Cape Cod Times: “Fishermen push back on offshore wind”
By Andy Metzger / State House News Service Posted Apr 9, 2018 –
BOSTON — Fishing industry officials are calling for the state to go slow and small when it comes to offshore wind energy plans south of the Martha’s Vineyard.
On Monday, the group – including local vessel owners, shoreside proprietors like the president of the Atlantic Red Crab Company, and national outfits such as the American Scallop Association – wrote to Gov. Charlie Baker to complain about the current dynamic between its members and their likely new neighbors and to suggest changes to make offshore wind more palatable.
“Three separate, developer-led outreach efforts have been launched, and all are stumbling to produce meaningful dialogue or move us closer to real solutions in areas ranging from navigation, access, cable routes, radar interference, and gear loss,” the coalition wrote. “Equally troubling, it has become clear that offshore wind developers are unwilling or unable to coordinate their interactions with commercial fishermen to tackle issues that cut across multiple project areas.”
The group endorsed making the state’s first offshore windfarm “as modest in size and scope as possible” so that its impacts can be studied, called for a possible delay in the selection of offshore wind partners, and suggested tapping the New Bedford Port Authority as the “central facilitator” for discussions between the wind-farmers and the fish harvesters.
Three project teams have bid to build wind farms south of the Vineyard, as part of a roughly 1,600-megawatt procurement mandated by a 2016 energy diversification law. By comparison, the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station, which is scheduled to shut down next year leaving a hole in the region’s emissions-free power generation, puts out about 680 megawatts.
While seeking a foothold for energy off the Massachusetts coast, the project developers say they have kept fishing interests top of mind.
Vineyard Wind has proposed projects capable of generating 400 megawatts or 800 megawatts. If the company wanted to maximize electricity generation with the lowest investment, it would have proposed turbines lined up like a fence facing the prevailing wind with other turbines arrayed behind that in a “scattered” pattern to catch the most breeze, according to Erich Stephens, the project’s chief development officer. That scattered layout would present a navigational challenge to fishing boats, however, so the company has proposed a grid pattern with space for trawlers to operate and a mile-wide corridor so fishing boats can easily traverse the wind farm as they voyage between New Bedford and the fishing grounds around Georges Bank.
Vineyard Wind, a partnership between Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners and Avangrid Renewables, has hired a fisheries representative, intends to hire a fisheries liaison to perform a somewhat different role, and has plans to fund research by University of Massachusetts Dartmouth’s School for Marine Science & Technology to study the effects of the upcoming construction on fishing, Stephens said.
There are two other companies also in the running to supply offshore wind power to Massachusetts ratepayers – Deepwater Wind, which built America’s first offshore wind farm near Block Island, and Bay State Wind, a partnership between Ørsted and Eversource.
“Bay State Wind is 100% committed to the fishing industry in New Bedford and throughout Massachusetts,” the company said in a statement. “We are the only project that has hired a marine biologist to ensure that we protect marine species and do not interfere with migration patterns, and we will continue to work closely with the fishing industry in the South Coast to minimize disruption and to preserve fish stocks for future generations.”
New Bedford is both the nation’s top fishing port as measured by the value of catch, mostly owing to the scallop fishery, and the location offshore wind developers have agreed to use as a staging area.
The New Bedford Port Authority controls city-owned harbor infrastructure as well as boat traffic in city waters, and it has the “technical expertise and the credibility” necessary to find solutions, according to the fishermen’s letter. The letter requested that no more than 400 megawatts of offshore wind be awarded in the first round, which features a solicitation for up to 800 megawatts, and urged greater “coordination” between the various projects.
The New England Fisheries Management Council, which helps write the rules for fishing in the area, has repeatedly expressed concerns about the possible opening of Atlantic waters for oil and gas drilling and the regulatory council has been tracking offshore wind developments, according to a spokeswoman.
“The Gulf of Maine is one of the fastest warming bodies of water on earth, and we are already seeing evidence of changes in the Northeast Shelf Ecosystem. Given these changes, renewable energy development may be a better focus area for the Atlantic coast at this time,” Council Chairman John Quinn wrote to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management in February. “While wind and other renewable projects may still have impacts on fisheries, the risks appear to be fewer.”
The letter to Baker was sent by the National Coalition for Fishing Communities, a project of Saving Seafood, a group that New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell previously said was created by industry players in his city.
“It is ironic that the possibility of oil and gas development off the U.S. East Coast — as problematic as that may be for many fishermen — has not generated nearly the same level of consternation among fishermen recently as the prospect of an offshore wind industry unwilling to undertake the hard work of a serious, substantive engagement with our industry,” the Saving Seafood letter said.
The Trump administration has raised the prospect of oil drilling in the Atlantic while plans are already well underway for wind farms south of Massachusetts – Baker said recently that a plan to select an offshore wind bid or bidders by April 23 would likely be delayed by “weeks.”
The Interior Department last week proposed leasing two additional areas off Massachusetts, totaling 390,000 acres. At next week’s fishery management council meeting in Mystic, Connecticut, officials from BOEM will be on hand to solicit feedback on offshore wind, according to the council.
Reprinted via Cape Cod Times, which is not affiliated with the Alliance.