Bowing to public pressure, Florida Power & Light Co. has dropped its plan to put 400-foot-tall wind turbines on public, waterfront parks, company officials said Wednesday.
Instead, it wants to build three on land owned by the state and the South Florida Water Management District and six on FPL property at the St. Lucie Nuclear Power Plant.
Use of the county-operated beach access areas at John Brooks and Frederick Douglass parks has been a major complaint of windturbine project critics who also question the aesthetics, noise and effects on wildlife.
“We want to be good neighbors,” FPL spokeswoman Sharon Bennett said of the amended plans the company submitted to the county on Wednesday.
Critics say moving the project from county parks is an improvement, but they’re not convinced the project is for St. Lucie County.
Indian River Drive resident Sandy Steinruck said she’s still concerned the wind turbine construction will damage valuable wildlife habitat.
“We’ve seen in Colorado the damage and the mess they create,” she said.
County Commissioners Doug Coward and Paula Lewis said they’re glad the company has moved from John Brooks and Frederick Douglass parks, but want more information about the public land north of Blind Creek. Both want to know how and why the state and water district acquired the property.
“If they’re using land acquired for conservation purposes, the problem hasn’t gone away,” Coward said. “It’s just not appropriate to use conservation land and there are still unanswered questions.”
“It’s encouraging they’ve accepted the fact the county beaches just won’t work as windmill sites,” Lewis said. “A lot of opponents simply don’t want windmills and this won’t satisfy them.”
County Commission Chairman Joe Smith said the change doesn’t necessarily clear the way for the wind turbines to be built.
“Some said they object to a private company using any public land,” Smith said.
The public property is undeveloped and the state agencies support the project, Bennett said.
“We have to put in a road and clear the land for the windmill,” Bennett said. “If the owners want us to create more public beach access, we can do that. If they want us to re-plant the property, we can do that,” she said.
Jane Brooks, whose late husband worked for the state to buy the park that bears his name, said she’s thrilled FPL won’t use that property.
“I thought it would have set a dangerous precedent to put any kind of development on public property that was bought for preservation and conservation,” Brooks said.
County Commissioner Chris Craft, primary backer of the project, was quoted in FPL’s news release as saying he appreciates the company “responding to the public to balance the need for alternative energy with our right to enjoy public spaces.”
The nine wind turbines could generate up to 20.7 megawatts “under favorable wind conditions” and power 3,000 houses, FPL says.
FPL’s new proposal
# Six wind turbines, instead of five, on Florida Power & Light Co. property at its nuclear power plant.
# Three wind turbines on land owned by the state and South Florida Water Management District instead of at John Brooks and Frederick Douglass parks.
# St. Lucie County commissioners must consider FPL’s request to rezone the public property to allow wind turbines.
By Jim Reeder
17 January 2008
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