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Study says turbines may affect wildlife

HUTCHINSON ISLAND – Florida Power & Light Co.’s proposal to put six wind turbines on company-owned property near the St. Lucie Nuclear Plant might affect several threatened species of wildlife, according to a recently released analysis by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

According to the findings, FPL’s proposal would have “a substantial adverse impact” on federally managed fisheries in the south Atlantic region and wetlands, the report states. It also may affect, though not likely adversely, the threatened eastern indigo snake, threatened southeastern beach mouse, endangered nesting sea turtles and other species of birds.

FPL officials have said they don’t believe the project would pose a danger to birds, and turbines would be placed away from beaches to minimize disturbances to sea turtles.

Because of the many complex questions raised by the project, the county wants to find a private consultant to conduct an independent environmental analysis of FPL’s studies, said Robin Meyer, the county’s assistant growth management director.

“There’s not a lot of people who do this kind of specialized work,” he said. “They would review studies done by FPL and give us an objective view of that because it really goes beyond the expertise of county staff.”

The county initially wanted to contract with Florida Atlantic University to conduct the analysis, but the university declined, Meyer said. The county is now in talks with a firm in Miami.

FPL’s proposal might not go before a public hearing until September, at the earliest, when snowbirds living in the immediate vicinity return home, he said.

FPL has also applied for a permit with the state Department of Environmental Protection. In a letter to the Department, Assistant County Administrator Lee Ann Lowery listed a number of preliminary concerns the county has with the project, including its effects on wildlife and lack of dune restoration, coastal scrub, hammock and wetland restoration specifics in FPL’s plan.

Another concern the county has involves FPL’s ability to replicate or expand the project in the future.

“We look forward to a full and fair hearing on these issues with the St. Lucie (Board of County Commissioners) at the appropriate time,” said FPL spokeswoman Amy Brunjes in a statement, declining to comment further.

By Alexi Howk

TCPalm

19 June 2008