Wind re­sis­tance in O.C. is lu­di­crous

Baltimore Sun - - MARYLAND - Dan Ro­dricks dro­dricks@balt­ twit­­dricks

The re­sis­tance by the mayor and other mu­nic­i­pal lead­ers in Ocean City to the prospect of a wind farm 14 to 17 miles off­shore makes me think of Larry Vaughn from “Jaws.”

Vaughn was the jit­tery mayor of the fic­tional re­sort of Amity, puff­ing cig­a­rettes, sport­ing amaz­ing polyester jack­ets, telling Chief Brody and Hooper to chill on all the killer-shark talk.

The mayor was wor­ried about its ef­fect on Amity’s forth­com­ing tourist sea­son.

“I don't think you ap­pre­ci­ate the gut re­ac­tion peo­ple have to th­ese things,” he tells Brody. “You yell, ‘ Bar­racuda!’ and ev­ery­body says, ‘Huh? What?’ You yell ‘Shark,’ and we've got a panic on our hands on the Fourth of July.”

And, of course, shark panic would be bad for busi­ness, per­haps even a threat to Amity’s ex­is­tence.

Down in the non-fic­tional paradise of Ocean City, we have civic lead­er­ship that also sees an ex­is­ten­tial threat on the hori­zon. Ex­cept it’s not a great white. It’s white twirly-sticks. It’s a plan to erect clean-en­ergy wind tur­bines 14 to 17 miles away from pic­turesque Coastal High­way.

Lo­cal lead­ers think it will hurt tourism and prop­erty val­ues in Mary­land’s sea­side re­sort.

So op­posed are Ocean City lead­ers to the wind farm they have turned down an of­fer of free elec­tric­ity and hun­dreds of thou­sands of dol­lars in other in­cen­tives from the farm’s de­vel­oper.

Th­ese solons will not be bribed into em­brac­ing the fu­ture!

I checked and I haven’t used this word in a long time: Lu­di­crous.

I think that shows im­pres­sive re­straint, given all the op­por­tu­ni­ties I have, here in Bal­ti­more and dur­ing the Trump era, to de­scribe stuff as lu­di­crous.

But I think “lu­di­crous” is a good word for a de­ci­sion to turn down free elec­tric­ity for Ocean City with­out at least ask­ing the lo­cal cit­i­zenry about it. After all, mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties else­where have been able to cut back on their util­ity bills us­ing lo­cally gen­er­ated elec­tric­ity from wind power.

As for con­cerns about the wind farm be­ing within sight of Ocean City, and there­fore dis­cour­ag­ing peo­ple from go­ing to its beaches, rent­ing sum­mer domi­cile and spend­ing money on the Board­walk — I have a hard time see­ing any­thing but lu­di­crous there, too. Think about 14 to 17 miles. That’s down­town Bal­ti­more to Hunt Val­ley. I re­al­ize there are build­ings, trees and other stuff in be­tween the two — or, as a de­mo­li­tion con­trac­tor once told me, “A lot of ob­scu­ri­ties in your way” — but, even with a clear shot on flat ground, I can’t imag­ine be­ing able to see Hunt Val­ley from Bal­ti­more Street.

And I can’t imag­ine wind tur­bines 14 to 17 miles from Ocean City’s beach as any­thing more than vague, white twirly-sticks or, on lowvis­i­bil­ity days, whitish specks.

But this will dis­cour­age peo­ple from go­ing there? This will hurt prop­erty val­ues?

Cer­tainly Ocean City is more re­silient than that. Cer­tainly the peo­ple of Ocean City have faith that the sum­mer pil­grims will come, their mouths wa­ter­ing for fries and fun­nel cake, no mat­ter what.

I re­al­ize that Ocean City has been built in the most aes­thet­i­cally pleas­ing way, to pre­serve the town’s quaint­ness and Vic­to­rian charm, and that peo­ple have gone to great lengths to keep it from be­com­ing a gaudy, overde­vel­oped mess.

I ap­pre­ci­ate the pos­si­bil­ity that peo­ple who pa­tron­ize Big Pecker’s Bar and Grill and Brass Balls Sa­loon might cringe at see­ing white twirly-sticks on the ocean’s hori­zon. In­deed, wind power might be a tough sell to peo­ple who go to Ocean City to re­lax, rel­ish the sun­rise and buy T-shirts with crude ex­pres­sions.

But surely they can be con­vinced of the ben­e­fits.

Alas, the mayor and City Coun­cil have not taken the lead on this. They want the wind farm de­vel­oper to push his plan 30 miles off­shore, a move that would send the process of plan­ning and fed­eral ap­provals back eight years.

I say this to Ocean City: Never make a prob­lem out of an op­por­tu­nity.

You have a chance to em­brace the fu­ture while ben­e­fit­ing from the growth of a new, in­creas­ingly pop­u­lar sec­tor of the Amer­i­can econ­omy.

In “Jaws,” Mayor Vaughn ar­gued that talk of the shark would hurt busi­ness for the sum­mer. He failed to see the larger threat — not rid­ding the coast of the great white could hurt Amity for­ever, maybe even put it out of busi­ness as a re­sort.

The anti-wind crowd in Ocean City needs to see the big pic­ture. Just last week­end, they ex­pe­ri­enced flood­ing from an ex­treme rain­storm. That’s go­ing to keep hap­pen­ing be­cause of changes to the cli­mate that have al­ready oc­curred; storms will get worse if we don’t move to re­new­able en­ergy sources, such as wind, and re­duce emis­sions of green­house gases. With­out a big­ger, bolder push into the clean-en­ergy fu­ture, Mary­land’s coast will lose ground to sea-level rise, to the point where the con­tin­ued spend­ing of mil­lions of tax­payer dol­lars on beach re­plen­ish­ment be­comes as point­less as build­ing sand cas­tles on the in­com­ing tide.

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