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On wind farm, people have to do own diligence

February 14, 2020

As a longtime resident of Fenwick Island, I’ve paid close attention to the rhetoric on both sides of the windfarm debate and, separately, Ørsted’s proposal to build an electricity substation atop nearly two acres of undisturbed wetlands in Fenwick Island State Park.

Through this process, I have come to one absolute conclusion – stakeholders in Delaware’s future must conduct their own diligence and form their own conclusions because DNREC cannot be trusted to convey unbiased information.

While much of the agreement between DNREC and Ørsted is nonbinding, not coincidently, DNREC is legally bound to a joint communication strategy and nondisclosure agreement. FOIA requests have confirmed that DNREC has no independent voice – all plans, development statistics,  stakeholder outreach strategies, forums for public feedback, etc . . . have been approved (if not crafted) by Ørsted. 

Ørsted’s corporate fingerprints were all over the sole means of public comment on the park proposal – a DNREC “survey” where Delawareans could comment on what “improvements” they were interested in at the park, but without an option to oppose Ørsted’s two-acre electricity substation.  By analogy, imagine the Sussex County Board of Elections signing a secret agreement with President Trump over the summer to “improve” Delaware’s voting locations, and then you show up at to the polls this November only to find President Trump on the ballot with your voting options limited to the color of his suit at the inauguration. Given the environment of misinformation that DNREC has tacitly fostered, let’s clarify two points with respect to the proposal at Fenwick Island State Park.

First, the proposal would meaningfully reduce undisturbed and protected wetlands at the park.

DNREC has advanced Ørsted’s gerrymandered statistics, suggesting new development of less than one acre (net). Ørsted-DNREC’s method of manipulation involves determining “development”  based on park surface area, counting currently permeable surfaces as “developed,” excluding the second story of an impermeable parking deck and taking various other liberties to Ørsted’s benefit. 

The truth is that the development proposed by Ørsted would increase impermeable surface at the park nearly fourfold and reduce the linear footage of currently undisturbed ocean-to-bay park wetlands by approximately 33 percent. 

DNREC initially proposed $20 million of reasonable improvements at the park resulting in virtually no decrease in undeveloped ocean-to-bay wetlands. I suppose the best way to hide an elephant is to build a circus around it.

Second, the park is irrelevant to Delmarva offshore wind because existing substations are available for Ørsted to interconnect Maryland’s Skipjack project to the grid. 

A study commissioned by the Maryland Energy Administration identified three existing substations in Ocean City, Md., as “optimal substations for the point of interconnection.” Utilizing any one of these substations, located in industrial areas around 138th St., 41st St. and 2nd St., would conserve Delaware wetlands and appropriately locate the substation related to the Skipjack project in Maryland, the offtake state under Ørsted’s agreement.

Delmarva offshore wind will relatively improve Delmarva’s carbon footprint, but also come at a cost to beach views, migratory birds and marine life. It’s the job of elected officials to work with Ørsted to minimize the latter to maximize the value of the former.  However, the 
DNREC-Ørsted proposal at Fenwick Island State Park is unrelated to any environmental improvements that may follow from Delmarva offshore wind. 

Quite the opposite, as Fenwick Island State Park is the narrowest point of the isthmus between Ocean City, Md. and Rehoboth, De. and the proposed development of wetlands and related coastal hardening will only serve to expedite sea level rise. 

The DNREC-Ørsted proposal at Fenwick Island State Park is nothing more than a Fortune 500 company attempting to buy development access to Delaware’s otherwise inaccessible protected wetlands. I urge Delawareans to form an educated opinion of the proposal at the park on this basis, bearing in mind the existing alternatives and value of undisturbed wetlands. 

My opinion? Ørsted’s price is not, nor will it ever be, right.

Patti Breger
Fenwick Island

 

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