All Quiet On Fenwick State Park Project, Officials Say

FENWICK ISLAND – The mayor of Fenwick Island said local officials have yet to hear from a state agency regarding proposed plans for a nearby beach park.

In a Fenwick Island Town Council meeting late last month, Mayor Gene Langan said the town had yet to receive a response from Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) Secretary Shawn Garvin regarding a proposal that would bring roughly $18 million in capital improvements to Fenwick Island State Park in exchange for the placement of an onshore interconnection facility.

“I asked Ray Bivens, the head of parks, face to face on a Zoom call what was happening,” he said. “He said Garvin has not made up his mind yet.”

Last October, the DNREC Division of Parks & Recreation announced a proposal which, if approved, would allow the wind farm developer Orsted to construct an onshore power transmission state at Fenwick Island State Park in exchange for millions of dollars in park improvements, including a new nature center, new bathrooms, a pedestrian overpass and additional parking.

Orsted is one of the two companies holding permits for offshore wind energy farms off the coast. While its Skipjack wind farm project is considered a Maryland project – going through the Maryland Public Service Commission for regulatory approval – Orsted must bring its transmission lines ashore and has targeted the state park as a future home for the interconnection facility.

Since the state’s announcement on the proposed partnership, Fenwick officials have been vocal with their objections to the interconnection facility. In December, for example, the town council approved a resolution opposing the project.

“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.”

In January, DNREC closed the comment period for the proposed state park improvements. Having received more than 2,300 responses from the public, discussions on the project stalled while DNREC reviewed those comments.

“We have not set a deadline on reviewing survey feedback, as we want to thoroughly research answers to frequently asked questions,” Delaware State Parks Community Relations Coordinator Shauna McVey said at the time.

Officials said it would ultimately be up to DNREC as to whether the state agrees to the proposed partnership. Langan said last month’s discussion with Bivens was the first he had had with a state official in some time regarding the project.

“That’s all I can tell you,” he said. “That’s the only contact we’ve had with them. To give you an example, ACT (the Association of Coastal Towns) wrote a letter to them in October and we never got a response. We wrote to DNREC and Garvin to let us know because we all have objections, and their tactic is to ignore us.”

Langan’s comments came weeks after Orsted announced the timeline for its Skipjack wind farm project would be moved from late 2022 to late 2023.

A statement from Orsted reads, “As the federal permitting timeline evolves, Ørsted is now receiving its federal Notice of Intent for the Skipjack Wind Farm later than originally anticipated. As a result, Ørsted has determined that moving Skipjack Wind Farm’s anticipated completion date from late 2022 to the new target of the end of 2023 puts us in the strongest position possible to deliver a successful project.”

The statement continues the delay should not be perceived as a change of course with the overall project.

“Ørsted remains firmly committed to working with our federal partners to complete Skipjack and provide clean, reliable offshore wind energy to 35,000 homes in the Delmarva region,” the statement said.

About The Author: Bethany Hooper

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Bethany Hooper has been with The Dispatch since 2016. She currently covers various general stories. Hooper graduated from Stephen Decatur High School in 2012 and the University of Maryland in 2016, where she completed double majors in journalism and economics.