Metropolitan Homesick Blues

Southampton Stories & Other Stuff

Posts Tagged ‘wind turbines


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Eight years ago, when the thought of retirement began to creep into the routine of our frenetic city life, the idea of finding quietude and simplicity in a place close to nature became a worthy objective. We knew of Southampton. Friends of ours retired in this simple summer town spreading up from the shore of Lake Huron at the mouth of the Saugeen River. The Bruce Peninsula, with all its natural allure and waiting-for-us-to- discover trails, was full with the promise of a much simpler life. Saugeen Shores would be the ideal choice for us. Oh, we were aware of the size of the nearby Bruce Nuclear Plant. Yes, we saw the Wind Turbines at the Information Centre. But we never gave either a second thought. We found our Shangri La, so to speak. The quiet contentment we were looking for would be all around us.

Not so today.

There is a fault line running under the length of Saugeen Shores. Two tectonic plates, one the proliferation of Wind Turbines (especially the C.A.W. Turbine), the other the proposed Deep Geological Repositories (DGR) for Nuclear Waste, shift and grate against each other. This once quiet community has become a community of protestors. Concerned citizens have formed committees against both. There are coalitions, review panels, mountains of research on both sides, accusations against local politicos, a claimed lack of transparency from council and nuclear authorities and the specter of a hosting agreement that suggests that surrounding municipalities are receiving upwards of $500,000 annually to support DGR plans. It is said that these municipalities will be splitting a 34 million dollar windfall by 2034 for their willingness to back the DGR. Conflict of interest, closed door meetings, a lack of transparency and questions of resident support all add to the tremors now shaking the foundations of innocence that once bolstered this town.

It saddens us to see this happen. This kind of controversy isn’t what we expected when we retired here.

Even so, our life hasn’t changed. There is still a slow, simple pace to our daily comings and goings.

With the potential of nuclear waste beneath us and wind turbine turbulence surrounding us, perhaps the magnitude of the controversy will one day change things. Perhaps not.

Right now it matters little. The reality of the DGR, if it happens, is decades away. Past the time when we will even care.

Upcoming generations will be affected. They should get involved now. From what I’ve seen they are not.

Meantime, we will live our lives as we intended. For all of the back-and-forth, the finger-pointing, the denials, the he-said-they-said and the hand-wringing – the sun still shines – most days.


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Controversy is always lying on our doorstep like some tattered old doormat. Big city, small town, wherever you live, wherever you go, controversy finds a way to seep through the cracks of life drawing you into its core. It is invasive, like a weed you can’t get rid of.

I thought I’d avoid controversy when I retired to my small town. What I have sadly discovered is that it is whirling all around me like a hurricane, touching down at will, spreading chaos into every corner of small town life. Some of the damage done is minimal, some major. Some has the potential to permanently and perpetually change what we now have. In my beautiful corner of the world (Southampton, Saugeen Township, Port Elgin) controversy is healthy and destructive.

In the parking lot of their sprawling summer retreat and convention center, the C.A.W. (Canadian Auto Workers) has erected a Wind Turbine that breaks all the setback rules and stands boldly over the homes of concerned citizens. The controversy swirling around this has seen many protests, some quite bitter. The potential of hundreds more Wind Turbines on the North Bruce Peninsula is alarming both permanent and seasonal residents, spurring town hall meetings, media finger-pointing and raucous confrontations with local councils.

Saugeen Shores Council has decided to enter the competition that could result in the burying of all of Canada’s high-level radioactive waste somewhere in our community. This waste would be buried in a Deep Geological Repository (DGR),  in an estimated area of 930 acres below ground and 250 acres above ground; deep enough to hold up to 144,000 metric tonnes of used nuclear fuel bundles that are still radioactive. And if you talk to people on the street, read the flyers, attend the SOS rallies (, council meetings and listen to the interviews, the Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) aren’t helping to bring a balanced perspective to the situation. The NWMO is totally funded and its Directors appointed by the nuclear industry. They answer to no one except the PMO.

Vilification is in the air. Accusations of ‘who said what and lied to whom’ are part of every conversation. The negative impact of a high lever nuclear DGR is evident people who live here. They worry that this DGR is too close to Lake Huron, they fear quality of life; tourism and property values will suffer. They say we already have the Bruce Nuclear Plant just down the street where they already store low/medium level fuel bundles…why do we want more.

This controversy is far from over. It will rage on for years as people and politicians grapple with the pros and cons, the right and wrong, the morality of the situation. The damage this will do to relationships will probably have a half-life of a generation or two.

Controversy always leaves scars. Unfortunately.

If only folks would take a deep breath, wander down at sunset and read the advice posted on the side of the Range Light at the harbor mouth of the Saugeen River…




 Words to live by.




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What is it that keeps pulling me back to Toronto?

Lately it has been the company of old friends. On the last three trips I have connected with people I’ve know for a long, long time. Looking at them now and remembering what we were like back in the day can be disconcerting…not to mention depressing. Nonetheless, age does nothing to dampen the bond of familiarity we have forged over the years. The friendships are here. And they will never go away.

The city gets old too. And it shows. Not in the way a small town swears its age. There is no ‘growing old gracefully’ in Toronto. It is more an old acquaintance than an old friend. And there is a difference in that.

Nonetheless, I found things this trip I wish my small town had. Like the wonderful Italian bakery with hot and cold table serving the food I grew up with, gelati, old country breads, pastries, meats and olive oil and an espresso bar with Serie A soccer on the tube. There’s nothing like that in Saugeen Shores. N and my daughter took me to an amazing Lebanese restaurant that would probably never survive up here.

But, what is it that always pulls me back to Southampton?

In spite of new discoveries and old friends, the need to return to the country was strong come Sunday afternoon.

The weather mavens predicted heavy rain and high winds. And they were right. By the time we turned up Highway 10 out of Shelburne, a massive gun-metal grey cloud hung over the horizon, long, broad and reaching down to touch the road. It obliterated the fields of wind turbines, bringing night to the early afternoon.

Rain pelted down on us all the way home. Remnants of the hurricanes from down south had come up our way to exhaust themselves. Creeks, rivers and streams ran high. Fields were waterlogged. It was a harrowing drive, but N steered us home.

The solitude found on empty county roads…the fields freshly harvested…the trees slowly turning…the flying wedge of geese high in the sky, noisily making their way south…the wind and waves off Lake Huron. Even if this were possible in the city, it would not have the same charm. Once you’ve lived with the peacefulness of the country it is hard to live anywhere else.

Southampton is getting ready for fall. Driveways are piled high with wood waiting to be split for winter. Locally grown produce is waiting at the Keady Market. We can stop at the orchard to pick apples and indulge in fresh-baked turnovers at Smith’s Farm. One bite of Mickey’s pastry and apple pie will never be the same for you. 

The tourists are gone. The summer people will disappear after Thanksgiving. Then Southampton will be all ours again.

We sit and listen to the quiet now. The frenetic pace and noise of Toronto well behind us, forgotten. It is as if I was never there. I know N feels differently. She has no problem going back and forth.

I do. But that is not an issue.


Written by metropolitanhomesickblues

September 16, 2008 at 5:38 PM