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Change is in the wind  

First there were nine; now there may be only six wind turbines on Hutchinson Island.

Florida Power & Light Co. withdrew its proposal Tuesday to site three wind turbines on publicly owned conservation land at Blind Creek Beach, in the face of likely defeat. A majority of St. Lucie County commissioners made it pretty plain which way the wind was blowing.

So the utility retreated to its own land near the nuclear power plant and settled for six turbines.

Will that cut down on the number of objectors? Probably not.

As some of them pointed out Tuesday evening, many of the same sticking points still apply.

The FPL land is no less environmentally sensitive despite having a nuke plant parked on it. The visual and noise intrusion would be the same; the threat to wildlife wouldn’t diminish by much either.

The utility may not be using public land anymore, but many of the same hurdles lie ahead. Gaining zoning and height variances for 40-story structures and a conditional use approval will be no slam dunk. I guess only time will tell if the St. Lucie Six will fly.

There was one more final odd spin in the turbine saga late Tuesday.

Commissioners were split over the precise wording of the message they’ll be sending the state Acquisition and Restoration Council.

In addition to expressing their approval of FPL’s withdrawal, Commissioner Doug Coward wanted the county to send an unequivocal message to Tallahassee: Don’t try the same tactic anywhere else in the state. The use of state lands for anything other than conservation and recreation is simply unacceptable, he feels.

Others weren’t so sure. Commissioner Charles Grande was worried that wording might hurt another project miles inland from the beach: the beleaguered Crosstown Parkway bridge across the St. Lucie River.

Oh come on! How could wind turbines have any effect on a bridge?

Well, by sending the state that message, Grande fears, the preferred PSL bridge route – which traverses a tiny park on state-owned conservation land – could be in jeopardy.

The last thing the county needs to be accused of, Grande said , is making such a sensitive PSL project look bad in the eyes of the governor.

Coward doesn’t feel the two projects have much in common. One was a private company attempting to use public land for its own profit-making ends; the other is, as he says, “a road that everyone knows is absolutely vital to the future of the city.”

We’ll wait with interest to see which version of the letter actually gets mailed.

This has been an energy-sapping week for me, listening to politicians drone on and on about electricity. In Fort Pierce Monday, they spent hours in a vain attempt to block Fort Pierce Utilities Authority from raising utility rates.

But there might be a silver lining here. I’m thinking of putting in a call to FPL.

“I heard you might have a couple of spare turbines you’d be happy to unload at a real good price? After what FPUA has in mind for us up here, I’m going to need to go off the grid. What’s that? Environmental impact? Oh, we don’t worry about that sort of thing in Fort Pierce. We have silos, you know.”

By Anthony Westbury
Associate Editor

TCPalm

19 March 2008

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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