Letters to the Editor, February 15, 2014

Mon, 02/17/2014 - 3:00pm

To the Editor:

The night sky over Block Island is much brighter since Feb. 6, 2014. We have eight new and brightly shining stars and they each have a name: Martha, Linda, Maguerite, Lisa, Carrie, George, Adrian and Tristan.

Congratulations to all the stars. Keep on shining.

Mary Donnelly

Old Town Road

This letter was sent to the members of the Coastal Resources Management Council and copied to The Block Island Times.

Dear Council Members:

My name is Mary Jane Balser. I am a year-round resident of Block Island. I am a former member of the Town Council for New Shoreham (Block Island) and former Finance Director for the Town government. I have built a 20-unit affordable housing development on the Island. Most importantly, I own and operate the Block Island Grocery. My business is one of the largest, if not the largest, commercial consumers of electricity on the Island. Additionally, my business is one of the largest retail businesses on the Island.

I am profoundly against the Deepwater Block Island project. I have studied the need for an alternate source of power to our island for many years. In fact, I was responsible for a series of federal and state grant submissions to provide financing for a submarine cable to the Island.

I do not understand how any member of the Rhode Island government (whether executive, legislative, judicial or regulatory) could support such a fiscally irresponsible project as the Deepwater Block Island project. If permitted, this project will cost me and every other ratepayer in Rhode Island over $500 million in costs in excess of market costs for power. National Grid, in response to requests for information from the R.I. Public Utilities Commission (PUC) requests, has routinely estimated this excess cost over the past three years to be between $400 million and $550 million above market cost. Regardless of what you may be told by Deepwater or its proponents, I do not believe that my business will ever benefit from this project if allowed to proceed with these costs to the public, even on Block Island.

The only way to secure less expensive and more reliable power for us on the Island is through a stand-alone cable. For over 20 years, I have worked to get the state to socialize a cable to the island for far far less than this project will cost. Today, a stand-alone cable would cost only 20 percent of the cost of the Deepwater Block Island project and cable and we could all buy “green power” from existing options offered by National Grid and its affiliates for much less per kWh than Deepwater will ever offer.

Most importantly, I believe my business will suffer from the dramatic impact this power plant will have on the unique environmental qualities of Block Island. It is a destination for all looking to enjoy serenity and nature. Just this week, The Block Island Times published its annual Block Island Weddings magazine targeting engaged couples and their wedding planners to consider Block Island for their weddings. In fact, on the cover of the magazine, there is a U.S. Marine and his newlywed bride pictured set off of Paynes Lookout with the SE Lighthouse, Mohegan Bluffs and Atlantic Ocean in the background. That setting will never be available for the next 20 years because five 600-foot turbines will be very highly visible as well. No bride will ever want that in her wedding picture. No one can argue that the loss of this viewshed will not harm my business and any other on the Island.

Please deny Deepwater’s application for this project.

Mary Jane Balser

Southwest Point Rd.

The following comments were prepared for the Coastal Resource Management Council and copied to The Block Island Times.

To the Editor:

I would like to thank you and your colleagues for the many hours you work on our behalf, on this and the other projects that require your attention. Thanks also to the Coastal Resource Management Council (CRMC) staff for their extensive analysis of the Wind Farm project.

The staff report finds "No Objection" to the Block Island wind farm as proposed. I would like to go further than that, and review important positive aspects of the project, as it relates to the health and welfare of the citizens of Rhode Island and our neighboring states.

On Block Island, we rely on a diesel generating system that burns 1,000,000 gallons of fuel per year, about 100 tanker loads of 10,000 gallons each. This translates to 2.2 million pounds of carbon emissions — 1,100 tons sent into the Block Island atmosphere each year. Think about it — a ton of C02 into the atmosphere for each resident of the island. The Block Island wind farm will eliminate those emissions. Ninety-five percent of the wind farm's production will come to the mainland. That will mean, according to the University of Rhode Island, a reduction each year in harmful emissions of:

40,000 tons of C02

20,000 pounds of N02

30,000 pounds of S02

These harmful products of fossil fuel use are important parts of the global warming equation. But they are not the largest part of the problem. The coal plants west of us produce at least 40 percent of the harmful emissions released in the atmosphere of our country. These are the emissions that are changing our climate, raising our sea levels, and injuring our forests and streams. Wind energy has the potential to mitigate these effects.

Just as important, these emissions affect our health, and continue to harm the health of our neighbors and our children, increasing the incidence of asthma, chronic lung disease, and cancer.

The success of the wind farm has the real potential of sparking a change in power generation, and making a real impact on the damage we continue to inflict on the environment.

In closing I would like to speak to the opinions of island residents and voters on this subject. Four years ago, the New Shoreham Town Council sponsored a scientific survey which was carried out for us by Roger Williams University. Every voter and every nonvoting homeowner was polled. Support for a "wind farm within three nautical miles… if it provides power to Block lsland and a cable link to the mainland" was affirmed by 84 percent of voters and 71 percent of the homeowners. Another similar survey was carried out by the Block Island Land Trust two years ago, and produced a very similar result.

Thank you for your attention today. I hope you will vote favorably on this project, that the Block Island wind farm will be built, and that I get to see it in operation in my lifetime.

Peter B. Baute, MD

1333 Peckham Farm Road


To the Editor:

Last fall when I received news of being named one of South County's 40 Brightest Stars my reaction was, in truth, ambivalence. As I protested the whole thing, Kathy Szabo, probably in a successful attempt to shame me into cooperation, told me by whom I had been nominated. It was a lovely surprise and I did have to step back and rethink my reaction.

“It will be fun!” recipient Adrian Mitchell insisted and I winced, sure the event would be great fun for him but for me not so much. Cindy Pappas told me in her gentle but firm way that when you are being honored the least you can do is be gracious and show up. At the eleventh hour, Shirlyne Gobern and Terri Chmiel stepped up to go with me, and I can never thank them adequately.

Still, it wasn't until we'd had dinner and were part way through the awards that I finally looked around at the seven other recipients from Block Island and began feeling very silly and truly honored. I realized two of us had served on the Zoning Board back in the 1980s with another woman in the room there to support friends. The connections started clicking and I was struck by the rich tapestry of this place. Removing myself from the equation, I saw the decades of dedication to the community this group of people represented, adding the supporters, ranging in age from Tristan Payne's daughter, Bailey, to Marg Donnelly's mother, Mary, those decades become a century and more.

To Adrian, Tristan and Marg, to Linda Closter, George Dodge, Lisa Sprague and Carrie Todd, to everyone who attended the party for any or all of us, thank you for reminding me what it is too easy to forget, that everyone contributes to this place.

And, yes, Adrian, you were right, it was fun!

Martha Ball

Mansion Road


To the Editor:

One of the Last Great Bait and Switches. Yes, Block Island is one of the Last Great Places in the Western Hemisphere. But, it is also one of the best examples of public officials and corporate executives pulling the wool over the eyes of Block Islanders and mainland Rhode Islanders.

As recent as Feb. 4, 2014, former New Shoreham Town Council Members were once again misleading public officials by providing commentary at a formal Open Meeting before the RI Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC) indicating that a majority of Block Islanders supported the pending Deepwater windfarm contemplated by the latter’s application for permits before the CRMC. How does this happen?

On July 8, 2009, the Block Island Town Council requested Lefteris Pavlides, a professor at Roger Williams University, to conduct a survey of Block Island registered voters or landowners to “find out whether Block Island residents would support or oppose a wind park off the shores of Block Island.” The Survey included 24 directed questions and seven images. The cover photo on the survey and the important simulations were taken from actual aerial and ground photography of the Scroby Sands Wind Farm in the North Sea located 1.6 miles off the coast of Eastern England.  The survey clearly uses the Scroby Sands Wind Farm as the benchmark for what survey participants were to expect for the wind farm that is contemplated 2.8 miles off of Block Island.

The Scroby Windfarm was commissioned in 2004, consisting of 30 wind turbines. The turbines have a capacity factor of just two megawatts each and stand at top blade height 330 feet above the mean sea level.  For reference purposes, the top of the SE Lighthouse stands approximately 300 feet above sea level.

Survey results provided by the Town Council indicate that a slight majority of Block Islanders would be open minded for a wind farm of some kind having turbines similar to those in the Scroby Windfarm.  But, that is surely not what we will be getting on Block Island if the project continues.  The survey is no longer a valid representations of resident opinions.

You see, based upon disclosures made by Deepwater in its pending CRMC application, the windfarm it is seeking to build will consist of five turbines that have capacity factors of six megawatts and stand approximately 600 feet at top blade-tip height. This windfarm is far different than the one contemplated by the Pavlides Survey. Continuing to cite the survey as public support for the windfarm is at least irresponsible, and possibly redressible, since it continues to be cited by Town Council Members who were sitting Council Members at the time the survey was commissioned by the Town.

To put this scale difference into perspective, consider this — at 330 feet maximum height, the wind turbines cited in the Pavlides Survey would stand only slightly higher than the SE Bluffs themselves, making the turbines visible only to those standing right on, or close to, the bluffs or across water from other island locations.  Not generally visible across island lands.

In April 2013, the Rhode Island State Historic Preservation Office (RI SHPO) requested Deepwater to provide answers to questions regarding visual impact that its proposed windfarm would have on registered Historical Landmarks.  In May 2013, the Public Archaeology Laboratory (PAL), on behalf of Deepwater, submitted a technical memorandum in response to the RI SHPO request. The PAL report provides viewshed modeling data and topography exposure results on all island locations (public and private). The report provides detailed viewshed data over the entire island for all or parts of the turbines. Importantly, the report examines where you can see entire turbines from their bases, where half-heights would be visible (100.5 meters, which would expose the nacelle generator and all turning blades), and just blade tips. Very importantly, the report indicates that one could be sitting on boat in the Great Salt Pond and fully see three of the five turbine nacelles and all three turning blades at once six miles away by looking over land.  That is, looking over The Fire Station, Town Hall, up Spring Street, over The Atlantic Inn, passed the SE Light out to the turning windfarm generators and blades.  All from sitting on a dinghy in the Great Salt Pond.

So, yes, the PAL report to the Historic Preservation Office indicates that what Deepwater plans for us is a far cry from the visualization provided in the Pavlides Survey.  No one, let alone former Town Council Members or the leadership of BIRA, should be citing the Pavlides Survey to sitting regulators as resident support for the fantastically different windfarm contemplated by Deepwater.  Stop pulling the wool over the eyes of your constituency.

Bait and switch, all around.

Mike Beauregard

975 Mohegan Trail