Dan Rattiner's Stories

Hamptons Sea Windmills Now Offer Good Times for Fish and Birds

Representatives of the company poised to build steel windmills in the ocean, 35 miles off East Hampton, held a public meeting a few weeks ago to explain how the wind will turn these blades and thus provide all the power needed for every home on the South Fork without having to use any carbon fuel whatsoever. They can be up and working in five years.

Nevertheless, opponents had their say, both in recent weeks before the meeting and at it. They pointed out that the company says the cost will be “comparable” to the costs of oil and coal, but what does comparable mean, exactly? They talked about their concerns regarding the windmills at this location interfering with commercial fishermen, or birds flying around out there that could run into the blades of the windmill and suffer sudden death, fish swimming around beneath the waters that could bump into the concrete stanchions upon which the windmills sit, causing brain damage. These opponents declared that windmills could disrupt surfing, cause an acceleration or deceleration of the littoral drift of the sand at the bottom of the sea. What about the cable that comes ashore bearing the energy? What if someone walking on the beach steps on it, would they be fried to a crisp? And you say these windmills cannot be seen from shore, but what if you’re wrong? This could negatively impact tourism, they fear.

Next week, I am told, the company representatives will be meeting again with the general public to address some of these questions. I have also been told we will hear about a new set of plans to compromise with those having different priorities.

Introducing the “Windmill Ferris Wheel!”

We got an advance peek at the new plans. The windmills will have the same-size steel paddles as in the old plan, but each mill will be set lower down so the blades, when they are at their lowest point, dip down under water. There will be small steel cups with slots in them at the end of each steel blade, into which, when the blades dip underwater, daring fish can leap and enjoy a wonderful ride all the way back up and all the way back down again. They can stay on as long as they want—no charge. It’s fun. They will tell their friends. There will be lines of fish waiting to come aboard the Windmill Ferris Wheel.

This operation, some might point out skeptically, is a sadistic thing—making it absolutely easy for seagulls to wait for a blade to come by so they can pluck the fish out and eat it. Not at all, will be the reply. There will be eight windmills all together. Four of them will have small cups for the fish, while the other windmills will have larger cups for the birds. Imagine the fun that a bird can have, sitting in the birdcup, getting a dunk underwater and then going back up and around to do it again. The eight windmills will alternate—fish, birds, fish, birds and so forth. This will promote good relations between birds and fish. Consider it a perk (which is almost, but not quite, a kind of fish).

Atop the center pole of each of these eight steel windmills will be a large bronze sculpture of either a bird or a fish, so the birds and fish don’t get confused as to whose is whose. There is also this: The top four feet of the center poles of each windmill will be raised so it can be seen from shore. On shore, those walking the beaches will be able to see what is way up there on top—either a bronze flying fish or bronze flying bird. Just over the horizon. Alternating. What a work of art! Tourists will flock to the beaches from miles around!

There were other advantages. But I forget what they are.

We’ll just have to hear more about the advantages and disadvantages from the company when they come again to the Clinton Academy in East Hampton. Oh, yes—the steel sculptures of the birds and fish will be made by students in a class at one of the local art schools. They won’t cost anything. They will save even more money.

Finally, there’s this for the surfers. A ninth windmill will be built (to make up for the slowness of the first eight). It will have bigger cups on the ends of the blades, big enough for a surfer to jump into for the ride going round and round. He can even take his board in there with him. That is a real test. And up top, instead of a statue of a bird or fish there will be…well, whoever is the victorious surfer in the upcoming Battle of the Windmill Surfers event airing on CBS this summer.

I think Colin McEnroe should host it.

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