The Skipjack proposal will dramatically change Fenwick Island State Park.
Others have commented on the environmental and economic impact of this decision. I’m concerned about the process.
As I understand it, the proposal is part of an agreement between the state of Maryland and the Danish firm Ørsted to build an interconnection facility to connect power generated by the Skipjack wind farm to the electric grid.
This is unquestionably a Maryland project that has yet to garner strong support in Maryland. In exchange for leasing public lands, Ørsted would provide Delaware $18 million to fund a list of projects.
As with many, if not all, offshore wind farm projects, this one has stirred up strong negative reaction. One can expect numerous legal challenges. Why would the state of Delaware want to be part of this? Is the opportunity to get an $18 million “grant” enough?
It is reported that the energy from this project will power 35,000 homes on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. Maryland will get the renewable energy credits. Delaware’s state park will suffer the environmental damage.
The reason Ørsted wants access to Fenwick State Park is it is the closest point of land to the proposed wind farm that is not in Maryland. Maryland gets the energy, Ørsted brings the project in at the lowest cost and everyone benefits except the state of Delaware and Fenwick Island.
As one who negotiated international trade agreements for 20 years, I am convinced this is not a good, fair or even slightly reasonable arrangement.
The response may be that Delaware and Fenwick Island will get $18 million in projects. Others more knowledgeable than I have commented on the environmental impact.
I must point out that this past summer, when the parking lot was filled, so was the beach area, especially at high tide. More beachgoers will damage the dunes that protect the current parking area as well as Del. 1.
I question the expense of a parking garage. I doubt the state can justify the expense of building a two-level garage for 10 weeks a year usage. I also question building a pedestrian bridge across Del. 1 so beachgoers could park on the bay side of the island and walk to the ocean.
I request that the economic evaluation of the parking garage, pedestrian bridge and parking lot on the bayside be made publicly available.
The project calls for sidewalks along Del. 1 to connect with those in the town of Fenwick Island. Fenwick Island doesn’t have sidewalks that go from the town line along Del. 1 to the commercial area.
The plan calls for new lifeguard housing. Does the state plan to build a fraternity house for the guards? We don’t need nor want an “Animal House” in Fenwick State Park.
Athletic courts are available in Fenwick Island and Bethany Beach. There are public athletic courts at many other, easier to get to, recreational areas. I would like to see a study that justifies an amphitheater in Fenwick State Park. Why build a bathhouse on the bayside? Don’t the current licensee have facilities for their customers?
When the state of Delaware accepts $18 million plus an endowment in exchange for 1.5 acres of public land, those funds become public funds. Therefore, the state should justify the spending of those funds.
DNREC has been unable to justify using state funds for any of the listed projects in Fenwick Island State Park to date. I question how they can now justify using these funds generated by the “lease” of a special piece of Delaware’s shoreline.
If the plan is to expand parking, then it must include beach replenishment. It has been DNREC policy since I was mayor of Fenwick Island to not replenish beaches in state parks.
DNREC has established new regulations for construction on oceanfront property. Climate change/global warming experts predict barrier islands could be underwater in 20 years. Why would the state of Delaware approve the construction of a 20-plus foot tall building covering almost an acre on a barrier island?
I sincerely hope it is not for a windfall of $18 million to pay for questionable projects of little if any public value.
Peter Frederick is a former mayor of Fenwick Island, Delaware
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