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Ocean Wind Farms Good for Fishing… or not?

The States of Massachusetts and Rhode Island announced on May 23 that they will be going into contract negotiations for 1200 megawatts (MW) of ocean wind farm power generation. The Block Island Wind Farm pilot project, the first ocean wind farm in the nation, with five turbines is 30 MW.  So by comparison these projects are a lot larger.

The State of Rhode Island will enter contract negotiations with Deepwater Wind to procure 400 MW of power, and Massachusetts will enter contract negotiations with Vineyard Wind to procure 800 MW of energy.  Both projects will be located in areas where the firms have already been granted leases off Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

In a press advisory Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker said, “This announcement brings the Commonwealth one step closer to achieving our administration’s goals of creating a clean, reliable and cost-effective energy future for Massachusetts residents, and significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions to combat climate change,”.

In December of 2017, over 50 scientists presented their research findings about the Block Island Wind Farm (BIW) at the Southern New England Offshore Wind Energy Science Forum held at the University of Rhode Island Graduate School of Oceanography in Narragansett, RI. The BIW was viewed as having no remarkable adverse effects on the environment, fish, mammals, birds and people.

At the offshore wind forum last December, Chris Brown, a commercial fisherman who is president of the Commercial Fisheries Center that represents nine fishing industry trade associations, said, “Fishermen were initially terrorized as to what was going to be built, but last week I made a living towing all around the wind farm.”

Fishermen in Rhode Island and Massachusetts have expressed concerns about where actual turbines will be placed as they will impact fishing activity.  Most fishermen have expressed support for wind farms when planned properly.  Recreational anglers say they create structure, habitat, and food for sea life that attracts fish.  They attract fish much the same way that oil drilling platforms have attracted fish in the Gulf of Mexico.

Capt. Chris Willi of Block Island Fish Works Charters has fished and lived on Block Island for over 25 years. Willi believes the Block Island Wind Farm has been very good for fishing.  Willie said, “Build a bridge or a wind farm and its structure that is going to build life.  It’s the basis of a food chain.  When they first put in the bases we looked at our sonar and then a year later we looked again and noticed some very good growth.  Another advantage is that the BI wind farm has spread out the recreational fishing fleet.  Everyone really pounds the Southwest Ledge and the south sand bag for fluke, now they can fish the wind farm area too.”

Shortly after the wind farm contract negotiation announcement last week, State of Rhode Island officials from the Office of Energy Resources, the Coastal Resource Management Council and the RI Department of Environmental Management (DEM) organized a conference call with recreational and commercial fishing industry leaders to inform them of wind farm development plans.  Janet Coit, director of DEM said, “Our aim is to work with the State’s fishing community every step of the way as we work out details for the Rhode Island project.”

Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo and state officials were praised on the conference call for bringing ocean wind energy to Rhode Island in a big way. By collaborating regionally on efforts to lower electricity costs, increase reliability, improve fuel security, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, Massachusetts and Rhode Island are working to bring clean, local offshore wind to New England’s electric grid.

In March 2017, Governor Raimondo set a goal for Rhode Island to increase its clean energy resources portfolio to 1,000 megawatts by 2020.  The announcement of a 400 megawatt project represents a significant step toward achieving this goal.

 

More to come on ocean wind farms as these projects are developed and planned with fishermen input.

 

                                                                                                

 

The Block Island Wind Farm has become a fishing destination for many recreational anglers.

The five turbine 30 megawatt Block Island Wind Farm has become a fishing destination. On May 23 Massachusetts and Rhode Island announced plans to build wind farms that generate 1200 megawatts.

Cod fishing in the Block Island Wind Farm area was good this December.

The big surprise this year… cod fish in the Block Island Wind Farm area to complement the summer flounder and black sea bass.

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