Wind farm opponents voice concerns

  • May. 14, 2010 5:00 a.m.

Some Haida citizens are comparing their fight against the proposed wind farm in Hecate Strait to the fight to protect Gwaii Haanas, and say they will do all they can to stop the project. “Rose Spit is the original birthplace of the Haida people and we have a cultural responsibility to protect it,” Tammy Gates of the Concerned Haida Citizens group said at a public meeting in Old Massett Thursday (May 13). “Rose Spit should be actively protected by all Haidas just like Gwaii Haanas was, no matter whose clan has claim to that territory.” Ms Gates made a presentation about the Naikun wind farm to a group of about 30 people, raising concerns ranging from the effect that the massive turbines could have on birds and marine life, to the business deal between the company and the Council of the Haida Nation. The CHN last year signed a memorandum of understanding with Naikun Wind Energy Group which gives the CHN the opportunity to buy up to 40 percent of the company. The CHN is conducting its own environmental assessment of the project and will also be holding a vote on it. Ms Gates said she believes the project is financially risky and that the numbers provided at meetings don’t make sense. If the CHN were to borrow $400 million in order to invest in Naikun, for example (exactly how much of an investment the CHN will make has not been determined), for 40 years at 3.5 percent, it would mean annual payments of over $19-million. Ms Gates said the CHN’s share of insurance, maintenance and other expenses is estimated to be a further $45-million a year. The wind farm will have to generate a lot of money in order to cover these expenses, she said. “This project must make over $200-million a year to make money,” she said. “You do not have to be a banker, accountant or mathematician to realize this is utterly impossible.” Ms Gates said although BC Hydro rejected the Naikun project in its Clean Power Call decision, the company is continuing to promote the project and still hopes to build it. Several people at the meeting said the Council of the Haida Nation has not listened to their concerns and that they want to hold a demonstration to make their opposition clear. “I am here to stand in support of stopping this project because of the effect it will have on our minds, bodies, spirits,” said Crystal Robinson, who suggested holding a protest in front of the CHN building. “We need movement now. We can’t just sit here… Our people are taking our own land away from future generations.” Lavina White also spoke, thanking Ms Gates for her research and presentation and calling on all Haida citizens to oppose the wind farm. Rose Spit and the ocean surrounding it is a sacred place for the Haida people, she said, and should never have been considered for a wind farm site in the first place. “We don’t want that power thing here on our island,” she said. “We can’t give our lands away to people like that, who are going to destroy everything that makes our life precious.” Maureen LaGroix said she had come across unsettling information while researching whether the wind farm site had any form of provincial protected status, since it is right off the shores of Naikoon Provincial Park. Ms LaGroix found that there are still pockets of “private” land in Naikoon that are being sold by developers. The land was originally given away by the provincial government to white settlers starting around 1910. Many settlers did come to the islands as a result of the government’s offer of free land. “It made me sick,” she said. “They never paid for any land, it was given to them. Now in 2010, the government is doing the same thing out in the ocean.”