The Delaware Department of Natural Resources & Environmental Control has released the results of a survey that included questions about the possible location of an electrical interconnection facility at Fenwick Island State Park, bringing power from a proposed offshore wind farm, as well as results of a public survey about possible improvements to the park.

Last fall, windfarm developer Ørsted requested that DNREC consider allowing electric cables from the company’s proposed Skipjack Wind Farm, offshore of Fenwick and Ocean City, Md., to connect underground to a possible interconnection facility on the Fenwick Island park property.

At public meeting at Indian River High School in November 2019, DNREC took public comment on a number of possible improvements to the park that could be funded by Ørsted if the interconnection were allowed within the park, with the comment period subsequently extended to earlier this year.

DNREC officials said they have not made a decision on the use of Fenwick Island State Park as a landing for the power produced from the proposed wind farm.

The survey results released last week clarified that DNREC is “considering the proposal to allow an interconnection facility to be installed at Fenwick Island State Park to direct power from the proposed Skipjack Wind Farm.

“The proposed wind farm itself is authorized by the State of Maryland,” the DNREC statement said, but an interconnection is proposed to be located in Delaware. The wind farm developer, Ørsted, would provide park improvements as part of that project. “This proposal is separate from regulatory considerations of the wind farm, which is proposed to be developed regardless of Parks’ involvement.”

Other DNREC statements made in response to public questions about the possible interconnection within the park and the possible park improvements included:

• “If the project is determined to move forward by the DNREC Secretary, the next step requires detailed planning and all associated permitting.”

• “DNREC will not allow negative impacts to wetlands. Any unacceptable impacts to the environment will not be entertained.”

• “A review of impacts to living resources (e.g. marine mammals, sea turtles, horseshoe crabs, birds, bats) would be conducted as part of the permitting process. Time-of-year restrictions are often placed on projects to protect living resources.”

• “The proposed infrastructure improvements would remove a row of parking closest to the dune to allow the area to naturalize again and give the dune additional space to move. In addition, any new infrastructure would be designed to allow for dune movement.”

• “Fenwick Island State Park has seen an increase in visitation as a result of increased visitors and development in the surrounding area. Regardless of any proposed amenities, the park is expected to only grow in popularity and stress existing infrastructure that is undersized for the demand. The proposed amenities will add capacity for the park and improve flow and experience for visitors.”

DNREC received 2,692 survey submissions that gave feedback on the proposed park improvements, which include methods for increasing public safety and relieving traffic congestion, upgraded infrastructure and the addition of new recreational amenities to meet the needs of increased visitation.

Of those who completed the survey, 44 percent said they would like DNREC to renovate the existing parking area and/or create additional parking facilities, 32 percent wanted the bathhouse and restroom facilities to be renovated and expanded, 13 percent said they would like additional food concessionaires and 12 percent said they felt the proposed improvements would improve traffic flow and parking at Fenwick Island State Park.

Respondents also ranked proposed amenities from first to last, with walking paths to connect to Fenwick Island proper, a nature center and additional food concessions being the most popular.

The public process began in October 2019, when DNREC and Ørsted hosted an open house at the Fenwick Island Town Hall. At the public meeting at Indian River High School in November 2019, Ørsted and DNREC officials took questions regarding the proposed park improvements. Those questions have included the distance of turbines to the shoreline; the location of wind energy areas in relation to fishing; and the impacts of the wind farm on recreation, fisheries and navigation. The DNREC answers noted that many of those questions are most appropriately addressed by Ørsted and the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, which oversees and approves such projects.

Ørsted, meanwhile, recently announced that the Skipjack project, which had been scheduled for construction in 2021, will now be delayed until 2023.

To see the survey results and read the questions and answers, go to www.destateparks.com/FenwickImprovements.

Staff Reporter

Kerin majored in journalism at Ohio University and has worked as an editor and reporter for monthly, daily and weekly publications in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Delaware since 1983. A native of Baltimore, Md., she has lived in Ocean View since 1996.