Commissioners Weigh In On Beach Funds, Wind Farm

SNOW HILL – Offshore wind farms should be kept well out to sea and beach replenishment money should be preserved, the Worcester County Commissioners said this week, in agreement with Ocean City’s stance on those issues.

On Tuesday, county elected officials voted to support Ocean City’s position on proposed state laws covering offshore wind farms and the removal of money from the beach replenishment fund to balance the state budget.

The town of Ocean City is concerned that the visual impact of ocean-based wind turbines would have negative tourism consequences, if those turbines are visible from the resort’s beaches. The resort is asking that proposed legislation governing the energy lines as they come ashore require that offshore wind turbines be located a minimum of ten miles out to sea.

Although the state of Maryland’s authority over ocean waters extends only three miles off the shore, the state does have the authority to control the landfall of energy lines, a letter from the town of Ocean City notes, which should allow that 10-mile minimum.

The commissioners voted unanimously to take the same position as Ocean City.

The commissioners also agreed Tuesday that the state’s plan to take money from the Beach Maintenance Fund to balance the state budget provokes some serious concern.

The fund, which is for beach maintenance and not for major replenishment projects, is supplied with money by state, county and the city, with the state contributing 50 percent and the county and city contributing 25 percent each.

The state plans to compensate the fund with future state general obligation bonds.

The entire fund is in jeopardy, county staff explained.

“They’re talking about taking their share, our share, and the city’s share,” said county administrator Gerry Mason.

Commissioner Virgil Shockley asked if there was any way to protect the county’s contribution to the fund from being taken, perhaps through establishing an escrow fund.

“I don’t really think they can take our share,” said Mason.

Commissioner Louse Gulyas made a motion to write a letter “in very strong terms” supporting Ocean City’s position on the beach replenishment fund. The commissioners voted unanimously to send that letter.

“Leave our money alone,” Gulyas said.