ST. LUCIE COUNTY – Florida Power & Light Co.’s proposal to put wind turbines on public conservation land within the county is simple: It’s illegal.
That’s the message St. Lucie County Commissioner Doug Coward told a crowd of more than 100 people Monday afternoon during a meeting at Ocean Village.
FPL wants to put nine wind turbines on the island, including six on property it owns and three on Blind Creek Park – state-owned environmentally sensitive land leased by the county. In 1994, St. Lucie County voters agreed by referendum to pay additional taxes so the county could acquire environmentally significant land for recreation and the protection of wildlife habitat. Coward read the ballot language to residents, which he called clear and unambiguous.
“If you notice there is no mention of an industrial wind turbine in that referendum language,” Coward said. “The county attorney has reviewed the proposal, and he has determined the use of this site (Blind Creek) is illegal. What are we debating? Let’s all go home.”
The meeting at Ocean Village comes a day before the County Commission plans to discuss FPL’s proposal at its 9 a.m. meeting Tuesday. The commission put the discussion on the agenda at the last minute after learning FPL was taking its proposal before the state’s Acquisition and Restoration Council on Thursday. The state agency oversees the use of public conservation lands and makes recommendations on purchasing news lands.
Coward, who’s been prominent in his criticism against the proposal, would like to see FPL move toward solar energy instead of wind. Coward said FPL’s move to go to the state without getting approval from the county or the public is its way of attempting to circumvent local opposition to the project. Most of the attendees at the Ocean Village meeting were in opposition to the turbines.
Opponents argue the turbines kill birds, create unbearable noise, are an eyesore, and would produce an insignificant amount of energy. Critics also say FPL’s motive behind the plan is not to conserve energy but rather to gain massive tax cuts while enjoying billion-dollar profits.
“There’s no defined definition of need or that it’s financially feasible or economically attractive,” said Ocean Village resident Bob Lessa. “If you put up nine there will be 30 or 40 later. What are the alternatives? The alternatives are clearly to expand the nuclear plant that we have instead of destroying the horizon.”
Coward encouraged residents to show up in full force Tuesday to voice their concerns to the County Commission. One woman in the audience asked residents to wear red T-shirts to the meeting.
By Alexi Howk
11 February 2008
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