HUTCHINSON ISLAND – The St. Lucie County attorney is recommending against letting Florida Power & Light Co. build wind turbines on state land at Blind Creek Park because county conservation money was used toward buying the park.
The recommendation is similar to one he made last year against allowing FPL to build turbines at Frederick Douglass and John Brooks parks, county-owned land that was purchased through bonds approved by voters for conservation purposes. FPL announced earlier this month that it was scrapping plans to put the machines at those parks, and would instead place six turbines on its own property at the St. Lucie Nuclear Plant and another three on an undeveloped parcel of state land at Blind Creek Park.
The state land is co-owned by the state Board of Trustees of the Internal Improvement Trust Fund (affiliated with the Department of Environmental Protection), which owns about two-thirds of the land, and the South Florida Water Management District, which owns the remainder. The county leased the land, which is about 412 acres, starting in 1999 for a period of 50 years and manages it, according to a memo from McIntyre released late Wednesday.
All three agencies are being consulted on FPL’s plans, but the issue has not yet gone before any of them for a hearing.
The county contributed $3.6 million towards buying the parcels, with some of the money paying back the state for purchase costs. The county money came from bonds, approved by voters in November 1994, that can only be used to buy and protect “environmentally significant lands and wildlife habitat,” the memo states.
In addition to the county money, the parcels were also bought in part through other state and national programs and agencies such as Conservation and Recreation Lands, Save Our Rivers, the U.S. Department of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Coastal Wetlands Restoration Act.
As part of the county’s lease with the state, the county is required to “manage the leased premises only for the conservation and protection of natural and historical resources and for resource based public outdoor activities and education which are compatible with the conservation and protection of these lands,” the memo states.
FPL first must go before the state Acquisition and Restoration Council, an advisory group that gives recommendations to DEP on what land should be purchased and how it should be used. Because the water district holds a smaller interest in the property, it has deferred the matter to DEP.
Sharon Bennett, an FPL spokeswoman, said the company is reviewing McIntyre’s recommendation, though she said some state officials have “offered a different opinion” about the legal status of the property. “We anticipate they will also be weighing in on the issue,” she said.
The company has made no changes to its plans at this point, she said.
Wind turbines have been a heated issue for many in the county. For months, commissioners have received numerous e-mails, phone calls and letters about the project, many from residents who are opposed to the turbines on public land or who have complained about the potential noise, negative effects on the environment and wildlife and the visual impact of the machines.
WIND TURBINES AT A GLANCE:
• If put into place, they would be the first of their kind in Florida.
• They would be mounted on steel towers and reach up to 417 feet tall, measured from the ground to the top of a blade when it is at its peak in its rotation.
• Florida Power & Light Co. has said it picked St. Lucie for the project because it has a plant in the county, there is open land on the coast and the county commission has been supportive of alternative energy.
• FPL wants the turbines, which would power about 3,000 homes per year under good wind conditions, ready in 2009.
30 January 2008
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