CAROLINA BEACH – The Carolina Beach Town Council will discuss adoption of a resolution opposing wind energy leases within 24 nautical miles of North Carolina’s shores during their upcoming December 1st, meeting at 9AM.
According to Town Manager Michael Cramer, the Village of Bald Head Island – located south of Pleasure Island – has asked the Town to adopt a resolution similar to one adopted by their governing board in October opposing wind turbines located within 24 nautical miles of shore that impact their “viewshed” with large industrial machinery.
According to the resolution adopted by the Village of Bald Head Island, the island is “specially positioned as a remote and picturesque community where tourists and residents can enjoy beautiful, natural, scenic vistas and significant cultural and historical resources, including Old Baldy (North Carolina’s oldest standing lighthouse), Fort Holmes, Frying Pan Shoals and numerous shipwrecks and artifacts comprising the Graveyard of the Atlantic.”
The resolution states, “The natural coastal beauty of our viewshed is an essential driver of our economy.”
On February 23, 2015 the Village submitted written comments to the United States Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) expressing their concerns about adverse visual impacts of wind energy leasing and the need for a full assessment of visual impacts before wind energy leases are issued within the Bald Head Island viewshed.
The resolution states, “The onshore visual impact of wind energy turbines is overwhelmingly determined by a single causal factor, distance of wind turbines from shore” and, “wind turbines located within the Bald Head Island viewshed would transform our community’s natural and historic vista of open ocean to a view of massive industrial machinery.”
The resolution states, “Such a change would represent for us the most destructive commitment of ocean resources that we have ever heard proposed in North Carolina – one that could irreversibly damage the natural environment and resources that we cherish and that drive our economy” and, “BOEM knows that wind turbines will have adverse visual impacts if located within 24 nautical miles from shore. BOEM, based on the 33.7 nautical mile buffer BOEM established for Bodie Island Lighthouse, demonstrates that BOEM knows how to calculate the distance to protect Old Baldy (listed in the National Park Service’s National Register of Historic Places as Bald Head Island Lighthouse, National Register Information System ID 75001242) from adverse visual impacts.”
The BOEM has established a 24 nautical mile “no-leasing buffer” for the State of Virginia and Kitty Hawk, North Carolina to protect viewsheds. They also established a 33.7 nautical mile no-leasing buffer to protect the Bodie Island Lighthouse.
The resolution states, “On September 18, BOEM announced its decision to issue wind energy leases for sites within our viewshed (and as close as 10 nautical miles). And, BOEM stated the leases will have no significant impact on the human environment even though “visual impacts from the installation of a wind energy facility were not analyzed.” BOEM EA at p. 5-22. In fact, issuance of leases determines distance from shore and therefore determines the adverse visual impacts of wind turbines. Visual impacts caused by distance from shore must either be eliminated before leases are issued or must be fully analyzed in an Environmental Impact Statement before leases are issued.”
Bald Head Island leaders say that BOEM currently plans to delay its analysis of visual impacts of wind turbines on their viewshed until it is too late in the process to reasonably do anything about the distance from shore.
The resolution states, “At this late stage, as part of BOEM’s decision to approve, modify, or reject a Construction and Operation Plan, BOEM plans to analyze visual impacts – impacts that are caused primarily by distance from shore. However, because distance from shore is determined when a lease is issued, the analysis of visual impacts must be either eliminated before leasing or fully analyzed before leasing in order to satisfy the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act and to prevent substantial wasteful expenditure of private and public time, effort, and money on sites that are known to be in unacceptable locations” and, “If an area leased by BOEM is too close to shore, producing unacceptable visual impacts, we are concerned that (1) BOEM cannot modify a Construction and Operation Plan by specifying a different location than one leased and (2) BOEM will fail to reject a Construction and Operation Plan because of the magnitude of private and government expenditures on a location whose distance from shore was decided prior to those expenditures, when the lease was issued. Conversely, if BOEM, based on proximity to shore and resulting visual impacts, were to reject a Construction and Operation Plan or specify a different location than the one leased, we are concerned that BOEM would fail to successfully defend such a decision.”
The resolution states the Village of Bald Head Island requests BOEM restrict leasing and approval of site assessment plans in the Wilmington East WEA area and
Wilmington West WEA area to exclude locations within 24 nautical miles and areas where wind turbines would be visible from the Bald Head Island Lighthouse.
Bald Head Island also requests 30 days written notice before BOEM issues any lease or approving any site assessment plan that includes any location within “the Visual Impact Exclusion Area.”
The area BOEM is considering for placement of wind turbines is about 11 miles off the shore of Bald Head Island and could include an area for around 100 turbines as tall as 500 feet.
On Aug. 11, 2014, BOEM announced that it has identified three WEAs offshore North Carolina:
• The Kitty Hawk WEA begins about 24 nautical miles (nm) from shore and extends approximately 25.7 nm in a general southeast direction. Its seaward extent ranges from 13.5 nm in the north to .6 nm in the south. It contains approximately 21.5 Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) blocks (122,405 acres).
• The Wilmington West WEA begins about 10 nm from shore and extends approximately 12.3 nm in an east-west direction at its widest point. It contains just over 9 OCS blocks (approximately 51,595 acres).
• The Wilmington East WEA begins about 15 nm from Bald Head Island at its closest point and extends approximately 18 nm in the southeast direction at its widest point. It contains approximately 25 OCS blocks (133,590 acres).
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