It seems like far too much money, but it’s smart business for the Town of Ocean City to work with a consultant to review offshore wind farm plans as they materialize.
The Ocean City Mayor and Council was unified this week in approving a $175,000 contract with SLR International, an England-based consulting firm that will review specifically US Wind’s construction and operations plan (COP).
Ocean City’s needs to utilize the consultant’s expertise because it truly will not have the knowledge or resources to review this extensive COP, which is estimated at more than 3,300 pages. The consultant will work with Ocean City and offer insights and dialogue to the federal government’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), which will provide a draft environmental impact statement on the project.
This week’s action by the council has a timing component, as BOEM is expected to issue the critical draft environment impact statement next month. Once the document is released, the public has 45 days to provide written comments in response. The feedback period is critical for Ocean City, as BOEM is required to offer a response to all comments of concern that are expressed about the project.
The chosen consultant has a background in wind energy and has familiarity with both companies seeking to build offshore. This should prove helpful in getting Ocean City’s concerns expressed in a fruitful fashion. For instance, Ocean City’s major point of contention with the offshore wind farms has always been visibility from the shoreline. City Manager Terry McGean reiterated the resort’s basic premise when he said, “while we support renewable energy, we support offshore wind, we only support it if it’s done responsibly. We are opposed to the construction of any offshore wind turbines that are visible to our residents.”
Offshore wind turbines appear to be a reality in the future for Maryland. Whether that’s a positive or a negative remains a divisive issue. Ocean City’s move this week to bring in outside help with a consultant is a necessary step to ensure the resort’s concerns are accurately and appropriately related to the federal oversight agency.
The major unknown is whether Ocean City will have any success in pushing the turbines further offshore beyond visibility from the coast. It seems unlikely at this point but contracting with a consultant may be the best option for articulating those concerns as well as others shared by the fishing industry.