Last Thursday, 11 October, the President of the Charente-Maritime Department, Mr. Dominique Bussereau, organised a meeting with other local elected officials and representatives from different associations concerned by wind farms being proposed for the region, in particular the project being advanced by EDF-Renouvables for the right bank of the estuary of the Gironde.
Seated alongside President Bussereau were Véronique Piasecki, Mayor of Saint-Sorlin-de-Conâc, who hosted the event; Lionel Quillet, Deputy Vice President of the Department; Françoise de Roffignac and Marie-Christine Bureau, Vice Presidents of the Department; and Marie-Pierre Quentin, Bernard Louis-Joseph and Loïc Girard, Departmental Counsellors.
President Bussereau stressed his firm opposition to the EDF-R project planned the length of an estuary that we have been able to protect for so long, and his determination to “fight it by any means possible.”
He informed those present that on 3 October, the CNDP (National Committee on Public Forums) assigned two ‘guarantors’ to oversee a prerequisite public consultation, following an application sent to the CNDP by the developer of the project.
The President confirmed that within two weeks a ‘Wind Turbine Watchdog Group’ would be established for the Charente-Maritime, to be presided by Lionel Quillet. It will take its inspiration from the ‘Wind Turbine Watchdog Group of the Hauts-de-France ’ put in place by the president of that region, Xavier Bertrand.
Lionel Quillet reminded the assembly that over the last 20 years, the Charente-Maritime department has acquired 500 hectares of land between Vitrezay and Meschers, and that such an initiative was not undertaken so that one day we’ll see industrial wind turbines there.
Those in the room raised numerous arguments opposing the project related to: respect for the biodiversity of the region; the desire to retain the Natura 2000 certification label, as well as the UNESCO status of the Blaye citadel and pending UNESCO classification of the Cordouan lighthouse; negative impacts of such a project on the fragile ecosystem (both fauna and flora), on tourism and on hunting; and the recommendations of the LPO (League for the Protection of Birds) to avoid placing wind farms near such sensitive zones.
Although everyone present welcomed the establishment of the ‘Wind Turbine Watchdog Group’ for the region, many nevertheless expressed their deep concern that the project continues to move forward, despite the near-unanimous opposition of the region’s elected officials. Certain pointed out that, for example at Baignes (Charente), a wind farm project was approved even though those living in the region and nearly all elected officials were opposed to it. Michel Broncard, Vice President of the FED (Fédération Environnement Durable) spoke of the dismay and helplessness felt by those living in Aunis and Saintonge (both in the Charente-Maritime), who feel that they have been ‘sacrificed’: “We’ll see 400 wind turbines here within ten years” !
|C. Belot et D. Bussereau|
Several people present said they were surprised that the President of the Communities of Haute-Saintonge, Mr. Claude Belot, had remained silent regarding the wind farm project along the estuary.
President Bussereau replied that he would make every effort to influence President Bulot, who he would be meeting in the near future.
Loïc Girard referenced reports that have been issued by environmental experts such as Raphaël Musseau, Director of Biosphères Environnement (Mortagne) and Christophe Barbraud, a research director at the CNRS (National Centre for Scientific Research), and their unequivocal conclusions regarding the impact of such a wind farm on the region’s birds. R. Musseau, who was present in the room, reminded everyone that the EDF-R wind farm project would be situated in the middle of a zone that is recognised internationally for its exceptional ecological value.
Representatives of various associations opposed to the project – including Action Environnement Estuaire (AEE), Association Saintongeaise des Chasseurs de Gibiers d’Eau, Défense des Marais de l’Estuaire (DDME), Donquichotte17460, Epargnes-Mon-Village, FED and Stop Eolien 17 – made it clear that the project “simply cannot go forward, ” and urged President Bussereau to directly petition Minsiter François de Rugy. President Bussereau replied that he was indeed planning on meeting soon with the new Ministre de la Transition écologique et solidaire in this matter.
The president of the DDME suggested that we reach out to UNESCO, in the hope that the Gironde estuary is designated a World Natural Heritage Site.
The President of the AEE proposed that alternative solutions be explored for the region. For example, the extensive agriculture of the Charente-Maritime produces much ‘organic waste’ that holds great potential for biogas renewable energy.
|Photo 1: along the estuary Photo 2: a battalion of wind turbines|
The general impression throughout the evening was that we are experiencing a breakdown of the democratic process, whether felt by those who are at this moment fighting an invasion of wind turbines in their region, or by those fighting a proposed project that is at the same time moving forward in an underhanded manner (with little information being provided to the public) and aggressively (by ‘buying out’ landowners: getting them to sign irrevocable ‘airtight’ contracts favouring the promoter), and despite a clear opposition by the citizenry.
Lionel Quillet brought the meeting to a close by thanking the participants and inviting them (mayors and representatives of the various organisations opposed to the EDF-R project) to engage with the Wind Farm Watchdog Group as soon as it has been launched in a few weeks.