St. Lucie County’s desire for public beach access could give Florida Power & Light Co. a big bargaining chip when it seeks approval to build six wind turbines on land it owns on South Hutchinson Island.
County Administrator Doug Anderson has written to FPL asking the company to renew an agreement that expired in 2006 so the county can continue to maintain a parking lot and restrooms at Walton Rocks Beach, FPL’s 24 acres near the St. Lucie Nuclear Plant.
“The lease agreement will ensure that St. Lucie County can continue to expend public funds to operate and maintain this beach, which has been enjoyed by our citizens for more than 20 years,” Anderson wrote in a May 22 letter to FPL Vice President Eric Silagy.
Anderson said he discussed the issue with FPL officials earlier this year, but has had no response.
“We thought it was time to put it on paper so there’s a record of it,” he said.
FPL believes the 14 miles per hour average wind speed here is enough to turn the first wind turbines in Florida.
Proponents boost wind turbines as a way to produce electricity without emitting greenhouse gases and other air pollutants.
Opponents fear customers will end up paying for wind turbines that won’t produce enough electricity to make it worth the money.
The six 400-foot-tall structures will produce 13.8 megawatts of electricity, enough to power 1,800 houses, according to FPL.
Members of the anti-wind-turbine Save St. Lucie Alliance also complain about possible noise problems, devalued property and possible danger to migratory birds.
Members of alliance raised the issue of the expired lease several months ago, fearing the company might bar public access to its private property since it’s no longer under an obligation to the county.
Anderson said he hopes FPL won’t use the lease as leverage to get county approval for wind turbines.
“I hope the two issues can remain separate,” he said.
The utility company would give no hint of its position on the lease Friday.
“We are in receipt of the letter and we are reviewing it,” FPL spokesperson Amy Brunjes said
FPL originally proposed nine wind turbines on South Hutchinson Island, but reduced the project to six after an outcry over the proposed use of publicly owned recreation and conservation land.
County Attorney Dan McIntyre advised commissioners not to allow wind turbines on public land because of restrictions in the ballot language when voters approved a bond issue to buy the property.
By Jim Reeder
30 May 2008
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