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A win for the people

Score one for Narragansett residents.

Last week, Deepwater Wind CEO Jeffrey Grybowski announced the company planned to reverse course and bury the transmission line for its five turbine, offshore wind farm. The line was proposed to land near the town beach in Narragansett and run above ground, on extended telephone poles through the Pier to a switch yard north of a town maintenance garage on Mumford Road.

The move came after months of pressure from a handful of Narragansett residents, who doggedly argued their case against overhead lines at public hearings and on newspaper opinion pages.

“It’s fair to say we heard loud and clear what the preference is, and we want to take the feedback from the residents into consideration,” Grybowski told the Independent last week. “Our plan is that when we have the opportunity to sit with the Town Council in a public session in June, we will say our intention is to go underground.”

We support alternative energy, and understand Block Island – which has the highest energy costs in the nation – needs options. But this project has had several moments when Deepwater and the state have seemingly failed to listen to anyone who expressed concerns about the project.

The state Public Utilities Commission first rejected it as not “commercially reasonable.” Rather than listening, the General Assembly amended laws to essentially force the PUC to approve it on a second pass, even though it means recession-weary consumers and already stretched businesses will pay more for utilities, and costs will continue to escalate for the entire 20 years of the wind farms operation. That underground line? It was designed that way, according to a Deepwater presentation in Narragansett in 2011. But in 2012, the company changed the proposal, opting instead to run the transmission lines above ground on extended telephone poles through the Pier. This change was buried in an environmental report until residents and the media began to dig around.

Since March, Councilman Matthew Mannix has urged the Narragansett Town Council to take its time to fully understand the pros and cons of this complex project and any deal it may negotiate. That first suspension gave residents time to prepare and voice the arguments that Deepwater ultimately heard. Deepwater needs to get this wind farm moving in order to receive federal tax credits. But that is the company’s problem, not Narragansett’s. We urge residents and the Town Council to continue to voice their concerns.