BOEM advancement of New York offshore wind raising fishing industry concerns

A Bureau of Ocean Energy Management map of the proposed locations for offshore wind off the coast of New York and New Jersey

Two major offshore wind projects off the coast of the U.S. state of New York have taken steps forward over the past week, according to announcements made by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), and those developments have raised some significant concerns from the fishing industry in the U.S. Northeast.

On Monday 16 August, the agency issued its final environmental impact statement on South Fork Wind, a development that could generate 130 megawatts of power to the eastern end of Long Island.

The project, which is expected to create 1,700 jobs, could get the official green-light in a decision of record in the next two months. However, fishing industry stakeholders have said they’ve been excluded from discussions and especially have concerns about the impact statement, which lists several concerns about the impact on commercial fishing.

The report says the development of the offshore wind farm “would have long-term, moderate to major adverse impacts on commercial fisheries.” That includes reduced access and potential loss of gear.

In a statement posted on its Facebook page, the Long Island Commercial Fishing Association said it has been excluded from discussions about compensation.

“No one from the New York State Department of State or from New York state’s leadership has actively done a thing to protect their state’s fishing fleet, as they will lose valuable fishing grounds and income within the South Fork Wind Farm and the 56-mile cable that lands in Wainscott,” the association said.

The South Fork decision came just days after BOEM published its draft environmental assessment last week for New York Bight, a proposed wind energy development off the coasts of New York and New Jersey. The agency will now hold two virtual public meetings on the proposed project to solicit public input.

Those meetings, as well the ongoing solicitation of public feedback through next month, comes as fishing industry and power industry stakeholders still aren’t reaching consensus about areas designated for wind energy development.

The agency under the U.S. Department of the Interior is examining whether to approve the New York Bight project, which could include up to five areas encompassing more than 627,000 acres off the coast of the New York City, Long Island, and northern New Jersey.

The turbines erected as part of the development could produce more than seven gigawatts of energy, the agency said in a statement.

Already, the agency has received more than 3,000 comments on the project. On Monday, 16 August, American Clean Power released a statement saying that the project was “another important step” for the Biden administration’s plan to develop clean energy.

Gene Grace, the trade group’s general counsel, said BOEM’s assessment identified offshore sites that worked for wind energy producers while taking into account the needs of other stakeholders.

“Commercial and recreational fishing, maritime navigation, and [U.S.] Department of Defense activities have all been accounted for in the proposed lease areas and potential space-use conflicts have been appropriately avoided,” Grace said.

Under its preferred alternative, the agency said the development of the planned areas would have only a minor impact on commercial and recreational fishing in the area, although there could be some impact to mollusk beds based on sea-floor disruptions.

“Prior to identification of the final WEA, major areas of fishing interest were removed to minimize potential conflict between activities,” the assessment said.

However, according to letters from the Fisheries Survival Fund and the Port of New Bedford, Massachusetts, that’s not the case – at least in terms of the scallops fishery, one of the country’s most-lucrative fisheries.

Fishermen and port officials sent letters on Friday, 13 August, continuing to raise concerns about the largest planned development area, the so-called "Hudson South" area, which is located about 30 miles east of the central New Jersey coast and 60 miles south of western Long Island.

The northern and eastern parts of that proposed development area are adjacent to the Hudson Canyon, which has generated more than USD 600 million (EUR 512 million) in scallop landings over the last 20 years, and the value is even higher for coastal communities where processors and wholesalers are based.

If BOEM won’t relocate lease areas in Hudson South, then FSF said in its letter it wants a five-mile buffer to protect the canyon.

“The need for such precautionary measures is especially vital given that a sizeable body of research is shedding light on the extent of potential consequences to local fisheries from offshore wind-farm construction and operation,” wrote David Frulla, Andrew Minkiewicz, and Bret Spark – lawyers representing the FSF – in a letter.

BOEM’s draft assessment recommended the pursuit of leases within the selected areas. Those leases could be issued beginning later this year and through 2022.

Last week, the Responsible Offshore Development Alliance – an organization seeking to encourage more cooperation between the government and fishermen regarding offshore wind projects – announced BOEM has acknowledged the need for better communication with fishermen and pledged to work toward that goal.

In addition to the public forums next week, BOEM said that it will accept public comments online regarding the project through 9 September.

Image courtesy of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management


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