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Lakeland municipalities want wind turbines banned 35 km from North Saskatchewan River

A Mayor, Reeve and MLA in northeastern Alberta are asking for a 35 km buffer zone from wind turbines along the North Saskatchewan River.
The North Saskatchewan River.

A group of municipalities in northeast of Edmonton have signed a joint letter addressed to Premier Danielle Smith and Affordability and Utilities Minister Nathan Neudorf asking for a 35 km buffer zone from wind turbines along the North Saskatchewan River, and other areas of the Lakeland.

The request to support the letter was brought to council by Wind Concerns, a northeast Alberta-based movement against industrial wind turbines.  

On Feb. 28, Smith and Neudorf announced the lifting of a six-month moratorium on the approval of new renewable electricity generation projects greater than one megawatt. The pause was initially put in place to allow the Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC) to complete an inquiry about the development of electricity generation in the province, at the direction of the Alberta government. 

New policies were put forward following the inquiry, made effective on March 1, including a 35 km buffer zone separating wind turbines from “pristine viewscapes.” 

The province also released a draft map of the buffer zones, most of which are located in southern Alberta, including along the entirety of the Canadian Rocky Mountain parks. Wind projects will not be permitted in these buffer zones due to their vertical footprint. 

The letter seeks further clarification on what the province defines as a “pristine viewscape.” 

“It appears that you are only considering the mountains and/or foothills as ‘pristine viewscapes.’ Our unique landscape - with the North Saskatchewan River, numerous recreation lakes, provincial and municipal parks, campgrounds, Iron Horse Tail, Moose Hill, Kinosoo Ski Resort and Fort George and Buckingham House - are making this a growing tourist and recreational destination. Will the government recognize this region’s pristine viewscapes?” reads the letter. 

The letter is asking the province to enforce a 35 km buffer zone along “the entire North Saskatchewan River in Alberta within the County of St. Paul as a ‘prohibited area’ for commercial wind energy projects.” 

In addition, the letter sought that “unique aspects” of the Lakeland region, including Bonnyville, Cold Lake, and St. Paul, be recognized as “pristine viewscape” due to the growth of tourism in the region. 

The joint letter was signed by County of St. Paul Reeve Glen Ockerman and Town of Elk Point Mayor Parrish Tung, and also endorsed by Bonnyville-Cold Lake-St. Paul MLA Scott Cyr, and Bonnyville-Cold Lake-St. Paul UCP Constituency Association president Mitch Sylvestre.

Ockerman told Lakeland This Week County council signed the letter for two main reasons: clarification on what "qualifies as pristine viewscapes," and further context on what Smith meant about being unable to build wind turbines "in your neighbour's backyard," directly quoting a statement from the Premier.

Ockerman says the County wants to ensure that the 35 km buffer also applies to the Lakeland area and that residents in the region will not be affected by wind turbines. He says he agrees with the Premier, saying, it is not acceptable to build wind turbines in people's backyards, where they live or make a living.

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