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Keyport joins opposition to wind turbine

KEYPORT – The Keyport Borough Council has joined the Hazlet Township Committee and the Monmouth County Board of Chosen Freeholders in opposing the construction of a 1.5-megawatt industrial wind turbine by the Bayshore Regional Sewerage Authority (BRSA) in Union Beach.

Much of the controversy stems from the proposed construction of the turbine within 1,080 feet of a Union Beach neighborhood.

While work has already begun on the turbine, specifically land excavation for the foundation of the structure, residents from several communities have raised concerns that the structure could pose significant health and public safety risks.

The turbine will stand 380 feet tall once placed on a 262-foot-tall concrete pedestal. The plan received final approval in June from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), and the project is scheduled to receive funding through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

BRSA will be borrowing up to $7.7 million, and under the federal stimulus package, $3.85 million of that loan will not have to be repaid.

The Borough Council approved the resolution, with Councilwoman Christian Bolte being the lone dissenter.

Mayor Robert J. Bergen said he supported the resolution and that while the wind turbine could benefit the municipality and the environment, he had reservations about the process.

“I support the concept of alternative energy, including turbines. It could ultimately save our costs that we pay to the sewage authority,” Bergen said. “But I largely supported the resolution because I want to ensure the process was as inclusive as possible, taking into account the interests of the residents, which I’m not sure it had properly done.

“My support of the resolution is to make sure they get an opportunity to present their concerns in a way that is going to be considered properly,” he added.

Council President Joseph Sheridan said he also believes in promoting the utilization of clean, renewable fuel sources, but that the BRSA’s plan was hastily crafted.

“The plan must take into account the turbine operating noise, flickering shadows and effect on home values of those living around the turbine,” Sheridan said. “Clearly, in the case of the Union Beach wind turbine, enough thought was not given to the Union Beach residents’ quality of life.”

He also believes the concerns of residents are not being seriously taken into consideration.

“I gave my support to the people of Union Beach to help them fight a wind turbine project that was hastily conceived to take advantage of government grants. Why the project continues to move forward in the face of such public outcry tells me that the voice of the people is simply not being heard,” he said.

Bolte said she opposed the measure because she believes there is a greater need for alternative energy sources, including the turbine.

“I would have loved to have looked into it for the Aeromarine site, but the area is not suitable,” Bolte said. “The ‘not in my backyard’ isn’t an attitude we can take anymore. I think it’s something that everybody should be taking a look at. Before we rush to judgment, I’d like to give it an opportunity and see what happens.”

She also noted that despite the support from other municipalities and committees, the Union Beach Borough Council has not yet passed a similar formal resolution, though the Union Beach website includes a link to www.noturbine.com, a site launched in opposition to the turbine.

The site includes links to articles and statistics as well as contact information for various legislators to voice opposition to the wind turbine.

“Hopefully, we’ll be able to use some more of this kind of energy in the future,” she said. “It can’t keep rolling to the next town. It’s too small an area. If it’s not there, where’s it going to go? I don’t think we have any right to make that decision.”