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Fenwick Island officials have said “no thanks” to an offer from a wind energy company to receive payment from the company in return for agreeing not to speak out negatively against efforts to place wind turbines within visibility of the Delaware coast.
U.S. Wind has been making the rounds of coastal towns in recent weeks, offering up to $2 million over 20 years to towns that accept the company’s Community Benefit Agreement. So far, Fenwick Island and Lewes are the only towns that have turned it down.
“When you start passing money around … money gets in the way of the truth,” Fenwick Island Mayor Natalie Magdeburger said in a recent interview.
“I just want honest, unbiased answers,” Magdeburger said. The town has in the past opposed plans to place 900-foot-tall wind turbines within view of the Delaware coastline. She mentioned that the Center for the Inland Bays had accepted a grant from wind energy company Ørsted, which it later returned. “I’m not questioning their integrity,” she said of the CIB’s initial acceptance of the grant, but added that she found the possibility of improper influence by wind farm companies “frightening.”
In her monthly report to Fenwick Island citizens, Magdeburger laid out her concerns over the offer being made by US Wind, and of wind farms in general.
The towns that agree to the yearly payments from US Wind also agree that they “will not exercise discretionary authority to obstruct or delay development of the projects” proposed by US Wind. Towns that terminate their agreement would “return to US Wind the value of their pro-rata share of the payments for the prior two years,” according to the draft agreement.
Towns participating in the agreement have hired a consultant, Bonnie Ram, to negotiate the agreement for them. The towns have been working on a package since summer 2022. Fenwick Island voted in October 2022 not to contribute to the consultant fees, requesting that none of Fenwick Island’s dues to the Asssociation of Coastal Towns, which is facilitating the agreement, be used toward the hiring of the consultant.
“We believed then, as we do now, that as advocates for our community, we need to be able to speak freely, openly and without restriction to raise questions and seek answers to how wind farms will affect our community,” Magdeburger said in her statement to residents.
She laid out three “major concerns” regarding wind farms:
- Impact on marine environment – “What will these wind farms truly do to our marine environment,” Magdeburger asked in her statement. “We have been warned that an acre of cement on the ocean floor for each platform, noise reaching decibels that adversely impact our marine life and blades rotating in migratory bird (flight) patterns needs very careful and thorough analysis from scientific groups who have not taken donations from those involved,” she said.
- True economic cost – “Will turbines affect tourism/property values?” she asked. “Some economic projections suggest a 10 percent loss of property values and a large loss of tourism dollars/local jobs.” She also pointed to studies that the electricity generated by the wind turbines will be much more expensive than is being projected.
“Who pays for the removal of the turbines once they become obsolete,” is another question Magdeburger posed to her town’s residents. “Who pays for damage that may occur if the turbines break apart during a storm and wash up on the beaches or kill birds or marine life that wash up on our shores? How will these turbine(s) affect our commercial and recreational fishing industry?”
- Military coastline security – “Placing platforms owned by outside foreign entities that can be transferred to other foreign entities 20 miles off our coast, with control over our power grid and which adversely impede radar and sonar capabilities for our military and Coast Guard needs to be fully addressed to ensure our overall safety,” Magdeburger said.
“While Fenwick agrees that green energy needs to be a part of our future, there are a lot of unanswered questions still swirling around the US Wind project and a lot of money being offered to gatekeepers to get a green light for the project,” Magdeburger’s statement said.
“We should insist on an unbiased truth,” she said, adding that Fenwick Island has decided to align with Ocean City, Md.’s efforts to uncover reliable information on the impact of wind farms on coastal towns.
In November, Ocean City officials sent a 39-page “comment” to the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, which oversees marine wind farms. The full text of the Magdeburger’s report to Fenwick citizens is available on the Town of Fenwick Island’s website, www.fenwickisland.delaware.gov.
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