Groups Appeal To Feds To Protect Assateague

ASSATEAGUE — Despite assurances the barrier island is only on the short list as a possible site for a transmission line connecting a future offshore wind farm to the mainland, a coalition of local environmental groups last week took their concerns over the proposal to the federal government.

Local attorney Hugh Cropper IV, on behalf of private sector groups, quasi-governmental organizations and scores of environmental advocates and volunteers, this week sent a letter to the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) outlining concerns about a possible transmission line crossing Assateaugue Island and connecting future wind energy turbines off the coast of Ocean City to an electric power distribution facility on the mainland.

Called the Atlantic Wind Connection (AWC), the network of underwater transmission lines would create a superhighway of sorts for moving the energy harnessed by future offshore wind farms to millions of electric service customers throughout the mid-Atlantic region. The AWC is currently exploring several options for a landfall for its transmission line along the Maryland coast including one proposal that has the line crossing Assateague.

The Maryland Coastal Bays Program and the Assateague Coastal Trust, for example, have already appealed to the AWC to have Assateague removed from the short list of possible landfall sites. They have received some assurances from the organization the inclusion of Assateague on its lists of proposed locations is only part of a larger evaluation process. Cropper’s letter this week to the federal BOEM takes the concerns to a higher level.

“We strongly oppose any disturbance whatsoever including crossings, directional boring or transmission lines over, across or under Assateague State Park or Assateague Island National Seashore, Sinepuxent Bay, Chincoteague Bay and Newport Bay, including their watersheds,” the letter reads. “Our opposition has been expressed to Atlantic Wind Connection.”

The letter explains how $400 million has been spent to preserve and protect the 41,000 acres of prime beach, coastal dune and salt marsh habitat of Assateague Island National Seashore. It also describes how the various state and local organizations collaborate on meeting specified goals to provide for water quality protection and habitat management on Assateague and the surrounding coastal bays watersheds.

The letter also asserts Assateague and the surrounding salt marshes provide unparalleled habitat of thousands of flora and fauna, most notably the salt marsh sparrow, the seaside sparrow and the piping plover, which is classified as endangered.

“Assateague State Park and Assateague Island National Seashore are pristine and undeveloped,” the letter reads. “In addition to the above described habitat, this barrier island and the adjacent coastal bays serve as an important resting ground for migratory waterfowl each year. It is estimated that over 50,000 geese use this area as a resting ground during their annual migration.”

Cropper’s letter calls for the proposed high-voltage transmission line to be sited somewhere north of Assateague in areas already densely developed.

“There are viable and better alternatives north of the Ocean City Inlet for a transmission line making landfall,” the letter reads. “The proposed lease area for the offshore wind farm is located in the northern grid off Maryland’s coast.”

For their part, AWC officials, after receiving similar letters of concern from the MCBP and the Assateague Coastal Trust and Coastkeeper, for example, have attempted to allay somewhat concerns about an Assateague landfall for the transmission line.

In a letter to the MCBP last week, AWC Director of Permitting Kris Ohleth attempted to address the local concerns, explaining the company has no desire to land the transmission line at Assateague at this point, but is merely exploring any and all options as part of its due diligence.

“We share your concerns regarding a landfall location at Assateague, and please be assured that it is not our intention to make landfall there,” the letter reads. “Indeed, we are aware of and share the concerns you have expressed.”

In the letter, Ohleth explains there could be legislative barriers to landing the transmission line at Assateague, but the barrier island is included on the list of potential locations as part of the larger evaluation process.

“We are aware of pending state legislative provisions to exclude Assateague as a landfall location for offshore wind transmission,” the letter reads. “Nevertheless, exploring Assateague as an option is a necessary step in the evaluation process that will culminate in the presentation of the most sensible and desirable route for final permitting.”

3 comments on “Groups Appeal To Feds To Protect Assateague

  1. Assateague is one of the most beautiful natural areas open to the public that my wife and I have ever been to. Any industrial disturbance of Assateague would be a crime. But don’t count on any help from the Feds. Time and time again they give preference to the wind industry on issues of noise, bird and bat kills, loss of view shed, disturbing water levels and flow with access roads and construction activity, etc. The wind industry lobby, the AWEA, has more influence than any oil industry group, and too often they get their way. Two good websites that document all this are:
    http://www.wind-watch.org/
    http://www.windaction.org/
    Plus, INDUSTRIAL WIND TURBINES ARE A SHAM AND DO NOT PROVIDE CLEAN ENERGY! Not one coal or gas plant the world over has been decommissioned because of IWTs…and eliminating our dependence on fossil fuels is their whole purpose. To quote an expert: “Because wind blows intermittently, electric utilities must either keep their conventional power plants running all the time to make sure the lights don’t go dark, or continually ramp up and down the output from conventional coal-or gas-fired generators (called “cycling”). But coal-fired and gas-fired generators are designed to run continuously, and if they don’t, fuel consumption and emissions generally increase.” This is happening worldwide, and in places like Colorado and Texas where CO2 and power plant pollution have increased since installing wind farms:
    http://www.forbes.com/2011/07/19/wind-energy-carbon.htmlhttp://www.denverpost.com/headlines/ci_15081808
    http://www.clepair.net/IerlandUdo.html
    http://www.thespec.com/news/ontario/article/610422–cost-of-green-energy-40-higher-than-government-estimates
    The wind industry is built on crony capitalism, it is the only way it can exist. Taxpayer money builds them and power companies are mandated to buy wind generated power at much higher rates than conventionally produced power. There is no true benefit, except to wind power companies, politicians and lobbyists. Get ready to pay a lot more on your electric bills if offshore wind proliferates.

  2. Mr. Heller is either grossly misinformed or has ulterior motives. Offshore wind power is a key tool to help replace all the nuclear plants in Germany, and soon Japan and other nations. Yes there are base load issues, but there are ways to manage that. there are so many falsehoods and inaccuracies in mr. Hellers post I can’t address them here, but those who want the truth need only read the us dept of energy document titled..”smart from the start” for an unbiased assessment and a plan to develop offshore wind. We are getting left behind the rest of the world on this issue.

  3. Keep these wind turbines off our shores. The only people who benefit are the power companies, they get to charge us for free electric

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