FENWICK ISLAND – In another public stance last week, officials in Fenwick Island approved a resolution opposing plans for improvements at Fenwick Island State Park in exchange for the construction of an onshore power transmission station.
Last Friday, the Fenwick Island Town Council voted unanimously to pass a resolution outlining the town’s objections to a proposed project that, if approved, would allow Orsted – a Danish offshore wind developer – to construct an onshore interconnection facility at Fenwick Island State Park in exchange for $18 million in park improvements.
Orsted is one of the two companies holding permits for offshore wind energy farms off the coast. While its Skipjack project is considered a Maryland project, and went through the Maryland Public Service Commission for regulatory approval, Orsted must bring its transmission lines ashore to connect to the power grid. To that end, the company has targeted the Delaware state park as a future home for the interconnection facility.
While the town has no say in the decision-making progress, council members have shared their objections to the proposed plans. Town officials said they were not consulted when the state of Delaware and Orsted signed a memorandum of understanding in July.
Mayor Gene Langan said town officials and representatives from the Association of Coastal Towns (ACT) met with DNREC Secretary Shawn Garvin and Governor John Carney in November. That same month, ACT fired off a letter to Garvin and Carney
outlining the community’s concerns and requesting the public comment period regarding the Fenwick Island State Park project be extended.
The public comment period for the park improvement project has since been extended through Wednesday, Jan. 15. But DNREC encouraged those with comments on the wind farm to contact the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) Office of Public Affairs.
Langan said the town was making every effort to be involved in the offshore wind and park projects and to share their concerns. He noted officials also met with Ocean City Mayor Rick Meehan last week in the hopes of working together.
“We haven’t been sitting on our hands with regard to the wind farm and the park,” he said.
In the resolution passed last week, the town council voiced opposition to current plans for the state park.
“Even though the Town of Fenwick Island and its Council Members have no jurisdiction or control over the decision-making process, Council Members met with officials from DNREC, first on September 27, 2019 and again on October 2, 2019, to review plans for a partnership between DNREC and Orsted, proposing to bring power cables into Delaware from the wind turbines by way of an interconnection substation at the Fenwick Island State Park, directly adjacent to Fenwick Island town limits …,” the resolution reads. “The Fenwick Island Town Council is opposed to the current park plans as presented and the impact of those plans on adjacent Fenwick Island property owners.”
The council also called for a thorough review of the park project and the offshore wind project. While they supported the development of clean energy, they said they did not support a project that did not respect the natural environment and ocean views.
“It is important the park project and the offshore wind project be thoroughly reviewed and studied to ensure it is in the best interest of the environment, our economic vitality, and the quality of life we cherish,” the resolution reads. “The Council is concerned with the substation location in an environmentally sensitive area and with the distance of the wind turbines to Fenwick Island shores. The Town Council requests and desires input into any future revisions of the park plans, substation plans and windfarm plans. The Town Council requests that all windfarms be located so they are not visible from the Town of Fenwick Island shorelines.”
The council voted 7-0 last week to pass the resolution, which will be sent to the governor, federal and state representatives and members of the Sussex County Council.
“I think it’s a good idea to move to the U.S. senators and representatives,” Councilwoman Vicki Carmean said. “I think pretty much everybody has written something to the local officials, but I think we need to reach higher.”
Councilman Bill Weistling agreed.
“If you stop it at the federal level, then all of this is stopped,” he said. “All of our concerns are done.”
Many residents in attendance at last week’s meeting applauded the council members for their efforts.
“You worked very diligently on our behalf on this wind farm issue, and it’s really appreciated,” resident Janet Dudley-Eshbach said.
The offshore wind project, however, did have the support of some in the audience.
“I am for clean energy,” resident Mary Ellen Langan said. “I’m for windmills on land, off land. It’s a lot safer than coal and oil.”