Bath County officials made some keen observations this week about wind energy development – points that should not go unnoticed.
Bacova residents Claudia and Jay Trinca brought up the point that residential wind turbines might not be suitable, and that tourist traffic in Bath County should be considered.
Planning commission chair Mike Grist agreed. “Tourism is 65 percent of our work force. We need to protect what we have,” he said.
We’ve seen the argument in Highland County – that Highland New Wind Development’s proposed commercial wind plant, consisting of 400-foot towers, would be a boost to tourism. That doesn’t ring true to most ears, though.
It’s not that the towers aren’t interesting to look at. They are. They are, to some, enchanting in their graceful lines and appearance. But that doesn’t make them a consistent tourist draw. We’d expect some to be interested in having a look, but not more than once. We cannot imagine people planning day trips or vacation weeks to Highland just to see the towers. Nor can we envision visitors returning for that purpose more than once.
Bath supervisor Richard Byrd, at a joint meeting held Monday by the planning commission and supervisors, made a point we find more urgent to consider. “We need to get an ordinance on the books to protect the people of the county as a whole. It must be done prior to something happening,” Byrd said.
There’s reason for immediate concern.
Sen. Frank Wagner of Virginia Beach, who repeatedly introduces legislation to support renewable sources of power, introduced one this General Assembly session that could undermine Bath County’s power, and the power of every county in Virginia, to govern wind energy within its borders.
As outlined in today’s Recorder, the bill would force every locality across the commonwealth to create an ordinance related to wind development – an ordinance “consistent with” the Virginia Energy Plan (read: one that supports renewable sources of power).
The problem is, as the Virginia Association of Counties has pointed out, not all counties in this state are open to this kind of facility. Some are; some aren’t.
So why would the state force its counties to capitulate to the wind industry if some of those localities have residents who’d rather preserve their scenic views and mountain top ridges from tall towers?
This is not about the state’s overall plan for energy independence. This is about supporting major corporate interests.
Sadly, these types of corporations are largely dependent, for now, on subsidies provided from our own tax dollars.
We applaud Bath’s effort to get ahead of this curve. We expect Sen. Wagner to continue his push, year after year, especially when he has highly connected lobbyists at his disposal, as he does now.
We can only hope our elected lawmakers remain squarely on the side of local authority and control. We know what it means to have mandates handed down from the state or federal government. Every effort should be made to resist them forcefully and successfully.
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