Environmentalists and the oyster industry have valid, rational concerns about erecting 106 wind turbines in the upper portion of Delaware Bay, as proposed by Delsea Energy.
Delaware Bay is a major migratory route for birds in the Western Hemisphere, an internationally recognized flyway. Along with a wind farm's impact on bird migration and other natural resources, it could also have a major effect on oyster seedbeds for Cumberland County's oyster industry.
Those kinds of concerns mean this project will - and should -have a long, tough, complicated haul in front of it. Frankly, we have doubts whether Delaware Bay can ever be an appropriate place for a wind farm - despite the abundance of wind, the need for alternative energy and New Jersey's sensible and ambitious goals of producing 1,000 megawatts of wind-powered electricity by 2013.
That being said, the state Department of Environmental Protection should at least keep an open mind and give Delsea a fair shot at making its case. Instead, the DEP is apparently ruling it out before it even has a formal application for the wind farm.
The current application Delsea has submitted to the DEP is to set up meteorological towers to measure wind power.
In a letter to Delsea Energy Aug. 20, DEP Assistant Commissioner for Land Use Management Scott Brubaker said the DEP already has enough data to conclude that the wind farm shouldn't be built in Delaware Bay.
Brubaker told The Press that the letter was just a "courtesy" to Delsea so it didn't waste money, and that "we've made it clear we're not prejudging the application."
But he also said: "It would be unreasonable to expect the department to change its opinion."
Say what? DEP's opinion that the application will be denied won't change ... but that's not prejudging it? The fine line there escapes us.
Even the cleanest, greenest means of power have some effect on the environment and wildlife. But the alternative - doing nothing - has a great effect, too, in fossil-fuel emissions that pollute the air and exacerbate global warming.
Certainly, there are some areas so sensitive that they should be off-limits. The upper Delaware Bay may be one of them. Delsea's wind-farm proposal is a very tough sell. But the firm should at least be allowed to make its case and explore its options.