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Deepwater foes form political action committee

NARRAGANSETT – Residents opposed to Deepwater Wind’s demonstration-scale wind farm off the coast of Block Island have formed a political action committee, Deepwater Resistance, to fight the company’s current and future plans.

The group in opposition had already started a website and gathered signatures against the project, but said they formalized their opposition for two reasons: to expand their base statewide and raise funds for advertising and other outreach efforts, according to Deepwater Resistance’s Chairman Robert Shields. Narragansett residents Gerald McCarthy and Myron Waldman will serve as vice-chairman and treasurer, respectively.

The group formalized its operations just as Deepwater and other wind energy companies prepare to place bids on 165,000 acres of the ocean floor in New England waters at a federal auction scheduled July 29. If awarded the developmental rights, Deepwater plans to construct a full-scale wind farm, with 150 to 200 turbines. The energy produced would be sold to Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Connecticut.

“That’s raised some awareness in Newport and possibly Little Compton. This is a much bigger issue at stake,” Shields said.

Deepwater proposes a five-turbine demonstration-scale wind farm off of Block Island, which will use 10 percent of its energy generation to power New Shoreham’s needs. The excess energy would be delivered to the mainland via a cable buried under the ocean floor that would land at Narragansett Town Beach before running underground from the South Pavilion parking lot through Narragansett Avenue and Kingstown Road to a proposed switchyard near Sprague Park.

The Town Council and Deepwater CEO Jeffrey Grybowski discussed the demonstration-scale project at a work session June 26, where Grybowski said his company would compensate the town $2.25 million for the construction easements to bury and run the transmission line. At the end of that work session, Grybowski said he hoped the council would make a decision by the end of July. The Town Council has not advertised additional meetings on the matter.

Deepwater Resistance members have been actively opposing Deepwater Wind on several points, including the increased cost of energy to consumers, the disruption of the beach and Pier area to land and run the cable, among others.

“We’re not trying to formulate one definitive position,” Shields said. “The people that have been active have different ideas about what is acceptable. Some would find it acceptable merely for Deepwater to provide an alternative alignment in town. Others see no need to have the project at all.”

Once Deepwater and the council begin negotiating, or the council votes to approve or deny the easement, Deepwater Resistance will determine its next step.

“What strategy we invoke depends on what the town and Deepwater come up with as an alternative,” Shields said. “We’re willing to let them work it out themselves, but we do expect transparency.”