Thunder Bay

Wind farm opposition garners First Nation's support

The group opposing a wind farm on the Nor'Wester Mountains had some additional support at a rally Wednesday night.

Concerned Thunder Bay area citizens rally to voice concerns about Big Thunder Wind Park

A group of women quietly drummed during a rally for the Nor'Wester Mountain Escarpment Protection Committee. About 120 people showed up to the group's latest event meant to inform people about the proposed wind farm development planned for the Thunder Bay escarpment. (Jeff Walters/CBC )

The group opposing a wind farm on the Nor'Wester Mountains had some additional support at a rally Wednesday night.

The Nor'Wester Mountain Escarpment Protection Committee is now teaming up with members of the Fort William First Nation, who want to protect the community’s land and water.

Irene Bond, who speaks for the committee, said it's important to have support from neighbours like the Fort William First Nation.

"If we, as a community, had been involved from the beginning on what should we do with this land, maybe had they involved Fort William from the beginning and us, we could have come up with some great solutions," she said.

A member of Fort William First Nation told the crowd assembled at the rally that the wind farm's developer — Horizon — should be stopped in its tracks.

"There's questions to be asked with regards to why the city of Thunder Bay gave Horizon the option to lease in the first place without consulting its members," Wyatt Bannon said.

"I mean there's serious concerns there, and at some point and time they should be answered."

Ensuring accuracy of reports

Bond said the committee has raised tens of thousands of dollars for their effort to ensure the land and people living in the area are protected.

The committee has hired independent experts to look over Horizon's environmental assessment of the project, formally called the Big Thunder Wind Park.

She said they want to ensure all the documents prepared by Horizon are accurate.

This is the first time the committee has officially teamed up for a rally with the First Nation, Bond added. Representatives from the Municipality of Neebing, which has some land in the wind farm area, were also present at the rally.

Another rally is planned to be held before June 22, when the province will stop accepting comments on the project's environmental assessment.

Giving municipalities a say

Meanwhile, the provincial government is expected to announce on Thursday new rules for locating wind turbines.

More power is expected to be given to municipalities who, until now, had no say over wind farms whatsoever.

The rules for locating green energy projects will become fairer with the announcement, but "we’re still dotting the I’s and crossing the T’s," Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli said.

PC energy critic Vic Fedeli said he wants the final word on wind farms to go to municipal councils.

"They have absolute and complete control over the [placement] of a Tim Hortons," he said.

"Why shouldn’t they have 100 per cent absolute and complete control over 550-foot high wind turbines?"

NDP energy critic Peter Tabuns said he thinks the minister needs to make sure the communities where wind turbines are located can share in the profits.