The Block Island Times

Deepwater project still controversial

By Stephanie Turaj | Jan 31, 2014

After almost five-and-a-half years since Deepwater Wind first proposed the Block Island wind farm, the project is now beginning the final stages of approval before construction.

The $205 million project still elicits a wide range of opinions, as interviews conducted by The Block Island Times attest.

In addition, a Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC) staff report  stated that the CRMC received 78 written comments regarding Deepwater. Of these, 19 were in favor of Deepwater, the remaining were 57 in opposition to all or part of the project. The CRMC also received a petition with 215 signatures, said the staff report.

“The state of Rhode Island just wanted this so badly, I think they stopped really thinking about the project from the world as it is right now,” said island summer resident Maggie Delia, who, along with her husband Michael, has been an opponent to the project. “They’re not really looking at this project... it just doesn’t make sense from the point of view of the island, the state, businesses, and for our ocean.”

Various state and federal agencies must grant Deepwater permits to build the wind farm. The CRMC is the state agency responsible for this permitting, and has scheduled two public hearings, the first on Feb. 4 on the mainland and the second on Feb. 24 on Block Island. Following these two hearings, the CRMC Ocean Special Area Management Plan (OSAMP) subcommittee will issue a recommendation to the CRMC, which is responsible for approving or denying Deepwater its permit.

Delia said she will not be able to make the Feb. 4 hearing.

“It’s consistent with how this whole process has been that they’re going to have these meetings in the dead of winter,” said Delia.

Island resident Michael Hickey echoed Delia’s comments about the timing of the Feb. 4 hearing.

“It’s very disappointing that they hold these meetings in February. It’s almost like they’re trying to suppress public participation,” said Hickey.

Hickey also weighed in on a staff report compiled by the CRMC.

CRMC staff members compiled a report that will act as an advisory opinion to the OSAMP subcommittee. This report found ‘no objection’ to the Deepwater Project. (See related story)

“I don’t think the report provides sufficient detail of the decommissioning process,” he said, referring to how the turbines will be removed once they reach end-of-life, or are no longer operational.

Hickey added, “It’s the Town Council’s responsibility to make sure the decommissioning process is airtight.”

Locally, the Block Island Town Council is expected to decide on its official position at a council meeting on Feb. 3, said First Warden Kim Gaffett.

Gaffett also said she will attend the Feb. 4 hearing, but added she wasn’t sure if she would be attending in her capacity as First Warden or as a private citizen.

She declined to state her position on the wind farm, but added, “My opinions haven’t changed that much.” She has previously voted in favor of the project.

Councilor Norris Pike said he also plans to attend the hearing. Councilor Gary Ryan said he could not make it; Chris Warfel and Second Warden Ken Lacoste were not sure if they would.

Norris Pike spoke in favor of the project to The Block Island Times.

Gary Ryan said he was still learning about the project and planned to meet with Bryan Wilson, Deepwater’s Block Island Wind Farm project manager, to ask questions.

However, Ryan added, “I think it’s coming. I think we’ve got to do what’s best for the island.”

Second Warden Ken Lacoste predicted that the Town Council vote on Feb. 3 would be a “split vote.” In Dec. 2012, the council voted 3-2 to support the project; former councilor Sean McGarry and Warfel had been opposed.

When asked by The Block Island Times this week, Chris Warfel again spoke in opposition to the Deepwater project.

“I think it’s a really bad agreement for the economy of Rhode Island,” Warfel said. He criticized both state and local government for its process in reviewing the project thus far.

On the state level, “Every time any state agency has shown independence [in reviewing Deepwater] they’ve been backed down by the legislature. No one should assume there is professional, independent analysis of Deepwater on the state level.”

On the local level, he said there were better options for the island instead of Deepwater, such as a “micro grid” system, or a combination of solar power, energy management, and conservation. However, he said the town has ignored “repeated efforts by experts to show methods by which costs for electricity and other energy could be lower than anything that the cable would provide.”

Comments (2)
Posted by: Elliot Taubman | Jan 31, 2014 20:00

What is said appears accurate, but the report fails to note repeated surveys of year round residents in favor of Deepwater Wind.  It is wealthy summer residents who mainly oppose it. Whether they like looking at them or not, it is clear that the cable will reduce electric costs, The fiber optic cable may also improve internet access. The opponents just do not want to see the wind turbines. Aesthetics are not the only issue raised. The one legitimate  scientific concern was of danger to birds and bats; the extensive studies seem to put this issue to rest.

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Posted by: Myron Waldman | Feb 03, 2014 16:07

Who am I to tell Block Islanders what to do? I'm a Rhode Islander who is not looking forward to sharing $600,000,000 additional charges with other ratepayers in the State's mainland just to provide the state with higher cost power and Block Island its cable.

There are other options. Deepwater Wind is obligated to provide a cable to BI whether they build 5 industrial sized wind turbines or not. There is no absolute guarantee that BI ratepayers will save any money on the cost of power because of the wind turbines. All evidence points to the opposite. Deepwater has no record of success. In fact, it is the opposite.Their past attempts were all failures in the generation of power. This BIWF project is the riskiest of all.

Recently released documents show that most everyone living on BI year-round will be in the path of the one-second strobes, fog horns and blinking reds from the huge towers 2.5 miles off shore. On a quite evening there will be no quiet and on a dark evening, the sky will reflect the 1-second pulses of the strobes. There will be no peace.

Separate the cable from the wind turbines. You deserve reasonably priced power, fiber bandwidth and peace of mind.

Myron Waldman


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