The New Jersey Superior Court of Appeals issued an injunction Wednesday on behalf of Union Beach, halting construction of the Bayshore Regional Sewerage Authority’s wind turbine.
Conti Group, which has been contracted by the BRSA to build the turbine, must not only stop construction but also begin to demobilize by removing their equipment and their crew, explained BRSA Executive Director Rober Fischer.
“Union Beach has filed an application for a restraint to stop the Authority from transporting and building the turbine. We received it yesterday and we’re going to abide by it,” Fischer said.
The turbine has been hotly contested by Union Beach and several bayshore municipalities. The Union Beach Planning Board struck down the BRSA’s plans for the turbine which prompted the BRSA to file a suit against the municipality last year.
The court sided with the BRSA, and Union Beach filed an appeal, explained the municipality’s attorney, Stuart Lieberman. Despite the appeal, which has not yet been decided, the BRSA began building the turbine. Union Beach filed the injunction, which was granted yesterday, at the beginning of July.
“We believe there was an error at the trial court. As far as we’re concerned, once it’s up, a lot of times it’s hard to come down. This is a big, big thing. And as a matter of human life experience, everybody knows once this thing is up, it’s going to stay up,” Lieberman said.
Additionally, Lieberman noted, the cost of removing the turbine if it were built but then struck down by the court would be reflected in each municipality’s sewerage rates.
Over the course of the project, the local governing bodies of Matawan, Aberdeen, Hazlet, Holmdel, Keansburg and Keyport have all passed resolutions opposing the turbine.
Matawan’s resolution cites several issues with the turbine, including health and safety concerns, diminished property values, and a lack of transparency by the BRSA.
“[The borough] shares the concerns expressed by the residents and governing body [of Union Beach] particularly in light of what appears to be at best a limited effort by BRSA to reach out to residents of the Bayshore and a lack of transparency in this matter,” the resolution stated.
According to Fischer, much of the construction has been done. All that is left is the delivery and assembly of the components.
“The base is already built. We’re just waiting for the turbine components to be delivered. It would literally take two weeks to complete this project if they were delivered,” said Fischer.
Delivery of the components was scheduled to begin on Monday, however the BRSA will have to continue to store the turbine components in Newark. Fischer noted that the ongoing legal battle is having a negative impact on projected savings to customers in 2013.
“By the time the project is built, close to the entire first year in savings will be taken up by the legal challenge,” Fischer said. “We will not be able to decrease rates if the project [is delayed] beyond the end of the year, which is significant because we were able to reduce it by 18% last year.”
According to Fischer, the turbine is expected to generate almot 50 percent of power needed to run the sewerage plant. Last year power to run the plant cost the BRSA about $800,000, he said.
“You hear a lot about government having to find ways to try and reduce costs and that’s what were trying to do, along with reduce green house gas emissions,” Fischer said. “This project is being done for all of the right reasons.”
Many Union Beach residents, however, seem to disagree. Bill Heller, who lives about 1,900 feet from the turbine, is worried about the impact it will have on the identity of the community along with the impact it will have on the residents.
“It industrializes Union Beach,” Heller said.
Since the planning for the turbine started in 2009, Heller has been vocal about his opposition to it. He even started noturbine.com, a site dedicated to gathering information and news articles about the effect wind turbines can have on communities. He said he has found research that shows the frequencies given off by turbines can lead to neurological side effects such as insomnia and restlessness.
Heller noted that he is doubtful the BRSA will even achieve their proposed cost savings.
“I think it’s going to be a boondoggle,” Heller said, contending that the necessary maintenance, such as replacing the blades in 10 to 12 years, and the fact that GE offers no warranty on the turbine, have not been factored in to the budget.
Until the courts decide whether or not the turbine can be built, both sides are at a standstill. Neither party knows when the appellate court will deliver their decision.
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