EBR Comment 17

I am writing to express my continuing concern that Horizon’s proposed Big Thunder Wind Park will destroy the upper cross-country ski trail system at the Big Thunder Sports Park hence reducing the potential for reopening of the Big Thunder Sports Park as a national training centre and competition site for nordic sports as well as a recreational ski area for local skiers.

In its final REA application Horizon has still not produced a detailed map which superimposes the proposed network of roads and wind turbines over the existing cross-country ski trail system to show exactly where the proposed roads and turbines will be positioned in relationship to the ski trails.  At an open house in Aug., 2010, Nhung Nguyen, the project developer, promised me that such a map would be produced and presented in its REA application.  In my letter of May 31, 2011 to Doris Dumais which was copied to Nhung Nguyen (see attached letter) I repeated this request.

Furthermore, in its letter of Aug. 5, 2010 to Horizon, the City of Thunder Bay requested that “…the maps in the REA report be of sufficient detail to determine the precise location of access roads, in the context of concerns about the project’s access roads potentially using cross-country ski trails and interfering with the potential reopening of the Big Thunder Sports Park.”  ( REA 16; 5.2; p. 23; item # 9)    Horizon has downplayed the significance of the Big Thunder Sports Park and its cross-country ski trails by frequently referring to the ski trails as ATV trails and a network of roads.

The reality is that the best cross-country skiers in the world competed on these trails during the World Nordic Ski Championships at Big Thunder in 1995.  In preparation for the 1995 World Nordics extensive work was done on the entire trail system to ensure that the trails met international racing standards.  This included building bridges, the stadium, and a snow making system on the lower trails and trail widening , banking of the downhill runs, and improving the drainage system (ditches and culverts)  on the upper trails.  The trail system was tested with a World Cup event in 1994 and the World Nordic Ski Championships were held in March, 1995 at Big Thunder. Please refer to my attached letter for further details on the history of the Big Thunder Sports Park.  Horizon has failed to provide any of this historical information on the development of the Big Thunder Sports Park even though I requested that it be included in their REA application.  Furthermore, they did not even change the incorrect information that I noted on p. 3 of my letter to Doris Dumais.  The repeated incorrect information that I noted in my letter can be found in their REA application in the following sections: 1. Big Thunder Park Project Description  Report, p.13, item 2.4.4; and in 2(a) Big Thunder Park Environmental Screening Report  Part 1, p.56, item 7.9 and p. 57, item 7.9.1, and p.59, item 7.9.4.    At an open house at Blake Hall on May 17, 2011, Nhung Nguyen assured me that Horizon would minimize damage to the existing ski trails and that the main access road from Loc Lomond Road would follow adjacent to the ski trail.  In their REA application in 16 Big Thunder Consultation Report, p. 25, item 6.1.4, Preservation of the Cross Country Ski Track, Horizon states the following:

“Members of the public interested in re-opening the Big Thunder Sports Park and using the cross country ski trails have expressed concern that installation of roads may result in the destruction of ski trails.  In response Horizon has committed to minimizing tree clearing around existing cross country ski trails.  Where the new access road crosses existing ski trails, modifications will be made to preserve the overall high and low points to minimize temperature and exposure to skiers.”

The latter portion of this statement referring to minimizing temperature and exposure to skiers is nonsensical and irrelevant and demonstrates Horizon’s total lack of understanding of the real issues related to the ski trails.  I will summarize the issues that I see that need to be addressed:

1. No trails should be constructed directly along any of the existing ski trails and roads must be built a specified distance from the trails.
2. Where it is necessary for a road to cross a ski trail, the road should be at the same grade as the trail and appropriate drainage should be developed at these crossings (i.e. ditching and culverts).

3. When the roads are plowed for winter use, no sand or chemicals should be applied within a specified distance of the crossings and trails affected by plowing must be immediately re-groomed (at Horizon’s expense) after plowing and any vehicular use of the road.

4. The wind turbines should be sited such that the 70m x 70m clear cut around each turbine not touch or include any ski trail.

5. Turbines located in close proximity to the ski trails should not operate during the cross-country ski season during daylight hours due to the hazard of potential ice throw.

With regard to #5 above I should point out that in its discussion of Public Safety 2(a) Big Thunder Wind Park Environmental Screening Report Part 1, pp.83-84, item 8.3.10 Horizon states: “Signs warning of the potential for ice fall or ice throw during the winter months will be posted along public trails within the vicinity of the turbines.”  How then, does Horizon propose that skiers will be able to ski safely in the vicinity of some of the turbines unless they do not operate during daylight hours during the ski season?

In my letter to Doris Dumais and copied to Nhung Nguyen I identified all of the above issues and Horizon has failed to address any of them in its REA application other than to state that, “Where the new access road crosses existing ski trails, modifications will be made to preserve the overall high and low points…”.

The detailed map that I previously requested would clearly show that the ski trails will be close to some of the wind turbines and I suspect will also demonstrate that Horizon fully intends to build its network of roads along the existing ski trails rather than an independent network of roads that occasionally crosses  the ski trails.

To substantiate my above assertion, I would like to draw your attention to two different references demonstrating that Horizon plans to use the existing ski trails for their roads.  In 16d2 Big Thunder Consultation Report, p.60 of 300 in a meeting on May11, 2011 between Horizon and the Fort William First Nations Council Nhung Nguyen stated:  “there are existing trails- ski trails- so we are going to try to use those trails as much as possible – to mitigate environmental impact.”   In the same report on p. 271 of 300 (p. 8 of report Confidential Potential impact on moose  June 20, 2011) the following is stated:

“In the Big Thunder Wind Park, road lengths have been minimized in the design of the proposed project and have been located in order to minimize environmental impacts.  The project is maximizing the use of existing road networks.  As such, the proposed project does not impose a significant amount of new roads to be considered as new infrastructures for moose population.”

The road networks referred to above are actually the ski trails as there are no roads in this area other than the ski trails.  Clearly, there is a discrepancy between what is indicated above and Horizon’s claim that the damage to the ski trails will be minimized.  I believe that Horizon has intentionally not produced the map that I and the City of Thunder Bay have requested because it would show that the upper ski trail system will be decimated and rendered unusable.

I have always felt that the entire Loc Lomond watershed with its pristine lakes, abundant wildlife, sugar maple stands, and majestic white pines along with its world class cross-country ski trails should be preserved as parkland with no industrial development.  Therefore I implore you to protect this wilderness gem adjacent to Thunder Bay by rejecting Horizon’s REA application!

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