Letters to the Editor, Nov. 16, 2012

Tue, 11/13/2012 - 5:17pm

This letter was sent to the Town Council and copied to the Times

When the proposal for Deepwater first surfaced, I responded to a survey and voted in favor of the project. However, since following the course of the project, I am opposed to it. Like many projects we see, at first hand it appears to be an advantage to our community, until all of the fine print has been put before us and digested. Observing the way the state legislature pressured the Public Utilities Commission to approve the project turned me off.

While I believed I could accept the turbines in the daylight hours, I am not so sure about the nighttime. Block Island has one thing going for it — velvet nights — that are valued by tourists and residents alike. We all know that the turbines, if constructed where presently proposed, will have lights, fog signals, etc. There is no denying that our scenic beauty from Mohegan Bluffs and Southeast Light would be forever compromised.

I may be mistaken, but I understand no Environmental Impact Study has been made by the State of Rhode Island regarding Deepwater. When our small sewer plant was built in the 1970s, an EIS was required and as a result the sewer outfall pipe had to be constructed. I urge you to ask for an EIS for the Deepwater Project, to be done as a protection for all of us whom you represent. Having looked at the information in seven binders at Town Hall, I believe it would be wise for the Town Council to ask the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for an extension of the time for public input beyond Nov. 16. Have all of the councilors read this information?

Since the start of the Deepwater project, it has come to my attention that the permit — if and when it is issued — will be not just for five turbines, but rather for many more than that. It is beyond my comprehension to think that mainland Rhode Island electric ratepayers will stand for the enormous increase in electricity prices when and if Deepwater is up and running.

I have tried to keep an open mind about the project as I do feel all of us should be looking at ways to become less dependent on fossil fuels. However, over the past two or three years, cost for solar has come down so much that I feel it is the way to go. It is far less invasive to the lovely fields and meadows on Block Island that we have all worked so hard to preserve as open space.

I must comment on the fact that only the positive impacts of Deepwater have been considered and discussed but no negative ones.

Edith Littlefield Blane

Corn Neck Road

This letter was sent to the Town Council and copied to the Times

I would like to address and ask questions regarding five points related to the Deepwater Wind Project the Town Council is discussing on 11/14/12:

Regarding the EUTG memo asking the council to support the Deepwater Wind project, the memo implies and leads the reader to believe that the wind farm is powering the island. That is not accurate. The wind farm is sending power into the grid and as a result it is commingled with power from the New England ISO — which is largely derived from natural gas in New England. The ability of a ratepayer to determine what electricity is from wind power, solar power, natural gas, nuclear power or oil is impossible to determine. BIPCo is purchasing power from the NE ISO (via National Grid), sourced mostly from natural gas, not the Deepwater Wind Farm to deliver power to the island. Deepwater Wind is not selling power to the island from the wind farm, and it’s the cable that provides the environmental benefit of doing away with the diesel generators — not the wind farm.

The council should be clear with the public with respect to the document from the EUTG regarding the cost of a stand-alone cable. My analysis, agreed with by a member of the EUTG who has also done this analysis, is that the island can afford a cable in the price range of $30 to 35 million. This is also likely the approximate cost of the cable (some estimates are slightly higher and some slightly lower). The $30 to 35 million is the break-even cost, where at current power generation rates on and off island, island ratepayers come out about even with a stand-alone cable. This is not at all clear in the memo from the EUTG, which for the most part states and leads one to presume a stand-alone cable is cost prohibitive. A final point on this issue is that about 60 percent of the benefit from the cable accrues to the business community and the Town of New Shoreham. I point that out not to begrudge those two constituencies in the least, as we surely need a stable and prosperous business community, but to state where the majority of the economic gain from the cable is going.

With respect to the Army Corps filing, has the Town Council read the entire document?

a. I’m still in the process of reading the document and if you’re like me, you need to read some of the sections more than once and then go research independently the conclusions in it. I’ve found a host of inconsistencies, if not errors, and many omissions.

b. Example: Deepwater states that maximum sea heights on the south side reach 23 feet. Just in the last 14 months there have been at least three sea states which have seen heights greater than 23 feet. In Irene and Sandy they reached over 33 feet (see buoy data as sources) offshore, and indicated heights at 47 feet off of New Jersey a few weeks ago — that’s a stunning 100 percent higher than what is stated in this filing with the Army Corps. There are other errors with respect to maximum historical wind speeds in and around the island. The island recorded 135 mph during Carol in ’54 (and at turbine heights of 600 feet above sea level, winds are about 20 percent higher than at sea level, so that might imply speeds were 160 to 170 mph at that height). It would take a few pages to itemize the questions, errors, and/or inconsistencies from the document here.

c. The reason to point these examples out is threefold: 1) I think we need an extension of time to fully vet this filing. 2) There are glaring omissions in the filing as it relates to the decommissioning and insurance requirements of the project. 3) Is the project being built from an engineering and structural perspective to withstand such seas and winds that are in the filing incorrectly? These all lead back to the importance of the decommissioning and insurance issues, as are an example of a small subset of issues.

Are we going to have a hearing on island with the Army Corps to vet some of these issues? I would request the council ask for that.

5. Most vexing of all, while it doesn’t appear the CRMC has yet opened a formal docket for the project, can the CRMC be objective and look out for the best interests of the island when the CRMC has been acting as an agent for Deepwater during the SAMP [Special Area Management Plan] process as stipulated by the Joint Development Agreement (JDA) with the State? Example: the JDA states “the CRMC shall approve the SAMP,” “the CRMC shall make all reasonable efforts to obtain all associated necessary federal, state and local government permits and approvals.” Deepwater has said the JDA continues in force to this day. How can the CRMC — which is guided by this mission statement in part: “The preservation and restoration of ecological systems shall be the primary guiding principal upon which environmental alteration of coastal resources shall be measured, judged and regulated” — really be objective and unbiased? It’s worrisome enough that the CRMC has never had any experience with a project of this magnitude (both the physical size and hundreds of millions of dollars involved with it), but many believe the CRMC has already compromised itself and is unable to act in an unbiased manner on this application. This is a significant dilemma the CRMC finds itself in and a legitimate concern on the part of the public.

Thank you for your service to Block Island.

Mike Hickey

Cooneymus Road

This letter was sent to the Town Council and copied to the Times

On the matter of the Deepwater Wind application to build five wind turbines off the southeast end of Block Island, I am writing to express my hope that you will hold further discussions and gather more local public opinion before you make a decision on whether to endorse.

The application is so long and so technical, the public has not had enough time to review it. Has there been sufficient public discussion of all aspects of the application, including the invasive proposed changes to Crescent Beach? Do you know what the people of Block Island really want to see happen?

There has been no Environmental Impact Statement; the information on environmental impact, and evaluation of proposed plans to mitigate ill effects, appear to come only from Deepwater Wind itself. There appears to be no information at all about how much and what kind of noise the turbines will produce. Surely an independent evaluation of all aspects of environmental effects is needed, not solely the one produced by the applicant?

Please slow down the process, get more information from independent reviewers, and find out what your constituency really wants.

Margaret Homans

Southeast Road and Guilford, Conn.

To: the Editor—

Currently, the hurricane relief work sponsored by tax payers’ money is falling short of helping. FEMA camps were closed during the recent storm, Athena, that hit over the past few days, and tents in New Jersey aren’t keeping the cold north wind out for now-homeless hurricane survivors with nowhere else to go.

Relief workers are funneling into New York City and New Jersey by the dozen, but there’s not a lot of help coming from FEMA or the Red Cross. As government aid is falling short, Occupy Sandy has stepped in, bringing with it members of Occupy Wall Street and other local occupations to rebuild the areas through experiences at Occupy camps throughout the Northeast. Occupy Wall Street and Occupy Boston medics have been working relentlessly to aid those in the Rockaways, from providing door-to-door services to hooking homeless hurricane survivors up with free aid across the city (and help to get there). Today and tomorrow, many volunteers, all with medical backgrounds, will be going out and canvassing through the Rockaways to check on residents who are still in their homes, very few of whom have power, heat or water.

Occupy Sandy is going above and beyond, not for any political reasons but because at the heart of Occupy are mutual aid and community. And we’ve had practice at building a functioning community in the recent past. Occupy volunteers know how to provide medical attention to those in need, how to set up kitchens with little to no supplies, how to get the basics to residents. Occupy volunteers have done this before and are doing it again, but this time for a much greater good, helping get tens of thousands of residents back on their feet.

Hearing the stories told to me by friends who are currently volunteering in New York City. and New Jersey, and reading news articles, I can’t help but think: “What if that kind of destruction happened here?”

With that in mind, I’m asking the residents of Block Island to help me take donations to New York and New Jersey over the next few weeks, as well as to help send down volunteers who have medical training. Anyone interested, please email me at sherlock@mit.edu or call me at (914) 325-2173. Donations can be dropped off at my boat, Puffin, down at the Block Island Maritime Institute next to the Hog Pen (the dock in next to Smuggler’s). It’s a blue 25-foot Bristol sailboat.

If you’ve got anything to spare, from old children’s books to medical supplies, there are thousands of different things that are needed. From volunteers I’ve been in touch with, the most needed items are medical supplies for the clinics that will be set up soon: stethoscopes, sterile non-adhesive gauze, medical tape, storage containers, blood pressure cuffs, gloves, sheets, pillows and pillow cases, tea tree oil, comfrey balm, foot powder, coban, silver solution, Bandaids, bandages, over the counter cold and flu medication, zipper plastic bags for storage. There is also a great need for tools to rebuild and keep folks warm: brooms, buckets, rags, trash bags, dust mask (N95 respirator), rubber gloves, flashlights, batteries, lanterns, non-perishable food items, household cleaners and detergents, cat litter made of clay, salt for melting snow (for drying out homes), baby toys (many got destroyed and it’d be nice to give some sense of normalcy to the children), electric tea kettles, tarps, sleeping bags, wool socks, wool caps, wool clothes of any sort, old-style (original) emergency blankets (tarp on one side, reflective surface on the other), body warmers, hand warmers, dog and cat food and many more items. Currently very few places are accepting clothing donations (including winter clothes), however when I do head down I will make sure the items that have been donated get to someone in need. I’m also looking for help with getting a van together with a team of volunteers with medical experience and training to head down sometime over the next few weeks. We would take the supplies then.

Elizabeth Holmes

Ocean Avenue

To: the Editor—

Thank you to everyone who voted for me in the recent election. Although I was not successful in my run for the Town Council, it was a great experience. I met dozens of wonderful people and was able to appreciate voters’ concerns and priorities.

I believe that our team — of Terry Mooney, Ken Lacoste and I — was able to highlight issues such as energy costs and information services that will be vital to Block Island’s future.

Finally, congratulations to Kim Gaffett, Ken and the other new members of our council. I wish them all much success over the next two years.

Bill McKernan

Amy Dodge Lane