Wolfe Islanders and land owners from near and far came out in droves to a public meeting to hear about the wind farm slated for Wolfe Island. Although they left, still not knowing much morein the way of new information or where the 86 wind turbines are going to erected or if they will even be on their property, there was some nervous apprehension, excitement, and yes, even anticipation in the room about the changing future of the island. As one person so clearly described the moment, ”the will is there to do the right thing for the environment, for the province but it is a huge leap of faith” for a community that has changed little over the years. A $410 Million project which will change the face of the Island.
The recent announcement made by Premier Dalton McGuinty that Ontario, originally slow off the mark, has suddenly become a leader in renewable energy and will pay a 11 cents per kilowatt hour for the next 20 years for wind power and a premium for power generated from other alternative energy sources has added impetus to the whole Wolfe Island project.
There were no presentations but many representatives from Canadian Hydro Developers Inc., and CREC its wholly owned subsidiary, and the managers for this project were everywhere at the open house. They were ready to explain the on going process, the what comes next, the time frame and more importantly to answer the many questions islanders raised.
Information boards circled the gymnasium at Sacred Heart school where the meeting was held. Maps of the island, of optioned lands, designs of the proposed turbines, steps in the process, time line numbers and a board asking for public input and how to go about submitting it.
It was in the late 1980s, Calgary brothers, John and Ross Keating joined forces with geologist Jack McCleary to form an independent, ‘Green’ Power company devoted to generating electricity from renewable, non-polluting resources. John a CA, is Canadian Hydro Developers Chief Executive officer while Ross, an engineer, is its President and Chief Operating officer. Both were at the Public Open House. Both were besieged with questions.
The map that drew the largest crowd clearly identified land optioned by Canadian Hydro Developers filled- in in orange and indicated large swaths on the head of the island not included. Among the significant pieces not under option there were also a few smaller scattered pieces.
In response to questions Ross Keating stated that planning is underway to detail specific locations of the towers based on criteria for set backs from housing, barns, roads etc. The next meeting is tentatively set for late June when specific locations (which islanders were looking for) will be identified.
Concurrently CREC is in discussion with the township regarding rezoning and planning issues as well as proceeding with the Environmental Assessment.
There were questions about noise and distance between towers and distance between homes and barns and roads. Wiring from the towers will be underground to the poles. Local roads will require ongoing work, which they will undertake during the construction period. The roads will be brought up to standard. It has been recognized at other sites that the red night time strobe lights on top of the towers can pose a problem and an application has been made to the Federal Dept. of Transport to allow for synchronized perimeter lighting to ease this problem.
There were questions about the risk of declining land values, ability to farm around towers, loss of quiet space and peacefulness and night time skies. And further questions about advantages to the community as a whole or were advantages just for the landowners? How many island jobs will there be during the development stage? How many island jobs will there be when the project is up and running? Will our goods and services be used? Will our ferry travel be compromised? Is there a decommissioning plan in place?
It is clear that most of the answers will become clearer as the work on the project and the EA proceeds. However throughout the evening there was an element of trust in the work that is being done and in what it means to the future of the island. As one enthusiastic landowner put it, “I only have a 100 acres but you can put as many towers on my land as you like. We have missed out on development in the past, we have the wind and is time to get with the program and move on,” she said.
The Wolfe Island project includes 86, 2.3 MW wind turbines that will generate 197.8 MW of electricity with transformers at each turbine, an overhead and underground electrical line collector system, a marine transmission line and direct line tap to the Gardner’s transformer station in Kingston. The island will have an operation and maintenance building.
According to the posted spec sheets, the Siemens Mark II turbines consist of tower foundations, 3 tower sections, a nacelle (gearbox, generator, blade/turbine control equipment, wind speed and direction sensing equipment, and cooling/heating equipment.), three rotor blades, hub and pad-mounted transformer, electrical wiring and grounding The Siemens model Mark II are horizontal-axis turbines with three bladed upwind rotors. The length of each rotor blade will be about 45 m and when coupled with the hub will support a blade diameter of roughly 93 m. The blades are expected to rotate at an average speed of between 6 to 20 revolutions per minute. Each turbine will be approximately 80 m in height to the hub. The design life of the project is 30 years. The public meeting (s) are part of the regulatory federal and provincial process requirements to obtain approvals for the island wind farm.
*Registration for the annual road race can be made on line at the Wolfe Island website www.wolfeisland.com. There are already 30 registrations.
* With the kind permission of The Heritage, my articles are posted on the website under Island News at www.wolfeisland.com
* The Churches of Wolfe Island hold their annual Ecumenical Pilgrimage way of the Cross on Good Friday beginning at the W.I. United Church at 10 a.m. *Council meets on Howe Island Mon. April 10th on Howe Island.
*Next regular meeting of WIBTA April 18th , 7pm at the W.I. United Church Hall.
It may be the size of the community. It may be its isolation a 30 minute ferry ride from Kingston but Wolfe Island has a way of bringing people together. And this year’s annual Senior’s Social with an Irish flavour was just another example.
The well attended event held at the W.I. United Church hall was hosted by members of the St. Lawrence & Wolfe Island Women’s Institutes who were assisted by Trinity Anglican Women’s Guild, the United Church Women and the Sacred Heart Catholic Women’s League.
The annual Social involves the ‘Younger than the Senior’ members of the community providing a scrumptious meal and serving it to the island’s Seniors on a Saturday closest to St. Patrick’s Day. Each year the hosting alternates between the different island women’s groups
This year’s entertainment included ninety year old Bernard Muller accompanied on the keyboard by Robert Graham singing a number of Irish songs, a spirited sing song led by Everett Hogan and Ken Keyes with music provided by Pat Barber and Marion Lakins, many Irish jokes and the presentation of wonderful array of gifts.
Islander Ken Keyes, a former Kingston mayor and Ontario MPP was the enthusiastic Master of ceremonies. And as always on Wolfe Island, United Church Pastor Terry Wood, Trinity Anglican’s Rev. Canon Chris Carr and Sacred Heart’s Fr. Ray Vickers (not indicative of their age) were in attendance.
Wolfe Island resident Larry Bolton attended the March meeting of Frontenac Islands council to find out if a small piece of property (0.349 of an acre) on his mother’s homestead could be acquired.
Originally a lot on the Bolton farm ( which included this piece) was used for a school, which closed in 1955. It was assumed that the property had reverted to the landowner. Instead the school was torn down and the land expropriated by the Ontario Dept. of Highways. In 1959 a 50ft piece was used for highway widening leaving the pie-shaped 0.349 of an acre. That piece was given to the township as part of the provincial downloading in June 2000. Mrs. Bolton wishes sell a parcel of land to a family member and the inclusion of this 0.349 acre would allow safe entry to the building lot to be severed.
Deputy Mayor Hobbs (chairing the meeting in the absence of Mayor Vanden Hoek) and council members agree in principle to the sale of the piece, but the township does not have a bylaw to dispose of property. A bylaw will be drafted for the April meeting. A 30 day property appraisal period follows. Councillor Calvin suggested there be an assessment of other properties surplus to the township.
Mr. John Weatherall was present, maps in hand, to show council which piece of property (Pt.Lot 4 Concession 8, Wolfe Island) he will transfer to the township provided it becomes a legal extension of Hillcrest Street along with a further piece for snow plough turns. Weatherall laughingly said that it took 5-years to complete a transfer of land he had previously given to the township. “I owned the fire hall for 5 years ,” he said. Council accepted the transfer of the land for the price of $1.00 plus legal and registration costs.
Robert Graham who has a conditional offer on an adjoining Weathweall property wondered about the time line for the transfer noting the whole issue came up as a result of the waterline and who owns it.
Frontenac Islands received a report from Heather Van Bruinessen, Eastertn Ontario Environmental Officer outlining the results of a review of operations at the Howe Island waste and recycling depot. The township will contact an environmental officer to discuss the scope of the present certificate of approval (revoke or amend), areas of non-compliance, hours of operation, storage times, etc. Refrigerators unless tagged with Freon removed will not be accepted. Other unauthorized items will be removed from the site. An information mailbox flyer will go out to Howe residents.
Council will ask Patricia Sanford, WIBTA president and owner and operator of the Stone Heron Gallery to attend the April council meeting to discuss her request to rent the W.I. Community Hall as an art gallery (June 26-Sept. 4, 2006) for a 3rd year. Council would also like to see sketches of the 2nd historic mural “Scene of the Crime” she has asked to mount between the Tourist information Centre and the Town Hall. (some time in May).
In other business:
1. Council will inform Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing John Gerretsen that the Township of Frontenac Islands does not favour the proposed legislation to extend the term of municipal councils to 4 years.
2. Council made payments for livestock damage but rejected a claim by Frank Goodfriend for the loss of two cows and two calves because the owner did not report the livestock kill (by dogs) within the required time to the Livestock Valuator. Deputy Mayor Hobbs suggested that all farmers should be made aware of the Livestock valuator process and time lines.
3. Treasurer Christina Lott announced that the ASYST Financial Software package and new computer upgrades recommended for the township will be arriving and in operation very soon.
4. Council will indicate its support for public post offices and opposition to closures to the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities.
5. Council supported a resolution by MPP Runciman calling on the Ontario government to establish an Eastern Ontario Secretariat as well as a resolution from the Town of Halton Hills that the Federal gas tax funding should be a permanent program.
6. Councillor Wayne Grant said that a flyer regarding Community Policing will be issued next week. Funding for shirts, hats and other Community Policing requirements will come the Community Enhancement Fund.
Council did not discuss the letter sent by the Howe Island Rate Payers Association to the Ontario Minister of Transportation Harinder Takar outlining changes made to the original specifications of the new 15 car Howe Island ferry. According to the association the changes “compromised Marine Safety and obliged the ferry to operate at sub optimum levels.” The letter notes that criticism led to some remedial action but they believe the ferry requires major structural and engineering changes. Instead of two below deck powered cables the ferry has two above deck, one powered, resulting in an under powered ferry, with a narrower deck operating at reduced speeds, etc.
The Association is looking for answers. In response to a question, Mayor Hobbs said the association is speaking on a matter of principle about certain issues that they believe may not have not been addressed by MTO. He agreed the ferry did not conform to the design originally presented. Next Council Meeting April 10th, Howe Island.
* After what has probably been the best season in years for Simcoe Islanders, their seasonal ferry went out of service due to heavy ice conditions from Feb.27th-March 9th, when the ice was cut and it resumed service.
* Council was given a preview of the Township of Frontenac Islands web site by David Colburn and authorized CAO O’Shea to activate the site and negotiate a rate with Frontenac County for web page updating services.
*Congratulations to Sacred Heart school’s 11 member Jr. co-ed Basketball team who won the School Board wide B Division Championship.
* Planning is underway for the Ecumenical Good Friday Pilgrimage Way of the Cross
*WIBTA meets at the W.I. United Church March 21st at 7 p.m.
*The Big Sandy Bay Committee meets March 27th at the W.I. Town Hall at 7 pm.
* As announced in The Heritage, the Wolfe Island Wind Project Public Open House is being held at Sacred Heart School, March 22nd from 6-9 p.m.
The Premier of Ontario, the Hon. Dalton McGuinty, spoke of Ontario’s investment in rural communities in his keynote address to the combined conference of Ontario Good Roads and Rural Ontario Municipal Association ( ROMA) which was attended by members of Frontenac Islands council,
“We collaborated on Ontario's first-ever Rural Plan,” the Premier said.
He spoke of revitalization and diversification of economies, retaining businesses and making communities attractive to investors. He spoke of brownfield site redevelopment, the advantages of cultural and heritage opportunities and the possibilities of tie ins and joint ventures with other regions. He spoke of job creation and the almost 216,000 new jobs created over the past 27 months and the challenge to make sure that 4.5 million rural Ontarians get a fair share of the growth. And…. he talked about Wolfe Island.
“They (Wolfe Island) recently completed a strategic planning exercise asking themselves— who are we and where to do we want to be in 10 years?” he said. “Key components of the strategy included developing a wind farm, making Big Sandy Bay a more sustainable, eco-friendly tourist destination and devoting more resources to tourism promotion. Well, so far, Wolfe Island is batting a thousand, he said. “They've opened Big Sandy Bay, revamped their tourism marketing and they'll soon be home to Ontario's largest wind farm.” The Premier concluded by quoting Frontenac Island’s Mayor Vanden Hoek, who said, “Not bad for a community of 1,200 people.”
At the same gathering Premier McGuinty also announced a move before the fall, to 4-year terms for municipal council members and school trustees, and the province’s intention to pay 50% over the next 2 years, up from 38%, for land ambulance costs. At the conference, the premier was reminded with regard to provincial gas tax funding, that rural Ontario’s transits systems are bridges and roads. Somehow ferries were left out of the mix.
Wind Power Definitely on the Minds of Islanders: With the 120 km winds that blew over the island last week and the kite boarders who frequent our wind filled bays, islanders know about wind. Add to that the recommendations posted on the ferry, regarding wind towers, with advice that comes a little too late (except perhaps for those who have yet to sign leases), and the daily comments one hears, here and there about the 86 tower wind farm for Wolfe Island, wind is on the minds of islanders. Perhaps even more on the mind of Mayor Jim Vanden Hoek.
“This is a big project for us and I think we will be successful in coming up with an agreement that will benefit us all. Islanders will have an opportunity to comment when the EA is released in the next month or two and zoning will roll forward in the next 6 months or so. The balance of the present Frontenac council’s agenda will be taken up with permits and approvals and public meetings and it will be the next council who sits through the construction phase,” Vanden Hoek said recently.
“Could the project all fall apart? I think anyone who does business in the community (Canadian Hydro Developers Inc.) wants to do well in that community. At the same time the municipality has to recognize from the pretty significant policy changes the province has made (effective March 1st, 2005, wind turbines are a permissible use on agricultural land) that it wants alternative energy to be successful. It sends a strong message so we have to be reasonable. On the other hand,” the mayor continued,” the developer is going to have a very large footprint on a very small community and we have to come up with a balance between what provincial policy is doing and what’s in the best interest of Wolfe Island. Which is why we have such a strong negotiating team.” (Heritage Feb.21st)
The mayor is confident that the entire community will benefit both from a revenue and job creation standpoint during the construction period as well as in the long term. “However,” he said, “ there is always the aspect of how much development, and how many wind towers do we want on the island. We will have to work through this and respect the different voices that will surface.”
Mayor Vanden Hoek reiterated that the township will have much to say about the EA, set backs, zoning, and Official Plan Amendment in an effort to protect the interests of the community. “I am optimistic that we can work all these things out,” he concluded.
Wolfe Island Business & Tourism Association: Pat Sanford in her first official meeting as President of WIBTA outlined a short list of goals for the organization including: building strong community relations; providing financial assistance to local organizations when appropriate; strong committee development and compiling a skills list inventory. WIBTA will continue with main fundraising events including the annual Road Race and the Garden Tour. The photo contest will go ahead. A business directory will be developed. No new brochure but an insert with new businesses etc. will be added to last year’s brochure. There was some discussion about wind power. WIBTA is looking for volunteers for events and, new members.
Next WIBTA Meeting Tues. March 21st , W.I. United Church Hall, 7 p.m.
Around Town: * Winter has finally came. The Wolfe Island ferry is still able to run between Kingston and Marysville, but the bubble system is in operation between Kingston and the Dawson Point winter dock in the event the ferry does have to move.* After what has probably been the best season in years for Simcoe Islanders, their seasonal ferry is out of service due to the fast freeze and heavy ice conditions. It is a difficult period for the Islanders who are now walking, air boating etc. their way back and forth to home. Following winter maintenance the ferry will resume service as early as possible in spring. In 2005 the ferry shut down Jan. 9th.
* W.I.’s Trinity Anglican is holding A 3-day “Lenten Mission” led by Canon Michael Caswell from St. George’s Cathedral March 7, 8 & 9 from 7:45 –9 p.m.
*Wolfe Island’s annual Senior’s Day Social will be held Sat. March 18th at W.I.’s United Church Hall at 12 noon hosted by the St Lawrence and Wolfe Island Women’s Institutes.
* Frontenac Island Council meeting, Mon. March 13th on Wolfe Island at 6:30 pm.