Wind farm draws mixed messages: Batchewana chief
A Sault Ste. Marie-area area First Nation responded in detail Wednesday to another area band’s claim that a proposed wind farm north of the city is proceeding without adequate consultation with aboriginal groups.
Batchewana First Nation, a partner in the proposed 60-megawatt Bow Lake project in the remote Montreal River area, said consultation has been ongoing for the past five years with various native groups, including Michipicoten First Nation (MFN) near Wawa.
Last week, MFN Chief Joe Buckell said the Northern Superior Chiefs opposed the project “due to lack of consultation.”
Buckell’s opposition, which was announced in a Union of Ontario Indians news release, is based on a disagreement over respective Batchewana and MFN boundaries in areas where the turbines are to be erected.
Batchewana, along with main wind-farm proponent, Calgary-based BluEarth Renewables, “are ignoring the Robinson Huron Treaty of 1850 in which the boundaries are clearly stated,” Buckell, who couldn’t be reached for comment Wednesday, stated in the news release.
But in a separate release issued Wednesday, Batchewana accused Buckell of giving mixed messages.
“On April 2, 2012, Chief Buckell signed a letter stating that MFN had no interest in the (wind farm) project,” said the Batchewana release.
“Shortly afterward, (Buckell) rescinded that letter.”
Since then, said the Batchewana release, Buckell has been asked to identify concerns about MFN treaty rights and traditional lands that could be affected by the wind project, but “he has not responded to any of those queries.”
In the UOI news release, Buckell threatened to take “direct action” against the wind farm project if it proceeds before meeting MFN’s concerns regarding consultation. He didn’t elaborate.
BluEarth has a 20-year power purchase agreement with the Ontario Power Authority. Construction on the Bow Lake project could begin next year, with the project’s first phase of electricity to be produced in 2014.
The turbines may be seen from some locations, but not from key tourist spots like Pancake Bay Provincial Park, according to a consultant’s report.
Batchewana Chief Dean Sayers said he was still holding out hope that his band and MFN “would move forward in a positive manner on a nation-to-nation basis.”
(Note: This story was published in the Thursday, Oct. 4, 2012 edition of The Chronicle-Journal.)