Though no formal decision has been made on accepting the proposal for a seven turbine extension to the existing Eastern Kings Wind Farm, councillors from the Rural Municipality of Eastern Kings has questioned whether the province is set on the project moving ahead.
“Given the egregious and public interference perpetrated by Transportation Minister Myers in the media last month, I’d like to ask if the turbines have been ordered yet?” Councillor David Stewart asked officials from PEI Energy Corp (PEIEC) at the council meeting last week.
Heather MacLeod, manager of Energy Assets with PEIEC, said the turbines have not been ordered, however due to the nature of the community’s building application process they are close to signing an agreement.
“In order to fulfil the requirements of the building application we were required to give foundation designs and detailed turbine specs so it is no secret we went to RFP’s (request for proposals) for wind turbine procurement in January, but we have been holding off as much as possible.
Councillor Stewart was referring to Minister Myers being quoted in September as saying the province is confident all the steps leading up to putting the project in place will be passed.
Spencer Long, engineering project manager with the corporation said there is other physical work already started in the area despite the fact the community hasn’t yet given the go-ahead.
Mr Long explained there has been some clearing done in the proposed area in anticipation of building access roads and property owners have been approached.
“In some cases it was land owners we could not find - in that case we would build around the property and treat it as a non participating land owner,” Mr Long said.
An environmental assessment submitted last week to the Department of Environment Water and Climate Change is but one piece of the lengthy permit application to the community, said development officer Ron Coffin.
“First things first, the planning and development committee will look at it for completeness,” Mr Coffin said.
In the interim there will be two public meetings, one hosted by the province in reference to the environmental assessment and another hosted by council in December before any decisions are made.
One group, Eastern Kings Community Association (EKCA), isn’t waiting for more public meetings to let their views on the project be known.
The organization is comprised of more than 100 property owners in the community whose mandate it is to ensure a healthy balance between economic growth and environmental protection for the area, said member Fred Cheverie in a presentation to council.
The size and location of the proposed project are the most contentious elements of the proposal, according to Mr Cheverie, who is also coordinator of Souris and Area Branch of the PEI Wildlife Federation.
EKCA takes exception to the fact the proposed site is in the middle of one of the largest blocks of forested land on PEI.
“It is Mother Nature at its peak,” he said of swath of land encompassing East Lake Creek watershed.
The site also butts up against the red triangle, an ecologically sensitive migratory bird site first mapped out in 2006 during the environmental assessment for the 10 turbine wind farm already in existence.
“The situation is with coastal erosion - that red triangle is going to shrink and the wind mills are going to be there forever. As a result the birds won’t have a safe spot to land,” he said.
The height of the proposed wind mills, 175 metres, are equivalent of a 60 storey building and 50 metres taller than the existing 10 turbines in Elmira.
Mr Cheverie said wind turbines do have their place. He points to examples in Saskatchewan and Alberta where two wind farms cover a large unpopulated area with no interference to the natural habitat.
In other business council voted unanimously to support the mayor in her request to split the mayor’s honorarium evenly with Deputy Mayor Danielle Elliott.
Ms Elliott has been shouldering most of the municipal business regarding the PEIEC proposed wind farm due to a conflict of interest of Mayor Cameron who has relatives with property in the proposed development area.
Initially in February the budget for remuneration was set at $4,000. However, a bylaw from 2013 was uncovered in the files which stated the amounts of $500 for councillors and $1,750 for mayor.
Council also voted unanimously to purchase a second computer for the municipal office.
The next scheduled meeting of the municipality is Tuesday, December 10. Council will also host a public meeting regarding the windmill proposal earlier in December.
A public meeting to receive feedback from the Environmental assessment was held Tuesday evening at Eastern Kings Rec Centre. See Graphic coverage on peicanada.com.