Bedrock Compressed Air Storage Facility open houseResidents gathered at Bedrock's public open house at the Stanley Community Complex in Varna, July, 25, 2023. (Kate Otterbein / Blackburn Media)

Bluewater residents have their say on proposed Bedrock project

Bedrock Energy Corporation recently held a public open house to issue a notice of commencement for the environmental assessment and answer residents' questions about its proposed Compressed Air Storage Facility on Goshen Line.

During and after that meeting, many residents began expressing their opinions. One resident in particular, Bayfield resident Anette Christensen Kalm, said she's in favour of renewable energy, but something isn't sitting right with her in regards to this project.

"I think I speak for a lot of people that we don't know anything about it, they have been very secretive," said Christensen Kalm. "That's not a very good way to approach people, especially not in Bayfield and the surrounding areas because we're very involved in general. Not disclosing everything has been a real concern."

As per the story boards at the meeting, the estimated 120 acres initially proposed has increased to an estimated 130 acres, which many residents brought to Bedrock representatives' attention. Those who spoke with all echoed the concerns for the use of farmland and industrializing a rural area, noise pollution, and the environmental impacts.

"They're talking about it being four stories high and you're going to have this kind of structure right outside of Bayfield and Bayfield's industry is tourism," said Christensen Kalm. "Having people come into Bayfield looking at this monster of structure is a real issue, but that's minor. Environmentally, what are we dealing with here? What's underground? Do we know anything about it? What's it going to do to our water table? What's it going to do to birds and migrating birds?"

Alongside the environmental impacts, she voiced social impacts.

"How did Bedrock, which is such a young company with a lot of young people, how did this come to be that this is a facility they would like to build here?" she asked. "They're talking about how many jobs it's going to create, 800 jobs, none of these jobs are going to come from Bayfield or surrounding areas because they're going to need expertise."

Elaine Coombs, a local realtor in Bluewater, agreed with this point. She mentioned especially with the current housing crisis, it will be hard to grow the population that significantly, even if it's only temporary.

"I asked a representative where they would keep [the workers] and his answer to me was 'oh, we haven't thought about that yet'," said Coombs. "I said well that is something you need to think about because if you're going to build this, you need homes for these people and there is no vacancy available in our area."

She outlined that another representative mentioned they will find homes for them.

"I stepped up and told him that he was mistaken," said Coombs. "If I was trying to find five apartments right now for five employees, I would have a tough time finding that in Bayfield, Zurich, Seaforth, Clinton. It would be very hard to house hundreds of people."

The concern that Coombs has about needing a space for such a magnitude of employees is a potential work camp being built on the site.

"What does that mean for us?" she said. "Are they going to build a septic system for their own encampment? That's going to lead to worrying about groundwater, and runoff, and a lot of potential things that could happen."

Coombs said it would also create even more traffic on Goshen Line, which could lead to more car accidents and the need for increased police presence.

Brenda Consitt is another area resident who lives right behind the proposed site. After the virtual information session held in May and the public open house just recently held, she too is against the project.

"As neighbours to this project, we know the significant impact," said Consitt in a letter to Bluewater council, the Bluewater planning department, and the Huron County planning department. "We have experienced the hydro line construction, the wind turbine construction, and you are potentially asking us, once again, to endure round three of chaos!"

As a family who is part of the agriculture community, that was another key point for Consitt and why she's against the project.

"Farmers feed cities!" she said. "But we cannot do that if we keep losing farmland to projects like these. If the future population growth is going to need the energy like Bedrock is prophesying and relying on, then that population is also going to need to eat and we cannot afford to cover up our food producing land with concrete here in Bluewater and Huron County."

For Jeff Hayter, a resident who lives right across from the site, he said he doesn't want to be looking at a industrial building, right in the middle of a field.

"The biggest problem I have is when I sit on my living room couch and look out my front window, I will be looking directly at an industrial building," said Hayter. "I have no problem looking at any kinds of farm buildings, but I am not willing to look out and see an industrial building. Rural Ontario is not the place for this type of operation."

He also cited the decrease of property value and the lengthy time of construction that will cause a lot of noise and activity on his road.

Peter Walden, Stanley East councillor for Bluewater, said he isn't a fan of putting farmland out of commission, but believes the need for conserving energy is stronger.

"I think the amount of impact is worth it, considering the gain of the province, with the energy storage and the uses of the energy, and not being totally reliant on nuclear energy or other fossil energy," said Walden.

He described his view as saving energy that's currently being wasted that is already paid for.

Members of Bluewater council have remained open to and continue to encourage residents to write them with any of their concerns, comments, and opinions on the topic to ensure the best decision is made for the municipality. Contact information for council members can be found here.

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