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‘Concerned’ county commissioners question offshore wind-energy proposal

Concerns over how massive wind turbines in offshore waters could affect beach tourism has prompted the Brunswick County Board of Commissioners to formally wade into the wind energy debate.

The board voted unanimously Monday to send a letter to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management opposing the lease of offshore areas and construction of wind turbines off the North Carolina coast “until we feel our concerns have been adequately addressed.”

The first leases to allow wind turbines to build offshore are expected to be approved next year. Hearings have been held by the federal agency to gather input—one on February 12 at Sunset Beach—and the deadline to file written statements is February 23.

District 2 commissioner Marty Cooke raised the issue at the close of Monday’s regular monthly board meeting, stating he had been contacted by Oak Island council member Carol Painter and Caswell Beach town administrator Chad Hicks inviting the county to become involved. Cooke said those towns have a consultant who is investigating the matter further.

“I think (wind energy) is oversold,” said Cooke. “Once you get them out there, they are out there.”

Cooke questioned the damage wind turbines may cause to the seabed and the cost it might place on residents to get the energy transmission lines to shore.

“I think it is something we don’t want or don’t need for our area,” said Cooke.

District 3 commissioner Pat Sykes said she wasn’t aware the issue would be raised at Monday’s meeting. She proposed waiting until the county had in hand resolutions from the towns to see what their specific concerns included.

“Also, we have to check with economic development,” said Sykes.

Cooke apologized for springing the issue on fellow board members without prior notice, but noted the February 23 deadline was approaching. The board voted to have staff address a letter to the bureau citing its concerns.

“Rather than have a letter that says we’re opposed, maybe one that says we’re concerned,” offered District 5 commissioner Frank Williams.

The letter will state that Brunswick County is concerned about the costs to citizens, economic viability of the project, whether the issue has been properly vetted to the public, if enough research has been provided on offshore structures, the possible adverse impact on wildlife and navigation issues for ships and planes.

“Like it or not, it’s coming,” said Cooke. “We could be on record saying we didn’t want it.”

The main complaint, commissioners noted, is that there will be no benefit to the beach towns financially if the structures are allowed offshore.

(For more on this story, see this week’s edition of The State Port Pilot.)