Last month U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke announced three major developments in American offshore wind energy that set the table for fishermen engagement through public comment on plans.
Input sought on South Fork Wind Farm construction and environmental plans
Like bees buzzing around their hive, Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) staff members, environmental and fisheries consultants of all types, and staff from Deepwater Wind (DWW), spoke with visitors offering to answer any questions they may have about the South Fork Wind Farm.
The wind farm is located 19 miles southeast of Block Island and will feature 15 turbines. The power it generates will be submarine cabled to East Hampton, Long Island, New York. Similar open houses were held by BOEM in New Bedford, MA and on Long Island, NY.
BOEM published a Notice of Intent to review the Construction and Operations Plan and develop an Environmental Impact Statement (ESI) for the South Fork Wind Farm being developed by Deepwater Wind. The notice has a 30-day public comment period closing on November 19.
Jeffrey Grybowski, CEO of Deepwater Wind said, “The public will have the opportunity to review the Construction and Operations Plan and provide input to BOEM at three community meetings or through written comment. We’re on-track to begin construction on the South Fork Wind Farm once the EIS and permits are in-hand, by 2021, and to deliver clean energy to the South Fork starting in 2022.”
Fishermen at the meeting suggested that BOEM examine a number of environmental impacts related to cumulative impacts of multiple wind farms being built off Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Yet other fishermen and environmentalists praised developer Deepwater Wind for the environmental and fisheries research protocol they first established for the Block Island Wind Farm, now being utilized on the South Fork Wind Farm project.
Public comment can be made online or by mail until November 19. For copies of plans and information on how to comment visit https://www.boem.gov/South-Fork/ .
In a second development last month, Secretary Zinke announced a much-anticipated wind auction in federal waters off the coast of Massachusetts which will take place on December 19. And, the third announcement pertained to the next steps to the first ever wind auction in federal waters off California.
Now is the time for anglers to engage by reviewing plans, making public comments and attending public meetings as the South Folk Wind Farm Environmental Impact Statement is being developed and reviewed.
Vineyard Wind holding research input sessions
In response to fishermen’s concerns, Vineyard Wind, developers of a wind farm south of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket, engaged the School for Marine Science & Technology (UMass Dartmouth) to solicit fishermen input on research studies needed before, during and after construction.
A series of workshops will be held to identify what information would be most valuable for pre-and post-construction assessments of fisheries and ecological conditions, as well as social and economic aspects of fisheries in and around the Vineyard Wind offshore wind lease area.
Workshops include a brief description, status and plans of the Vineyard Wind project, results from some initial fishery resource surveys, and discussion to identify priorities for pre and post-construction monitoring plans.
A workshop was held in New Bedford, with others planned at the time of this writing for: Thursday November 15, Commercial Fisheries Center of Rhode Island, East Farm Campus Building 61B URI, Kingston RI; Monday November 19, Chatham Community Center, 702 Main Street, Chatham, MA; and Monday, December 3, West Tisbury Library, 1042 State Rd, West Tisbury, MA.
Vineyard Wind is offering commercial fishermen $200 to attend the workshop recognizing that the time invested in meetings is time taken away from fishing. Contact Crista Bank at 1-508-525-0421 or firstname.lastname@example.org .
Wind farm developers present to Saltwater Anglers
The Rhode Island Saltwater Anglers Association (RISAA) plans to feature three ocean wind farm companies developing off Massachusetts and Rhode Island at their November 27 seminar at the West Warwick Elks Lodge, 60 Clyde Street, West Warwick. Visit www.risaa.org for information.
Jersey fishermen organize for seat at wind farm table
Last month, thirty five recreational fishermen attended an informational meeting held by Anglers for Offshore Wind Power at the Langosta Restaurant at Ashbury Park, New Jersey. Fishermen listened to a summary of wind farm development plans scheduled for New Jersey and as a Rhode Island fisherman I shared the positive experience Rhode Island fishermen have had with the Block Island Wind Farm through planning, construction and operation.
Anglers for Offshore Wind Power, a project of the National Wildlife Federation, sponsored the informational meeting. The group’s mission is to provide anglers with the information and resources needed to play a part in ensuring ocean wind farms are responsibly developed.
Capt. Paul Eidman of Reel Therapy Fly & Light Tackle Charters, New Jersey, and a fish advocate for Anglers for Offshore Wind Power, said, “The State of New Jersey plans to generate 3,500 megawatts of clean energy though wind power over the next twelve years, enough energy to power approximately 1.5 million homes. Our job is to make sure our safety concerns for safety and safeguards for the fish and habitat are addressed as ocean wind farms develop.”
The presentation I gave related the new habitat created and abundance of fish being caught in the Block Island Wind Farm area i.e. scup, black sea bass, summer flounder, cod, bluefish and striped bass. Turbine foundations there have acted as artificial reef structure creating new fish habitat.
Fishermen at the meeting questioned where the New Jersey turbines would be sited with concerns about them being in high traffic areas as well as in areas where scallops and ocean clams are presently harvested commercially.
Block Island Wind Farm still yielding fish
On October 30 I fished the Block Island Wind Farm (BIWF) on an Anglers for Offshore Wind party boat trip. About forty anglers from CT, MA, NJ and RI were on the trip along with wind farm developers and government officials.
The purpose of the trip was to demonstrate to anglers from other states what a great bite there is at the wind farm, as they have utility scale windfarms of multiple turbines planned for their states. Additionally, anglers spent time with Rhode Island fishermen that have actually experienced working with developer Deepwater Wind during planning and construction of the BIWF.
Zack Cochran of the National Wildlife Federation (Anglers for Offshore Wind sponsors), said, “We are in favor of the responsible development of offshore wind that has proper research done before, during and after construction to safeguard the fish and habitat.”
Patrick Paquette of Hyannis, MA, a fish advocate and member of Anglers for Offshore Wind said, “Video footage taken at the base of the Block Island Wind Farm show mussel growth on pylons with scup and black seabass feeding in the area with larger fish such as bluefish and striped bass circling them looking for a fish dinner. The Block Island Wind Farm is proof that offshore wind and fishing can coexist and thrive together.”
Everyone on board seemed to catch fish, which kept the mate busy cleaning fish all the way home. For information about Angler’s for Offshore Wind visit www.anglersforoffshorewind.org .