February 23, 2008

County commissioners need more time to weigh in on wind turbines

The pending decision on building wind turbines in St. Lucie County has been put on hold a while longer.

On Tuesday, Feb. 12, the St. Lucie Board of County Commissioners held a seven-hour meeting, in large part due to a last-minute agenda item related to a proposal by Florida Power & Light to install three wind turbines on county-leased land.

The property under discussion is Blind Creek Park, land jointly owned by Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection and the South Florida Water Management District.

The issue was placed on the commissioners’ agenda because the Acquisition and Restoration Council was expected to review the proposal on Feb. 14 and potentially vote on it the following day. However, the meeting was postponed at the request of FPL.

In a letter dated Feb. 13 and addressed to County Commission Chairman Joseph Smith, Eric Silagy, vice president of FPL, wrote, “it has always been our desire and expectation to work first with the county and then to proceed to the state for its required approval.”

Commissioner Chris Craft said the cancellation of the meeting will allow more time for the public and the commission to express their concerns on the issue.

“The next step should be a public hearing where we have an opportunity to truly get an understanding of what’s being proposed and where, and give the board an opportunity to weigh in on whether this is something we want for St. Lucie County,” said Commissioner Chris Craft.

Mr. Craft said he has yet to make up his mind on the wind turbine issue.

“I haven’t come to a decision on it,” he said. “What I’ve tried to do is encourage the conversation about this to take place. I think the most important thing is that we are raising the level of conversation and dialogue when it comes to global warming and climate change.”

Mr. Craft said between 200 and 250 people showed up at last week’s county commission meeting in opposition to the wind turbines on Hutchinson Island, along with a “number of people who were for them.”

“I’m pretty sure that the further you get from Indian River Drive, the more support you find for the project, and we have to consider the wishes of the entire community,” said Mr. Craft. “But obviously, we don’t want there to be a negative impact on any group of people, and that’s one of the things that is part of the process; to understand what these impacts are and, if there is a net environmental gain, whether these turbines lower people’s property values.”

Mr. Craft said the commissioners must also consider the environmental issues that may be associated with wind turbines, such as the impact on sea turtles and trout spawning and the issue of birds flying into turbine propellers.

Mr. Silagy, in his letter to Commissioner Smith, requested “immediate permission” to enter the Blind Creek site, “so that we may perform measures, such as archeological surveys, wetlands delineation, unexploded ordinance and soil suitability surveys, and gather other information necessary to provide the St. Lucie County Commission with factual, scientific data to consider about this project.”

On Feb. 14, Mr. Craft said the Board of County Commissioners has not made a decision on the fate of the wind turbines.

“We haven’t had the opportunity to discuss it as a board and we haven’t had a real presentation given to the board on potential impact,” he said. “My job is to protect the integrity of the process, and part of that is getting the county to get permission to go before the state about putting the turbines there.”

By Rita Hart

Staff writer

Hometown News

22 February 2008

URL to article:  https://www.wind-watch.org/news/2008/02/23/county-commissioners-need-more-time-to-weigh-in-on-wind-turbines/