With a majority of St. Lucie County commissioners opposing Florida Power & Light Co.’s plans to put three giant wind turbines on conservation land at Blind Creek Park, that part of the nine-windmill project is dead. Three cheers.
The project does not belong on land the county and state paid to preserve. FPL still could place six 400-foot windmills on its land near the St. Lucie Nuclear Plant on Hutchinson Island, if the county approves a change to height restrictions, and problems with a Seminole burial ground can be resolved.
But St. Lucie commissioners should reject the Blind Creek part of the project, which would take it off the state’s Acquisition and Restoration Council agenda in April. Department of Environmental Protection spokeswoman Sarah Williams said the council can’t override a county decision. What would happen to a $2.5 million DEP grant to FPL is uncertain.
Last week, Commissioners Chris Craft and Paula Lewis joined Doug Coward in opposing FPL’s plan to use county oceanfront land. Commissioner Coward has opposed it from the start. In late February, Gov. Crist said he was talking to FPL about finding another location “that may not have the resistance we’re seeing in St. Lucie County.”
Then, the DEP gave FPL that $2.5 million grant, even though county and state officials had not approved the project. Some suggest that the grant should be reduced, since the county would reject the three turbines on county land, or shifted to solar projects.
At the time the grant was awarded, Ms. Williams said that even though FPL called its project “St. Lucie Wind” and referred to South Hutchinson Island, the utility might not have to spend the money there. FPL could spend it on windmills elsewhere in the state. But if the size of the project is reduced, the amount of the grant also could change. Or, “the money will go to the next applicant on the list.”
St. Lucie’s rejection would leave intact the principle that land bought for conservation is meant to be preserved. If FPL proceeds with the project on its own land, it should return a portion of the grant. If FPL drops the whole project, the whole grant should go back to the state.
Palm Beach Post Editorial
10 March 2008
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