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Bethany nixes underground power lines

BETHANY BEACH – In what garnished rapid applause from residents, officials voted to end discussions with NRG Bluewater Wind on the request for underground power lines from their proposed offshore wind farm through the town.

In February, NRG representatives presented plans for the project, which would run underground beneath Wellington Parkway and Kent Avenue.

At the time, Mayor Tony McClenny directed Town Manager Cliff Graviet to seek independent expert advice on the potential impact to human health from the power lines and the environmental impact they may have. McClenny also ordered Graviet to ask NRG to cover the cost.

A Memorandum of Understanding was sent to NRG in April, which was returned slightly changed – saying they agreed to fund up to $85,000 of independent research on the effects of the construction – and unsigned by the company to Town Council last month.

Shortly after, the company sent a letter to officials saying they would offer an alternative route of Garfield Parkway and conduct associated engineering studies for both routes.

“Based on this letter and previous actions, I do not believe that NRG Bluewater has been dealing with the town in good faith,” said Vice Mayor Jack Gordon, who made the motion to notify NRG the town was no longer interested in the project or continuing discussions. “The townspeople cannot tolerate having this issue hanging over their heads for any longer.”

In the letter, which McClenny read, NRG founder and president Peter Mandelstam said the project would offer “100 percent clean, renewable and stable-priced electricity for 25 years, up to 500 construction jobs in Delaware for two years and 50-80 long-term, well-paying operation and maintenance jobs located nearby.”

“As a council we’ve attempted through various means to ensure the town and its residents are protected if this project were to ever come into being,” said Councilman Jerry Dorfman, adding the delay from NRG on not returning the MOU, “raises some serious red flags.”

Councilwoman Margaret Young agreed, noting the alternative of Garfield Parkway was not something new, it was in fact the route NRG started out with. She also recalled asking NRG officials if they planned on only using union labor, which Sussex County does not have, and the answer was yes.

Residents have been largely opposed to the construction, and many had asked the council to reject the proposal outright instead of researching the possible environmental and human effects.

“I just want to say ‘thank you’ to council for listening to residents and what they had to say,” said Susan Papas.