A decision on whether St. Lucie County commissioners want wind turbines on South Hutchinson Island could come Tuesday because state officials would like an answer later in the week.
A state advisory committee known as the Acquisition and Restoration Council will hold a public hearing Thursday and vote Friday in Tallahassee on whether Florida Power & Light Co. should be allowed to use 6.3 acres in Blind Creek Park just north of the nuclear power plant.
“Any request for more than five acres has to go to the governor and Cabinet for final approval,” Sarah Williams, spokeswoman for the state Department of Environmental Protection, said. “The county also has to weigh in on this.”
The subject has been added to the agenda for commissioners’ meeting at 9 a.m. Tuesday.
Opponents hope to pack the house to discuss use of the public property, aesthetics and other issues.
The last packed house was when commissioners voted unanimously to oppose FPL’s coal plant proposed for western St. Lucie County.
County Attorney Dan McIntyre has recommended the county oppose use of Blind Creek property because $3.6 million from a voter-approved bond issue helped buy the land.
The ballot approved by 67 percent of the voters said the money should be used to protect environmentally significant land and wildlife habitat.
Commissioners have shied away from saying whether they favor the proposal, but Commissioner Doug Coward has been outspoken against the use of public conservation land.
He said FPL officials notified the county Thursday of the Tallahassee meeting.
“I’m disappointed we didn’t get more advance notice so the public would have more opportunity to speak,” Coward said. “It’s unconscionable and now we have to add it to our agenda at the last minute.”
The land is owned jointly by the state and the South Florida Water Management District but managed by the county under a lease signed in 1999.
A memorandum prepared for the council meeting in Tallahassee provides more details on FPL’s proposal for three wind turbines on public property in addition to the six it plans for its own land.
Each of three wind turbines would be inside a fenced area 250-feet by 250-feet with a 24-foot wide access road. Part of the road initially will be 35 feet wide for construction equipment but vegetation will be replaced to make it 24-feet wide afterward.
FPL will have to pay the state based on a appraisal of the 6.3 acres.
In addition, FPL is willing to build a 50-space parking lot and dune crossover to provide more beach access.
FPL will also give the state more land twice the size of the wind turbine enclosures and 24-foot wide road, according to the memo.
“We’re proposing a land swap, the state land for land we own,” FPL spokeswoman Amy Brunjes said. “The land will be of the state’s choosing.”
It won’t be land from the St. Lucie Nuclear Plant site but should be similar to the state property, Brunjes said.
St. Lucie County may be the first windfarm in Florida.
“We’re looking all up and down from Jacksonville to the Keys and up the west coast,” Brunjes said.
FPL first considered land at the Kennedy Space Center, but large numbers of birds in the nearby Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge forced them to turn to St. Lucie County, according to the state document.
By Jim Reeder
9 February 2008
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