By Tom Collins
AMHERST ISLAND — A group of residents trying to stop wind turbines from coming to Amherst Island will know in June if they’re successful in their appeal. If not, many say they will do whatever’s necessary to stop turbines from ever coming on to Amherst Island.
Last month, MPP Randy Hillier (PC-Lanark-Frontenac-Lennox & Addington) told Farmers Forum that he would help block access to the island by wind developers.
“We’ve told (developers) down in Amherst Island, ‘you try to bring any equipment across to the island to put up those turbines, we will stop you,’ ” he said. “I have no doubt that people there will block any ferry access or any marine access for any product coming into the island that has to do with wind turbines. Civil disobedience is a tool you don’t use lightly, but there are times when it’s called for, or when there are no other options left.”
Windlectric Inc. has been approved to build up to 27 turbines on the island (population 450) and located west of Kingston.
Retired business teacher Hugh Jenney is one Amherst Island resident on board with Hillier. He believes there could be 50 to 70 residents that would block ferry access, but he believes the group will win its appeal with the Ministry of Environment. “We don’t think (civil disobedience) will ever happen,” he said.
The Association to Protect Amherst Island, which has 350 members, is challenging the Ministry of Environment’s approval of the wind turbine project. The group is appealing to the Environmental Review Tribunal on two grounds: that turbines pose serious harm to human health, and the turbines would pose serious and irreversible harm to the natural environment.
Various groups are concerned about owls, wintering raptors, grassland birds, and at-risk species such as bats and Blanding’s turtles. More than 30 residents have testified about the Blanding’s turtle, a “threatened” species in Ontario since 2004 that temporarily halted a wind development in Prince Edward County. The appeal began in November and should wrap in May, with a decision coming sometime in June.
Amherst Island association member Debbie Barrett said, “our association is committed to all legal means of opposing wind turbines on Amherst Island. Our association in particular will not encourage civil disobedience or other means. However, there are other individuals who may do those kinds of things.”