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Wind farm plans continue despite First Nation territory dispute

Hearings begin this week on the environmental impact of a wind farm proposed for the shores of Lake Superior — but what won't be discussed in those hearings is the dispute between two First Nations as to whose territory the wind is blowing through.

Two northern Ontario First Nations each say a proposed wind farm is in their traditional territory

The turbines are to be built near Lake Superior, in between Wawa and Sault Ste. Marie. It's also between the Michipicoten and Batchewana First Nations, but the energy company, BluEarth Renewables, has only partnered with Batchewana. (istockphoto.com)

Hearings begin this week on the environmental impact of a wind farm proposed for the shores of Lake Superior — but what won't be discussed in those hearings is the dispute between two First Nations as to whose territory the wind is blowing through.

The turbines are to be built near Lake Superior, in between Wawa and Sault Ste. Marie.

It's also between the Michipicoten and Batchewana First Nations, but the energy company has only partnered with Batchewana.

Joe Buckell, the chief of Michipicoten, said he thought the boundary between the two First Nations was clear until now.

He said territories across the north are being exaggerated these days.

"It all started out when revenue sharing started. People started claiming these vast territories, because they were there at one time,” Bucknell said.

Batchewana chief Dean Sayers said the proposed wind farm is in his First Nation's territory.

And generally, he doesn't think firm borders need to be drawn up between communities.

"I'm not really sure that we need to go down the road in having strict lines as to who was where,” he said. “The discussion has to be a lot broader than just a line in the sand."

'We need to work through this'

Sayers said he's unhappy that talks with Michipicoten have broken down, but he hopes talks will resume and that it will also become a partner in the proposed wind energy project.

"That table is still set."

BluEarth President & CEO Kent Brown and Batchewana First Nation Chief Dean Sayers formalize the Bow Lake partnership in December 2012. (BluEarth Renewables)

The energy company, BluEarth Renewables, partnered with Batchewana First Nation on the project several years ago — however Buckell said he has been quietly keeping up the fight.

"The government would love to see First Nations battling things out," he said.

Sayers said he’s certain that turbines are planned for Batchewana lands, but believes their neighbours to the north should be partners as well.

"In the history, our villages have never had any differences of how we were going to live and work together, so we need to work through this,” he said.

The hearings into the wind farm — focusing on environmental impacts, as well possible interference for weather monitoring equipment — continue for the rest of the month in Sault Ste. Marie.

Construction on the project is expected to start sometime this year, according to information on BluEarth Renewables website.

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