Ørsted proposal should be firmly embraced
If a set of core values were to be developed to guide landuse decisions in Sussex County, one could say: “Sussex County’s public beaches are the driving force behind the state’s tourism economy. Any effort to diminish them should be vigorously questioned and resisted, unless the vigorous questioning were to determine that benefits for any suggested proposal overwhelmingly outweigh all firmly identified negatives.”
Such is the case with a proposal by Danish wind-energy firm Ørsted to disturb about three-quarters of an acre in Fenwick Island State Park for construction of a transmission station to serve a 15-turbine wind farm about 17 miles due east in the Atlantic. That direct shot and access to transmission lines along Route 1 to be fed by the cable coming ashore are driving Orsted’s selection of the site.
For that privilege, Ørsted has proffered extensive improvements - in the magnitude of $15 million to $18 million - to what is currently a lightly improved park. Not that lightly improved is a bad thing. The park’s beaches are some of the best along the coast. Those who use them enjoy the park’s simplicity.
The good news about the Ørsted proposal is that no beaches would be disturbed or lost in this process. Adding the transmission site in the bayside pine forest would increase the disturbed percentage of the park’s total 378 acres from 2.4 to 2.6. The improvements, however, would maintain all of the park’s attractive features and add more: new and expanded parking, new visitors center and bathhouse, a trail connecting to the town of Fenwick Island, a pedestrian overpass to connect ocean and bay sides of the park safely, and bermed landscaping around the transmission station to retain the natural appearance.
The Ørsted-financed improvements would expand the park from a one-season to a four-season facility, especially appealing to locals.
On the condition that all environmental and regulatory conditions be adequately satisfied, this is a gift horse whose benefits far exceed any of the bare negatives raised so far and should be embraced appreciatively.