A tribunal hearing an appeal of the province’s decision to approve an wind turbine project in Clearview Township has moved on to the next phase of the process.
Friday was the final day of testimony at the Environmental Review Tribunal’s hearing looking into whether the renewable energy application for WPD Canada’s Fairview Wind project should be upheld, revoked, or amended.
The final witness on Friday, aviation expert Ed McDonald, told the tribunal the eight turbines proposed for an area north and south of County Road 91 would have “no incremental impact on departure procedures” at the Collingwood Regional Airport.
The Town of Collingwood, Simcoe County, and Clearview Township are among six appellants to the project, on the basis several of the turbines could pose a danger to pilots flying into and out of the regional airport.
However, McDonald, testifying on behalf of WPD Canada, told the tribunal that approach procedures at the airport could be modified in order to mitigate the presence of the proposed 500-foot turbines.
“I hope to put to bed that the turbines put into the area would not allow access to the airport,” he testified. “It just has to be mitigated.”
That would include moving a waypoint used by pilots flying under Instrument Flight Rules, moving the ‘circuit’ used by student pilots from the south of the airport to the north of the airport, and essentially creating a ‘no-go’ zone south-east of the airport where the turbines would be located.
However, he acknowledged that “one turbine becomes a factor” in the case of the privately-owned Stayner Aerodrome on County Road 91.
“There is a negative impact, and there’s nothing we can do about that,” McDonald testified, adding there are other obstructions to that aerodrome, such as trees and buildings, that a pilot flying in and out “would have to be very skilled.”
McDonald said modifying approach and take-off procedures at Stayner Aerodrome, however, would mitigate the presence of the turbines.
On Thursday, another WPD expert witness, risk assessment consultant Dr. Raymond Cox testified that an aircraft in the area of the turbines experiencing one of several issues, such as mechanical failure or pilot fatigue, and flying at the same level as the turbines “would likely impact the ground in any event.
“If (a pilot) is in a situation where they have run out of fuel, have a mechanical mishap, and they’re at (500 feet), they are in a dire situation,” Cox told the tribunal via Skype from his home in England. “If you’re in a car and you go over a cliff and don’t hit a boulder, you will hit something else.”
Cox also testified that any turbulence coming from the turbines would have a negligible effect on planes flying a distance equal to the diameter of five rotor blades.
However, under cross-examination by Collingwood and Simcoe County counsel Julie Abouchar, Cox acknowledged that under certain circumstances a pilot could make it to the airport should there be an issue.
“So, if the turbines are between an airplane and the airport, his or her options for a safe landing would be reduced,” Abouchar questioned the witness.
“Yes,” Cox responded.
The appellants, which also include Stayner Aerodrome owners Kevin and Gail Elwood, community group Preserve Clearview, and John Wiggins, now have until June 29 to submit written closing arguments. WPD Canada and counsel for the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change have until July 13 to file responses, to which the appellants can file reply submissions by July 20.
The tribunal has until Aug. 19 to make a ruling.