County Attorney Dan McIntyre has advised commissioners to not allow FPL to put turbines on state land
HUTCHINSON ISLAND – Florida Power & Light Co. is moving forward with plans to place wind turbines on state land at Blind Creek Park despite one county commissioner coming out against the site and the county attorney advising against it.
County Attorney Dan McIntyre released a memo late Wednesday advising commissioners to not allow FPL to put turbines on the land, which is co-owned by the state Board of Trustees of the Internal Improvement Trust Fund (affiliated with the Department of Environmental Protection) and the South Florida Water Management District. The county helped the state buy the land, currently leases it and acts as the land manager.
McIntyre opposed the plan because the county contributed $3.6 million to the state to buy the property, using money from bonds issues approved by voters to buy and protect “environmentally significant lands and wildlife habitat.”
Earlier this month FPL dropped plans to place the machines on county-owned property at John Brooks and Frederick Douglass parks after McIntyre found the sites were bought with conservation in mind.
Also, many residents protested using county land for the project.
County Commissioner Doug Coward, who had spoken out against the Frederick Douglass and John Brooks sites, said Thursday he thinks FPL should drop the site and look for either public land that wasn’t set aside for conservation – a difficult prospect on Hutchinson Island – or private property.
“The county needs to take a firm position that we will not use public conservation lands,” he said. “I just think it violates the public trust. We told them if we raise their taxes, we’d use it for a very specific purpose.”
FPL officials don’t see McIntyre’s opinion as closing the door on the site.
“The opinion is clearly presented as an advisory opinion and does not preclude a full commission hearing,” said FPL spokeswoman Sharon Bennett. “We look forward to a full commission hearing to discuss the long-term environmental and conservation benefits of clean wind energy.”
County Commissioner Chris Craft said he wants to have a hearing about the turbines to answer the larger question of whether they should be allowed on Hutchinson Island. Craft is not necessarily opposed to using conservation land for the project, either. He said he sees tackling climate change as a natural outreach of conservation lands.
“It’s not as black or white as some people have made it out to be,” said Craft, who added he remains undecided about the project overall. “We have an obligation to the public to consider this.”
Other commissioners could not be reached for comment.
Eric Silagy, an FPL vice president, said the turbines would require about three acres of the 412 acres at the site, adding that money the company would pay the state and county to use the land could buy more conservation land.
FPL’s next move would be to go before the state Acquisition and Restoration Council, a nine-member group that makes recommendations on how state-owned lands should be run. The next meeting is in mid-February, but an agenda has not been finalized and officials with the state Department of Environmental Protection didn’t know if it would be on the agenda.
The agency hasn’t seen any comprehensive project outline and hasn’t take a position on it, said Dee Ann Miller, a DEP spokeswoman.
By Derek Simmonsen
1 February 2008
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