Public Comment Due July 8th on Off-Shore Wind Proposal:
The U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) concluded its public videoconferences on the US Wind project, which is an offshore wind turbine project located off Ocean City and Fenwick Island, Maryland, on June 27. BOEM is requesting public comments on the US Wind project be submitted by July 8. The purpose of the public comments is to help BOEM prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), as required by the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) before the project can proceed. Based upon the EIS it prepares, BOEM can approve, reject, or approve with conditions the Project.
As described below, the project as proposed will likely have some direct impacts on homeowners in Tower Shores and elsewhere in Delaware. For example, US Wind has more than doubled the height of the wind turbines, making them visible from Bethany Beach during all periods of the day. Whether one is for or against the project, there are some conditions that BOEM could include in its approval that could reduce those adverse impacts on homeowners.
(A second project – the Skipjack project (owned by Orsted), to be located directly offshore Bethany Beach and Rehobeth — will likely follow shortly after US Wind’s project is approved. Conditions imposed by BOEM on US Wind (or not imposed) may end up being applied similarly to the Skipjack project. A map showing the the Skipjack and US Wind projects in relation to each other is attached.)
During the public videoconferences, representatives of BOEM and US Wind described the wind farm proposed by US Wind as follows:
1. The turbines will be 15 miles, and in a later phase as close as 11 miles, to shore. The height of each of the 114 turbines has been increased from 300-400’ to 600’ to 853’, and then to 938’ and according to US Wind’s public filing will be increased further if taller wind turbines exist (the wind turbines at Kitty Hawk are already 1,042’, so this seems to be the likely next step). The wind turbines will be visible from Bethany Beach at all times of the day — as shown in the attached photo from US Wind’s public filing on the BOEM website. https://www.boem.gov/renewable-energy/state-activities/appendix-visual-simulations
2. US Wind’s “preferred” plan is to bring the four high-voltage power lines onto the shore under the 3R’s beach just north of Tower Shores and through Indian River Bay to a substation in Dagsboro. A map of the preferred and alternative routes, as included in US Wind’s proposal and included on BOEM’s website, is attached.
3. These cables will be buried as they go through the 3R’s beach (around 50 ft under the dunes, and around 30 feet under the wetlands to the west of Route 1) and buried shallowly (3-8 feet) through the bay.
Some of the impacts that homeowners may want to consider —
A. NEPA states that federal agencies (BOEM) are required to consider impacts on communities, including “visual impacts” and economic impacts. Studies have shown that tourism, rentals and housing values are reduced when large numbers of wind turbines are visible offshore. BOEM has acceded to some other wind projects being pushed further offshore, specifically Kitty Hawk, NC (28 miles), Virginia Beach, VA (27 miles), and the Hamptons, NY (20+ miles). BOEM could be asked to condition approval of the US Wind (and Skipjack) project on the wind turbines being pushed further out (e.g., 30 miles) to a point where they are not visible from the beach. US Wind has doubled, and perhaps even tripled, the height of its wind turbines, but they’ve kept the distance from shore the same. Their decisions have increased the visual impact on our community.
B. Should the high-voltage transmission lines come ashore in Delaware under a public beach? US Wind is a Maryland project, approved by the Maryland Public Service Commission, with the electricity and all of the benefits explicitly going to residents of Maryland. All of BOEM’s scoping meetings for the lease were held in Maryland. Delaware homeowners were not included in any decision-making or meaningful consultation by BOEM, the Maryland PSC, or US Wind. Should the power lines come ashore in Maryland, too?
C. US Wind’s public filing admits that they have not completed vital studies needed to ensure that certain endangered and other marine and bird species are not threatened by the project. US Wind admits that Right Whales have been sighted in the vicinity of the project, but it has not studied the impact of the noise from construction on the whales. US Wind likewise not studied the full impact of the project on migratory birds, including the endangered Red Knot, or on horseshoe crabs. The project sits directly atop the Carl N. Shuster, Jr. Horseshoe Crab Sanctuary.
If you are interested in encouraging BOEM to address any of the issues above, here are some steps you could take.
1. Consider posting comments on the BOEM website (preferably by July 8, though they will accept comments up to 30 days later). For those who are interested, a model of a set of comments that address the three “conditions” above is provided on the Tower Shore website. This is just a possible starting point for each individual. You may file whatever comments you like — for or against the project, or for the project with some or all of the above or other conditions. All voices are welcome. Here is the link for submitting comments: https://www.regulations.gov/commenton/BOEM-2022-0025-0001
2. Sign an online petition calling on local, state and federal governments to encourage BOEM to move wind farms at least 30 miles offshore, so they are not visible. The petition, which was started by an advocacy group named Save our Beach View, is located here: https://lp.constantcontactpages.com/su/eQoaRNU/OffshoreWindPetition. More information on Save our Beach View can be found at https://www.facebook.com/saveourbeachview.
3. Fenwick Island has adopted a resolution calling on BOEM to require ALL offshore wind projects in the United States to go at least 30 miles offshore. Similar resolutions are under consideration by Sea Colony and other DE beach communities. Tower Shores HOA could show its support by adopting a similar resolution, if our community wanted to do so.