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City taking a stand on Merrick wind farm proposal

City Council agreed to send a letter to the Provincial Government objecting the proposed wind farm for Merrick Township, just eight kilometres from Jack Gardland Airport and in obstruction with one of its flight corridors.

City Council agreed to send a letter to the Provincial Government objecting the proposed wind farm for Merrick Township, just eight kilometres from Jack Gardland Airport and in obstruction with one of its flight corridors. PHOTO BY LIAM BERTI

The city isn’t exactly blown away by the wind farm proposal for Merrick Township.

City Council unanimously passed a motion to submit a letter to the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change on Monday night, objecting the wind farm designed to be built just eight kilometres east of Jack Garland Airport.

While the area in question does not fall under the city’s jurisdiction, council said sending the letter is the city’s way of opposing the project.  

“We need to take a stand to protect that asset,” Mayor Al McDonald put simply. “We see the Airport Industrial Park as the future to bring jobs, companies and aviation, aerospace and advanced manufacturing, so I’m very pleased that council was unanimous in their support to object to the wind farm.”

Jack Garland Airport and the Atlantic Power Corporation have also reached out to the city expressing their distaste with the proposal.

A report from city staff states that neither the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change or the company in charge of the project, Innergex Renewable Energy Inc., has not formally notified the city of the proposed project.

The preliminary proposal calls for wind turbines to be installed in one of the flight corridors and would impact flight paths, equipment and training. 

Nav Canada has also included a letter outlining the negative impacts the farm would have on their radar equipment on the hill.

Considering the Airport Industrial Park has been a key component of the city’s future economic development plans, the wind farm poses a threat to their goals in expanding in the transportation, aviation and aerospace sectors, they say.

As the staff report outlines, the city, airport and provincial and federal governments have invested a lot of money in the airport’s development for future growth.

Further, North Bay’s Official Plan highlights the long-term significance of the airport and its forecasted contribution to economic growth.

“Protecting airport operations is essential to the attraction of new tenants to the Airport Industrial Business Park and projects associated with airport infrastructure including flight test corridors,” the report outlines.

McDonald used the example of North Bay winning the bid for Swiss Space Systems’ zero-gravity flights, which are expected to be offered as early as next September.

He cited the 10,000-foot runway that is capable of landing anything that flies, the large geographical flight test corridor and upwards of 600 acres of available industrial lands around the airport business park as big attractions for businesses in that sector, which the wind farm could pose a threat to.

“The airport industrial park is supposed to be a key plank in most of our future economic plans, so we need to be very careful what goes up there,” said Coun. Mike Anthony.

Coun. Tanya Vrebosch clarified that the project's fate ultimately lies in the hands of the Provincial Government and that, despite their best efforts, the city really doesn’t have a say in the process. 

Further, because the project is designated as a renewable energy project under the Green Energy Act, the proposal is not subject to certain sections of the Planning Act, including the Official Plan Policy and zoning bylaws.

But McDonald alluded to a different motion for the next council meeting a fortnight from now that will bring their concerns directly to the Federal Government, as there are currently no regulations about wind farms in close proximity to airports.

“We also need the federal government to come up with regulations so that there is a standard right across the country when it comes to wind farms near airports,” he said. “You can only imagine that this is going to have some impact for other airports as more of these wind farms come up.”

Mayor McDonald did say he has been in touch with senior representatives from Innergex about the city’s concerns and that the two parties are set to meet in North Bay in two weeks’ time to continue the conversation.

McDonald said the company has stressed that the project is still in its infancy and could be subject to big changes after more due diligence is done.

“That’s just what they are proposing, they could change that location,” said McDonald. “If they choose to do that and move it out of the area around the airport, then obviously we wouldn’t have anything to say as a city.”

Liam Berti

About the Author: Liam Berti

Liam Berti is a University of Ottawa journalism graduate who has since worked for BayToday as the City Council and North Bay Battalion reporter.
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