airports, and said opponents could appeal to an Environmental Review Tribunal hearing scheduled to start May 16 in Collingwood.

“Nav Canada and Transport Canada – who are the experts, unlike myself and the member opposite – said there were no safety issues here that were at all material,” Murray told the legislature.

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Wpd said in a statement that aviation safety will not be affected by its project near the Collingwood airport, which it insisted meets all Transport Canada regulations.

“Nav Canada has indicated on three separate occasions, including in March 2016, that it has no objections to the project,” said Wpd spokesman Kevin Surette.

Charles Magwood of the residents’ group Preserve Clearview said it has spent over $1 million in the past several years fighting the wind project by Wpd Canada.

In addition to the safety concerns, Magwood said there are fears the wind turbines will “tarnish” the Georgian Bay region’s excellent reputation with tourists.

“They will be very surprised if, at the entrance into this tourist area, they’re going to find themselves moving through a gateway of industrial turbines,” he said.

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An economic impact study of the Wpd project found it would have a significant negative impact on the Collingwood airport and had the potential to jeopardize any future investment in the airport and the economy of the entire region.

Wpd dismissed the study prepared for the town of Collingwood and Clearview township as “not an accurate or reasonable evaluation.”

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Wilson also pointed out that Wpd made regular contributions to the Liberal party as the project was going through the approval’s process, but gave nothing to the other parties.

“We had this suspicion across the government, that the Liberal fundraising arm seems to move in tandem, or just after or before, decisions of this government,” he said. “I can’t prove it with Wpd…it’s just highly, highly suspicious.”

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