TransAlta assures islanders no plans for second phase of wind plant
TransAlta executives Jason Edworthy, director of community relations, and Michael Lawrence, manager of external relations, came from Calgary to Wolfe Island for their first meetings with islanders since their company acquired the island's wind plant project from Canadian Hydro Developers.
A public meeting hosted by the Township of Frontenac Islands was held at the Wolfe Island Town Hall. Their second meeting was with the landowners who have towers on their property.
“This is a long term relationship and we want to get off on the right foot,” Edworthy said. “I am well aware of the close relationship developed by Canadian Hydro's Keating brothers with islanders throughout the development of the wind plant. They are great that way and it is TranAlta's intention to maintain what will be our long term relationship. But, as with any change there are always questions and concerns.
“The main thing we want to do is make sure people understand that we are looking for a smooth transition so that day- to-day, islanders are not going to see anything different with the plant, that the people they know and talk to will stay the same,” Edworthy continued. “Eventually this year the signage will change a little from Canadian Hydro to Trans Alta.”
The Canadian Hydro name and logo on the towers will not change.
“We will be offering more resources through the TransAlta website and telephone directory. We also have a 1-800 number, media and investor relations. This is a good news story,” Edworthy said. “A great company came and developed the wind plant project, now they are part of us and we are the beneficiaries.”
Michael Lawrence sees his role as working with the community and telling the TransAlta story on behalf of the company.
“No one knew us and it was time to come, to be available and to answer questions. We have no special announcements to make at this time,” he said. “We are just glad to be here.”
Some of the questions they responded to related to road rebuilding, which is now in the hands of the township, as well as concerns about birds, bats, lighting and the environmental process.
Edworthy commented that he has been in the wind business 30 years and there was no environmental assessment process until 1988 when the company developed one.
“EAs are now an essential part of any project in every province. One of our success stories relates to bats,” he added.
At one site bats were dying. A biologist was hired, intense monitoring began over an extensive period, the problem was identified, scientific and university studies confirmed the problem, and the changes were completed, which once made offered much success. The whole process was documented and published for others in the business to benefit from.
“We were not alone in this study. Scientists, the university, wildlife associations participated,” he said.
One question posed by a concerned resident was heard loud and clear at the town hall.
“Is there a phase two to this wind plant project?”
It was clearly answered by both Edworthy and Lawrence. “There is no phase two. This is it, absolutely!”
Present at the gathering with their guests was Mayor Jim Vanden Hoek, Deputy Mayor Matt Fiene, Coun. Wayne Grant, CAO Terry O'Shea and township staff.
At the second meeting held later in the day John Forster introduced TransAlta's Edworthy to the landowners with turbines. (Lawrence had been called to a meeting in Kingston). Forster has assumed a new but similar role with TransAlta as senior advisor of community relations for eastern Canada.
Edworthy, who is on a tour visiting TransAlta's newly-acquired projects, commented that the acquisition of Canadian Hydro by TransAlta was described as a hostile takeover.
“But once everybody got together it became a friendly merger,” he said. “I am pleased to say most everyone employed with Canadian Hydro came over to TransAlta with exceptions at the management level. We are proud to have them. It is not our intent to erase history.”
Edworthy said the company could not wait to work with the Wolfe Island community.
“TransAlta is an electric power generation company. We make the electricity and sell it wholesale. We don't do oil and gas. We have a little over 8,000 megawatts of generation and we are looking forward to having a long and fruitful relationship on Wolfe Island through this great project. We hope to come often so expect other visitors. We want to meet all of you. We are available. And finally, I want to reiterate what I said at the open house earlier today, that for better or worse, TransAlta has no plans for a phase two.”
Members of WIRE (Wolfe Island Residents for the Environment) attended Frontenac Islands January council meeting to hear answers to their questions posed concerning possible implications to the island resulting from the sale of Canadian Hydro Developers Inc. to Trans Alta Corporation.
WIRE’s Gail Kenney, speaking on behalf of the community group, explained that she was looking for clarification to answers she had received from her letter from the township regarding the possibility of any further expansion by Trans Alta, road reclamation, and the health and safety of Wolfe Island residents (complaint protocol). “All legitimate concerns within the community,” she said. Your reply said you were not aware of any expansion plans with Trans Alta and my question is has there been any discussion or correspondence with the company saying there will or will not be any expansion. IN REPLY: Mayor Vanden Hoek said there had been no correspondence and invited her to attend the public open house with Trans Alta representatives, to hear from them.
Kenney continued to have concerns about the work required to repair the damage done to the island’s roads as a result of the wind plant development particularly those roads that were widened and cleared (“encroaching on sensitive wetlands, hedge rows, bird habitat,”) to allow access (Road 2, Baseline). “Has Canadian Hydro lived up to its agreement, who will rebuild, plant trees,” she asked
Mayor Vanden Hoek said that the road work will be quite challenging with the three programs it will try to weave together. “We have the normal budget process which always includes road work. We have the money from Canadian Hydro, and their commitment to it, and we also have the ISF (Infrastructure Stimulus Fund) award ($476,000) for a drainage program,” he said. “I can tell you we are doing work on haul roads, we are cleaning out ditches, cutting out grass and brush all a normal township responsibility but I’m just not seeing the township planting trees on the side of the road.” Although Kenney was not happy with the answer about roads, the idea of planting trees as a community project somewhere was well received.
Another concern related to the distribution of information. Council agreed to make the TransAlta information about the wind plant, telephone numbers, notification etc. available in print at the town hall for anyone to pick up. The mayor will take Kenney’s request that when Trans Alta’s visits next, that there be an evening meeting with the public.
In other business: 1. Council passed a zoning bylaw to remove certain properties that had been identified for the wind plant and are no longer required, and further, identified a piece of property within that original rezoning and set it aside solely for a meteorological tower. 2. The contract for snow removal on roads designated as Improved Township Roads on Simcoe Island has been awarded to Don Eves. 3. There were some questions about some of items on the payment voucher but in the end it was approved for payment. 4. A bylaw was passed that requires deficits or surpluses at year end remain area rated into the next year. Howe Island received $50,000 from Frontenac County for the County Ferry/roads. 5. Council supported two applications to FCFDC (Frontenac Community Futures Development Corporation by the Wolfe Island Historical Society for funding to purchase and install directional signage for the “Old House” and the WI Business & Tourism Association to purchase and install “historical plaques” in Marysville, and to develop a related brochure.
Council Members Concerns: *Mayor Vanden Hoek talked about the importance of public participation in the upcoming meeting to look at how the amenities agreement monies could/should be allocated. “I believe this may require more than one meeting ,” he said. A further concern is “What to do about the salt dome “which is need of repair. This item will be discussed up at upcoming budget meetings. * Deputy Mayor Fiene has concerns about cars, trucks left in the Howe Parking lot at the County Ferry dock and will seek further information. * Councillor Grant wants to find ways of dealing with hard plastics at the WI Landfill site.. *Councillor Doyle is looking into Canada/Ontario awards programs.
Council Meets next on Howe Island, Mon. Feb. 8, 2010 6:30 pm
Around Town: * As part of the WI Transportation Study a (voluntary) travel survey ( written questionnaire) will be administered to passengers on the Wolfe Islander III ferry during a week in each of the winter, spring and summer of 2010. The data collected will assist in identifying current and future access needs. *Author Barbara Larocque (Wolfe Island – Legacy in Stone) has a new website www.wolfeislandhistory.com. * Thursday, the 14th of January, marked the 60th anniversary of Captain Sisty's wild adventure in 1950 when the Wolfe Islander was 'missing and believed to be lost' in that wild, January wind and carried downriver! This reminder came from the Wolfe Islander III ferry Captain Brian Johnson. “But looking back to Dec. 10 of 2009, I guess we are still at the mercy of Mother Nature's many moods!,” he said. * Public Skating hours for Wolfe Islands beautiful outdoor rink are posted on the wolfeisland.com website. * Plans are underway for WIBTA’s AGM (Feb.1st). As well as a guest speaker there will be a discussion by Wolfe Island food growers about what is being produced on the island and how we can produce more of our food locally. Watch for a flyer.
Coming Events: FRONTENAC ISLANDS AMENITIES AGREEMENT PUBLIC CONSULTATION facilitated by Mr. Robert Wood, CEO/President of 8020Info Inc. will be held at Sacred Heart School Thurs. Jan 28, 2010-6:30 pm. * Wolfe Island Business & Tourism Association AGM at the WI United Church, Monday Feb. 1, 2010 7p.m. with guest speaker Rebecca LeHeup, Executive Director, The Ontario Culinary Tourism Alliance. *Frontenac Islands Council Meeting Howe Island, Mon. Feb/ 8, 2010 at 6:30 p.m.
Shortly before Christmas , the Friends of Big Sandy Bay (FOBSB) held their annual general meeting. On this occasion Francine MacDonald, an Invasive Species and Aquatics Biologist with the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters was their guest.
Francine is an active participant in efforts to help control the infiltration into Canada of the Asian Carp, a very large (25 LBS.) member of the minnow family that can jump as high as two metres out of the water. It is presently being held back by electronic barriers .
Her presentation on this occasion included reference indigenous species that have been introduced into the waterways and land from outside of their natural range. To name a few, Zebra mussel, quagga mussels and sea lamprey which grow fast once in the water and take over the food habitat changing the eco system.“There are 180 non indigenous species in the Great Lakes and are a threat to the waters,” she said “ The Round goby spawns 6 times a year and is very hard on bass reproduction as well as being a nuisance, and outcompete native fish,” MacDonald said noting their prevalence in Lakes Erie and Simcoe. “Invasive species pathways are through ballast water, and recreationally through boating, angling, gardening, as well as through water craft, fishing lines, on wood etc. and natural pathways like wind and water current,” she said
In her presentation Mac Donald spoke of threats to forests (beetles, Emerald Ash bore, etc.), wetlands (common reed) as well as Kudzu which can affect deep root systems, the Dog dangling vine, (“which is a huge problem”) and resembling Queen Anne’s Lace is the Giant Hogweed,(the oil affects skin. She added that ATV’s, and going off trails are a problem increasing risk of spread.
A bonus for all who attended the meeting was a second guest speaker Linna Grice, a student at KCVI who came with a presentation about Wolfe Island’s Big Sandy Bay. The presentation was created by KCVI students enrolled in the International Baccalaureate (IB) program and presented that night by Lianna. The students had been challenged to do a combined biology and chemistry project related to Big Sandy Bay. This particular one (of a number) concerned “Water filtration at Big Sand Bay.”
Lianna described the process, the development of the project and the development of the equipment to do the job, (all created by the students). the visits to the site, collecting the samples, testing of the samples, the type of stone, gravel, sand used in the process and the conclusions drawn. Leanna, came to the island with the equipment built by the students, much knowledge about the well thought out project, and amazing presentation skills.
The IB program. is an opportunity for excellence in education and according to its mission statement aims to develop inquiring, knowledgeable and caring young people who help to create a better and more peaceful world through intercultural understanding and respect.
As local and community newspapers continue to review the events of 2009 in cities and towns across Ontario, it should come as no surprise particularly to those who live in the smallest township in Frontenac County, and in Ontario for that matter, that looking back Frontenac Islands (Wolfe, Simcoe & Howe) has experienced a rather incredible year. Whether it was a good or bad year, is all in the eyes of those who lived it.
WIND: The completion of the Canadian Hydro Wind Plant project (now Trans Alta) with its 86 towers, stands out as the biggest change for Wolfe Island in its history, probably supplanting rural electrification, the 1964 the ferry service takeover by MTO, banning vehicular traffic across the ice, the bubble system, or the 1975 arrival of the Wolfe Islander III . The Echo Power Project (wind towers) is described by many as being the industrialization of Wolfe Island, an affront to the health of islanders, wildlife, the environment, as well as a deterrent to its development as a wholesome and safe community and an eyesore on an otherwise beautiful landscape. While others have no quarrel with the project or the changes it has made to Wolfe Island, and they acknowledge the financial benefits to both the landowners and the township through the amenities agreement, the jobs provided during construction and continuing to provide. They are unconcerned with the size and number of turbines. They have a basic trust that whatever difficulty might arise with the project they will be dealt with in a timely fashion by the township and the company. Indeed many islanders wonder what can be done next to continue “greening” the island and save the environment. Maybe solar, capturing methane, or creating a centre for alternative renewable energy?
WATER: 2009 saw the beginning of an environmental assessment by XCG Consultants regarding water and sewer services for Wolfe Island’s Marysville. Mayor Vanden Hoek has commented a number of times that while it will be a contentious issue, it will not go away and “it must become part of the game plan for Wolfe Island, for its future and long term development.” A preferred option presented by XCG is water piped from Kingston. XCG will move to the next stage of the EA including establishing a working committee (with council members Doyle and Grant) to look at project issues, and (water delivery) alternatives.
The water issue looms big for 2010. Island residents see no growth for the village without it, or for providing amenities such as a much sought after Senior’s accommodation etc. Their main concern is COST.
TRANSPORTATION: Last winter (08-09) was Wolfe Island’s busiest ever with workers coming to the island to work on the wind plant. The ferry remained in the village. All businesses remained open, accommodation was at a premium with every B&B and empty house filled. However in October 2009 the Wolfe Islander III went into dry dock, replaced by the Frontenac II (Amherst Island’s ferry) operating from the winter dock. Ramp work was completed at the Marysville and Barrack Street docks in advance of the Islander III’s return just before Christmas, a welcome sight for islanders whose lives revolve around the ferry. The Islander continues to operate from the winter dock (water levels have noticeably declined) resulting in the usual winter closure of most village businesses except Fargo’s and Megaly’s. At the same time, a Ministry of Transportation (MTO) generated Transportation Study EA, with an anticipated 2011 completion date is underway with URS Canada Inc to determine future transportation needs, and to generate and assess planning alternatives to meet them for a 20 year span. Some time ago, the township submitted a report to MTO suggesting that a municipal link between Howe and Wolfe should be included in the list of alternatives. Whatever alternative is chosen by MTO is perhaps years away from implementation, but when it happens, it will become a determining factor in Wolfe Island’s future development. We can only presume that whatever happens, will be cost effective, environmentally sound and provide sufficient capacity (vehicles per hour) to make the wait worthwhile. Further info: www.wolfeislandtransportationstudy.ca
And during all this, Howe Island continues to have concerns about the County Ferry and its operation.
ROADS: The responsibility for major road work passed to the township in November and includes those roads affected by the development of the wind plant. There is money from the gas tax, there is money from Canadian Hydro Developers as well as Federal-Provincial Infra structure roads grants.
BIG SANDY BAY: BSB has seen many improvements over the past years and experienced a break-even season in 2009. A success story according to Mayor Vanden Hoek, despite the vandalism of some late evening visitors.
HOWE ISLAND: Saw the completion of its new Fire Hall, Automated External Defibrillators (AED’s) located at the Municipal Hall and St Philomena’s, road work started and an active ratepayers association among other things, and celebrated Rozanne Moizer as their Senior of the Year.
So what else happened in 2009 : *Wolfe Island now has a NHL sized rink and is attempting to raise the funds for an ice plant. *Frontenac Islands received its first amenities cheque from Canadian Hydro Developers. * The WI historical Society opened a museum in the island’s oldest house, and installed a tribute to General James Wolfe for whom the island in named. *A beautiful baby was born on the ferry (the first ever). * The island’s new Medical Clinic is nearing completion with an expected opening in late January. * Frontenac Islands initiated the restructuring of County Council and will be sending 2 delegates ( the mayor and one councillor from Howe) following municipal elections at the end of 2010. * A study regarding the future of the WI Community Hall was completed. * Frontenac Islands asked the Federal government to keep the Prison Farms open. *Growing and selling food is a concept that has begun to take off in a big way on Wolfe Island.
While much happened in 2009, it is clearly evident that Frontenac Islands has many issues that are waiting to be resolved and as always, transportation and water are priorities for 2010.
*Council meets on Wolfe Island, Mon. Jan.11, 2010 at 6:30 pm