“Green” Wind Turbine Site Steals Precious Wetlands!
The current site of the future Arthur Kill Terminal for wind turbine components.
Copyright © 2020 N&P Engineering, Architecture and Land Surveying, PLLC.
The current plan for the Arthur Kill Terminal. (Atlantic Offshore Terminal)
RECENT COMMENTS FROM THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT to harness wind energy off the eastern seaboard come with a promise of cleaner, greener days ahead for Staten Island. It is said that manufacturing wind turbine components on Staten Island will offer “green infrastructure” jobs, opportunities for local construction trades and the tertiary economic benefits of a local, unionized workforce. Developing these newer technologies here on Staten Island is being hailed as a cause for celebration. Arthur Kill Terminal, the project developed by Atlantic Offshore Terminal, is moving forward seemingly unopposed.
However, since Protectors of Pine Oak Woods has been driven for nearly fifty years by our mission to preserve open space, we are obligated to consider the ecological ramifications of each proposal with objectivity. So too, as with so many other seemingly beneficial proposals, Protectors must address a number of concerns which arise from the construction of offshore wind turbines.
On the tenth anniversary of Superstorm Sandy our representative in Congress, campaigning for re-election, excitedly announced that $48 million had been secured for dredging the Arthur Kill just south of the Outerbridge Crossing—one of the first steps in a long process of such projects. This announcement was a clear indication that those “leading” our community in government continue to lead us down the same worn path toward unprotected shorelines and flooded communities.
To enjoy the supposed benefits of “green infrastructure” our representatives have cast aside the value of our natural, green structures. They are sharing untold millions of our tax dollars with a for-profit entity and its claims of unprecedented employment opportunity for organized labor. The wind turbine manufacturing project, financed with our money, will fill in and lay pavement, thus removing wetlands and open space which currently buffer high tides and storm surge along our southwest shoreline. The cost of homeowner’s insurance is sure to rise with the tides.
Both New York State and New York City have recognized the immeasurable value of wetland systems. Both the State and the City have codified policies which encourage the preservation of wetlands to mitigate the impacts of rising seas, strengthening storms and the increased costs of hard infrastructure. Now, enticed by the promise of jobs, our representatives at each level of government have cast aside City and State policy to chase today’s dollars despite the untold costs of tomorrow.
Further, the site selected for the project—along Arthur Kill Road just south of the Outerbridge Crossing—is comprised of mudflats, high marsh and salt marsh, an intertidal marsh, as well as a littoral zone. This vacant site, the location our representatives have determined appropriate for development, is actually a collection of natural areas which help protect Richmond Valley and Pleasant Plains from flooding, and these wetlands should be preserved.
According to the NYC Department of Planning’s Climate Resiliency guidelines, the property in question is located in both an Inundation Area and in Flood Zone VE, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) designation for high-risk coastal communities, and so must be “subjected to more stringent building requirements than other areas because of the damaging force of waves.” Imagine that. Our government representatives at the Federal, State and local level have decided that the economic boon of developing offshore wind turbines on Staten Island far outweighs the immediate loss of wetlands protections and the inevitable flood damage to our community as a direct consequence of that loss.
The property in question is bordered on three sides by estuarine and marine wetlands. However, the Freshwater Wetlands Act stipulates that a wetland system must measure 12.4 acres in size or offer unique and significant ecological value to be protected by law. The three separate wetlands systems, each of which is much smaller than the mandated 12.4 acres, probably exceed the mandate for protection when considered as a whole. Nevertheless, our elected representatives, eager to secure tantalizing employment opportunities, have decided to capitulate. They did not negotiate the protection of our protective wetlands. Further still, those in elected office failed to negotiate any mitigation for the impending destruction of wetlands.
Protectors of Pine Oak Woods calls upon those representing us at all levels of government to begin a concerted effort to have Atlantic Offshore Terminals fund the acquisition and preservation of open space as parkland on Staten Island equivalent to that which they destroy. The turbine facility is paving wetlands today in the spirit of “greening America,” so they must be held accountable for Staten Island’s sustainable future.
—Cliff Hagen, Winter 2023