UNION BEACH – Is the wind turbine fight about to get a second breath?
Residents of this Bayshore town get another opportunity tonight to voice their opposition to the 380-foot energy producing wind turbine being built by the Bayshore Regional Sewerage Authority.
The BRSA is appearing before the Union Beach Planning Board at 7:30 p.m. to request the purchase of additional property at Conaskonk Point where the estimated $7.7 million wind turbine is being constructed.
The BRSA wants to acquire the land to ensure that the wind turbine blades rotate only on their own property and not onto outside property.
Turbine opponents say that Conaskonk Point is an environmentally sensitive wetland area that is a habitat for shorebirds during the spring migration.
“If they get this land, it will enable them to erect the turbine and possibly set a precedent allowing for future industrial development of this wetland area,” said Union Beach resident William Heller, creator of the website noturbine.com that exhorts Bayshore residents to oppose the turbine.
“We must try to stop the BRSA from getting this land,” Heller added.
Construction of a 240-foot base, on which the turbine will be set, is on schedule to be completed by next January, BRSA officials said.
The turbine, proposed by the authority in 2009 and approved by the state Department of Environmental Protection last June, will help reduce Bayshore customers’ sewerage utility bills over the next three years, BRSA officials said.
But the three-blade turbine has also generated a hailstorm of public dissent by local residents who claim that the turbine will lower property values, hurt the ecology and create noise and light pollution. Residents also said that with its projected 380-foot height from the base to the top of each of its three blades when at apex, the turbine will be an eyesore.
However, BRSA Executive Director Robert C. Fischer says residents’ quality of life criticisms are exaggerated.
“The negatives that are being used to fight wind projects such as quality of life, impact to wildlife are more associated with large projects of 10, 50, 100 turbines,” Fischer said. “The BRSA project is not a massive wind farm – it’s a single wind turbine that will cut our power purchase drastically while eliminating emissions. That one turbine will be like taking 1,300 cars off the road permanently.”
Fischer said the turbine wil not adversely affect the Conaskonk wetlands area.
“The impact to the wetlands at Conaskonk Point has been assessed not by BRSA, but by the DEP that approved the project,” Fischer said. “We intentionally located the turbine out of the wetlands boundary. We’ve studied and continue to study the avian and bat populations to get an assessment of their population, species, habitation and migration.”
Meanwhile state Sen. Sean T. Kean, R-Monmouth, has introduced a bill that would require a 2,000-foot setback for onshore industrial wind turbines from the municipality’s homes and schools.
“The BRSA turbine’s setback from homes will be 1,080 feet,” Heller said. “They (BRSA) will not be able to build their turbine if this legislation passes and Union Beach is included.'”
Union Beach isn’t the only Jersey Shore town to either build or consider building a wind turbine. Turbines also are proposed in Bradley Beach and Sea Girt.
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