HUTCHINSON ISLAND – Recent archaeological surveys show prehistoric Indians made their homes and buried their dead along the banks of Blind Creek, an area that has drawn controversy as a possible site for wind turbines. “The area has a large number of prehistoric villages and burial areas that have somehow survived all the indignities of time,” said Robert Carr, of Archaeological and Historical Conservancy Inc., who directed the study.
The county contracted with Carr after the 2004 hurricanes to make sure county workers didn’t disturb any archaeological finds when they removed storm debris and exotic species of plants from the island, said Jim David, county mosquito control director. Florida Power & Light Co. has proposed putting nine wind turbines on the island, six on its own land at the St. Lucie Nuclear Plant and three on state-owned land managed by the county at Blind Creek Park.
The issue is likely to go before the state Acquisition and Restoration Council in April, and although it is not on any current county agendas, commissioners may take up the matter again in the next two months. FPL spokeswoman Amy Brunjes said they are reviewing the findings, but had no further comment. The company previously has said if the project could not be done without negatively impacting archaeological sites, it would not move forward.
The turbines would require about 4 acres out of the park’s 412. The archaeological survey was conducted in August and September 2006 on the east side of A1A and between April and August 2007 on the west side. Archaeologists found four previously unrecorded sites and one already discovered site on the east side, and five unrecorded sites and one previously recorded one on the west side of A1A.
The first archaeological report was released to the county in January and the second became public Friday. While these types of finds are not uncommon in Florida, they have become more unusual on barrier islands, as much of the Florida coastline has been developed in recent decades, Carr said. Radiocarbon dating was not done, but Carr estimated the finds were about 1,000 to 3,000 years old, and some could possibly be older.
The Indians, probably related to the Ais tribe, likely were drawn to the area because the creek provided a canoe route to the ocean, plenty of fish and fresh water. In addition to human remains, which all were in fragments, pottery, animal bones and a lot of shells also were found.
Those artifacts are being catalogued and likely will be returned to the site in the next 60 days, he said. The human remains found have already been reinterred, a requirement under state law, he said. Carr has recommended the sites “be protected from any future impacts” and notes the area could be eligible for the National Register of Historic Places pending further study.
The area was used during World War II as an ammunition storage and shooting range, which likely disturbed some of the finds, and David said he wants to make sure anyone working on the land is careful so as not to be injured by unexploded ordnance. “We really don’t know what’s underground there,” he said. The county’s main goal at this point is to make sure the finds are protected, David said. Because the exact turbine sites on Blind Creek haven’t been firmly set, David said it was unclear if any would have to be moved because of the finds. “We are trying very hard to make sure the decision-makers are aware of this information,” David said.
WHAT’S GOING ON WITH THE TURBINES?
•Gov. Charlie Crist’s office said this week that if the community doesn’t support Florida Power & Light’s wind turbine project, the company should consider moving the project elsewhere.
•The company requires a zoning change and height waiver to place the turbines on Hutchinson Island, as well as permits to take soil samples. None are currently sched´uled before county commissioners.
•FPL also requires the permission of the state Acquisition and Restoration Council, which oversees state lands, to place turbines at Blind Creek Park. It would also require the county’s approval and could potentially go before Crist and the Cabinet.
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