Hocker and Gray hosting wind-farm meeting

In the wake of increasing concerns over plans for a wind farm off the coast of Delaware and a connected project at the Fenwick Island State Park, two state legislators are hosting an informational meeting next week.

State Sen. Gerald Hocker and Rep. Ronald Gray have announced a public meeting, to be held Tuesday, Nov. 19 from 6 to 8:30 p.m. in the Indian River High School auditorium in Dagsboro.

Representatives from the state Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control as well as the Danish company Orsted, which is currently seeking permits to build the wind farm off the coast, will be on hand to discuss the project and to answer questions, according to emails from Hocker and Gray this week.

Both legislators have attended numerous informational meetings in the past month since the announcement in early October that Orsted, in return for the state allowing the company to bring wind-produced energy ashore to a connection facility on state park property, has proposed a number of improvements for the popular beach park.

The project would include a multi-level parking facility, a new, larger building for the Bethany-Fenwick Area Chamber of Commerce, whose current office is on state park property, improved concessions, trails through the park, a playground and other amenities.

The wind energy would be connected to the existing power grid by underwater and underground cables to a transmission facility on land located on the park’s bay side. Currently, Maryland officials have approved the use of the power for customers in that state; Delaware has not given its approval.

In recent weeks, groups of citizens concerned about the impact of the wind farm project itself, as well as the changes at the park proposed by DNREC and Orsted, have become increasingly vocal, organizing meetings and seeking related documents through the Freedom of Information Act.

When a July Memorandum of Understanding between DNREC and Orsted became public, some of those citizens expressed their feelings that the project was a done deal long before the October open house at Fenwick Town Hall where it was introduced as a proposal.

“I think that’s downright sneaky,” said Fenwick Town Council member Vicki Carmean, one of the citizens who filed a FOIA application for access to the MOU. The document itself, however, states that there are numerous permits and conditions that must be met for the project to move forward and that a formal agreement will be required before any part of the park project begins.

According to the MOU, Orsted has committed to construct:

• A new parking structure with at least 30 percent more capacity than the current parking lot, a one-acre transmission facility;

• A new Chamber office with an attached nature center and including space for meetings and classes;

• Walking paths or sidewalks to connect to those planned in the town of Fenwick Island;

• A snack bar;

• An outdoor amphitheater;

• A playground with access for disabled visitors;

• A rentable pavilion on the ocean side;

• Self-service parking kiosks;

• Renewable energy certificates which would offer the equivalent of 7,200 kilowatt hours of renewable energy generation per year for the Fenwick Island State Park operations for 10 years;

• New lifeguard housing;

• A second, small bathhouse on the bay side;

• Pickleball courts on both sides of the park;

• New camping sites;

• New signage to help visitors better access the park; and

• A new pedestrian bridge connecting the parking lot on the east side with a parking lot on the west side of Route 1.

Much of the concern expressed so far is about the actual wind farm project itself, which will entail wind turbines that may be visible from some areas of Delaware coastline. The concerns center on the potential for visible turbines to harm beachfront property values and in turn, be detrimental to the area’s economy.

Some, however, have expressed worries that the park project will disturb the park’s simplicity by adding too many amenities that take the focus from its main attraction, which is the beach.

The informational meeting is set for 6 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 19. It will be held at the Indian River High School auditorium. The high school is located at 29772 Armory Road, Dagsboro.

By Kerin Magill
Staff Reporter