Mark Mallett and Chris Habiak from the group Wind Concerns, made a presentation to council during a regular meeting held on July 25 in council chambers.
Mallett said he moved to the area about a year ago with his family, settling in the Northern Valley area. Then, he heard about the proposed wind project being spearheaded by Elemental Energy. Wind Concerns believes there are sensitive wildlife in the area that need to be protected, such as the Whooping Crane.
Later in the meeting, council discussed the information presented.
Gary Buchanan with the County’s Planning and Development department was on hand to speak to council about how other municipalities have handled wind farm projects. He noted that he gathered information from several other municipalities in Alberta that have formed bylaws.
He also noted that the Endangered Species Act is federal legislation that already exists to protect animals at risk, noting that if there are Whooping Cranes in the area, then they are already protected.
Buchanan says it sounds like some residents believe the County of St. Paul has more power than it truly does, regarding wind projects coming into the area.
“We’re not the decision-makers,” affirmed Reeve Glen Ockerman.
Most of the discussion around what the County of St. Paul could do focused on setbacks that could be put in place around the placement of wind turbines.
Ockerman asked if the County would supersede any of the other governing bodies if setbacks were worked into its bylaws. While companies putting up the turbines may agree to the setbacks as a way to work with the community, the AUC could still decide otherwise, heard council. Ockerman questioned if adding setbacks into its bylaws would give residents “a false sense of security.”
The reeve said his bigger concern is around reclamation once a project is at its end-of-life. He pointed specifically to the amount of cement that is used for turbines, and also questioned how the turbine blades would be disposed of.
Ockerman asked if the County could control the reclamation process and ask for the removal of all cement as part of that process, adding, he would like to see 100 percent reclamation.
Coun. Darrell Younghans agreed with Ockerman, noting that of all areas, reclamation of the land may be the one thing the County of St. Paul can control.
While both the AUC and Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) may supersede the rules the County puts in place, Coun. Kevin Wirsta said he was still in favour of putting bylaws in place because it shows that the municipality doesn’t always agree with AUC and AER. “You don’t have to accept it,” said Wirsta, speaking about the process in place.
A motion to table the discussion and bring the item back to a future meeting was carried.
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