ST. LUCIE COUNTY – If the community doesn’t support wind turbines in the county, Florida Power & Light Co. should move its project somewhere else, according to the governor’s office.
Gov. Charlie Crist has told FPL it either needs to convince residents the project is a good thing or it should find another location, said spokeswoman Erin Isaac. While the governor hasn’t explicitly told the company it should get out of St. Lucie County, he has stressed that a community buy-in is needed, she said.
The company wants to build nine turbines on Hutchinson Island, six on land it owns at the St. Lucie Nuclear Plant and three on state land at Blind Creek Park that is managed by the county.
Despite vocal opposition from some residents, FPL says it is sticking with its plans for the wind machines in St. Lucie County.
“FPL has and always will continue to look at other sites, but Hutchinson Island remains the best site we’ve identified so far,” said Amy Brunjes, a company spokeswoman, in a statement. “FPL owns most of the property, there are transmission facilities and other infrastructure already in place that will save the customers and county money and there is good wind there.”
The company was set to go before the Acquisition and Restoration Council, a state board that oversees the use of lands for the state Department of Environmental Protection, earlier this month, but FPL pulled out amid concerns from county commissioners that they were not being consulted first.
County Administrator Doug Anderson said county staff are still reviewing FPL’s applications and no hearing date has been set. They are keeping tabs on what Crist has to say to see if it influences the project at all, he said.
Anderson said it will ultimately be up to commissioners to decide when to take up the issue again. County Commission Chairman Joe Smith said there were no immediate plans to discuss turbines, and while he hoped to do so before the next ARC meeting in April, he couldn’t guarantee it.
The state has said allowing the turbines on the land would also require the county’s approval, as the county manages the site. Because of the size of the land requested, about four acres, the council could either give permission on its own or give permission and send the matter to the governor and the Cabinet for final approval, according to a DEP spokeswoman.
Commissioners were upset that the company would go to the state without first getting county approval. County Attorney Dan McIntyre has advised commissioners not to approve the site because it was paid for in part by county money set aside for conservation.
Adam Locke, president of the Indian River Drive Freeholders and an opponent of the project, said he was pleased with Crist’s statements and said those against the project want to see action taken on the part of commissioners.
“It seems like a no-brainer to us,” he said. “A lot of people are losing sleep over this, except, it seems, for our commissioners.”
By Derek Simmonsen
20 February 2008
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