Wind Farm Cons Now Out of Hand

A collective madness has gripped many in East Hampton over the proposed Deepwater Wind South Fork Wind Farm, and it has proved the near undoing of the town trustees. Things hit a low point during a May 17 hearing on the proposed landing site of an electric cable from the distant offshore turbines when an elected trustee tried to prevent someone with whom he disagreed from speaking. 

What is odd about the clamor that has mushroomed as the Deepwater company’s project has advanced is that the wind farm site itself is closer to Rhode Island than to Montauk Point. The cable landing site might be under a trustee beach, requiring an easement in the same way another utility might seek permission to run power lines along a private road. But it might not, running instead under state-owned parkland.

Opposition has predictably come from offshore commercial fishing interests, which oppose the industrialization of the seabed, apparently preferring to keep it for sometimes-damaging bottom trawls and indiscriminate long-line harvests. It is strange to hear some traditionally anti-science voices among the fishing fleet speak out for the environment, when the same voices have stridently opposed the creation of marine monuments or sanctuaries. And their claim of providing an important food source raises the question: For whom? At $18.95 a pound for flounder in the markets, for example, fish is more of a luxury than a staple for most Americans.

Pity the town trustees, whose meetings have become the de facto sounding board for many of those against the South Fork Wind Farm. Trustee Rick Drew has been the point person on all of this, reading heaps of documents, and as the chairman of the trustee harbors and docks subcommittee, perhaps getting too close to the trees to see the forest. 

A low point came during the May 17 hearing when Mr. Drew tried to stop Gordian Raacke, the director of Renewable Energy Long Island, an independent green-power group, from making a statement. Shouting into a microphone, Mr. Drew said he objected to Mr. Raacke’s statement, claiming he was paid by Deepwater, which he was not. It was a relief when Town Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc took charge, defending Mr. Raacke’s right to speak, and the fuming Mr. Drew quieted down. Mr. Raacke explained later that neither he nor Renewable Energy Long Island had received any money from or had any formal relationship with Deepwater Wind.

In an ideal world, commercial fishing and environmental protection would go hand in hand, and the Earth would not be rapidly warming because of human activity. However, and as we have said before, although every viable alternative electricity should be pursued, wind power now remains the best available source. 

Wind turbines are going to be a part of the United States’ near-term energy future. What cannot be overlooked is that climate change will damage the oceans far more than will scattered wind turbines. This is what Mr. Drew should have had in mind before he tried to stop a wind proponent from providing relevant details about the cost of the Deepwater project. 

The sooner the town trustees and fishing and environmental advocates begin talking to one another and realize that we are all in it together, the better. Mr. Van Scoyoc struck the right note when he said that while we might not agree, we must all listen to opposing views if we are to move forward, saving fish, fishermen, and the planet.