'Yes, in my backyard,' says Deepwater supporter
Some supporters of the proposed Block Island Wind Farm are stepping up to have their opinions heard, and have established a grassroots group called "Friends of the B.I. Wind Farm," with a goal of educating the community in a positive way.
Group organizer Gwyneth Wilson explains that the group began recently. Wilson moved to living full-time on the island starting in August. While there is email circulation of around 400 contacts, she said, a much smaller number gathers informally, mostly to share information with one another.
"As individuals, we speak up about our own opinions," Wilson explained. "That’s why we're a true grassroots organization."
The group has some big things in the works — they're working on establishing educational seminars to be held on-island. Friends of the B.I. Wind Farm has been working with scientists, fisheries and University of Rhode Island biology students. Wilson says she hopes to establish docent-led charters to the proposed site of the wind farm.
"We’re a strictly positive group about informing and educating," she said. "That should encourage balanced debate."
Gwyneth Wilson is the older sister of Bryan Wilson, the B.I. Wind Farm Manager. But she says that she has no financial ties to Deepwater, and her family connection to the project is not the reason she's in favor of it.
"I'm most excited about the eco commerce," she said. "If we are the first offshore wind farm, can you imagine the tourism?"
She asks that any proponents write letters to the Times and attend Town Council meetings, particularly the one slated for Tuesday, December 18. At this particular meeting, the Council plans to draft comments to the Army Corps of Engineers and Coastal Resources Management Council, as part of Deepwater's federal and state permitting process.
"Speak up at the meeting to let the Council know you support the project (be a Yimby, aka Yes In My Backyard)," she wrote in an email urging supporters to step up. Those interested in the Friends of the B.I. Wind Farm can contact Wilson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
But Rosemarie Ives, an opponent of the windfarm, said that the issue is not so much whether people are for our against it ("to each his own," she said,) but instead she takes issue with the town's involvement in Deepwater.
"The people of the island have been virtually not invited to the table," for discussion, she said. "There haven't been public processes, and there has been no independent analysis done by the island for the public."
Despite insistence from council members during meetings that the town performed due diligence researching Deepwater, Ives says they haven't.
"The advisory group to the council, the EUTG, [Electric Utilities Task Force Group] has been pro-Deepwater from the beginning," she said.
Ives has many reasons why she's skeptical of Deepwater, from the high rates it will cost Rhode Island taxpayers, to the way the state rewrote the rules to make the state Public Utilities Commission sign off on Deepwater’s power purchase deal with National Grid.