Responsible Offshore Development Alliance proposes transit lanes for New England offshore wind

The Responsible Offshore Development Alliance (RODA) has submitted a letter to NOAA Fisheries, the U.S. Coast Guard, and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) that proposes a new layout for potential wind projects off the coast of New England.

The proposal includes several four-nautical-mile transit corridors that follow likely paths for fishermen in the region. Groups representing the fisheries in the region have objected repeatedly to multiple New England wind energy projects, including the Vineyard Wind project, citing concerns about the potential impact to their ability to fish effectively in the areas where the wind projects are installed.

RODA, and other groups representing fisheries in the area, have objected to a lack of direct input in the current proposed spacing of wind turbines in the area, which would be in a grid with spacing of one nautical mile between each turbine.

“On 1 November, 2019, the five New England leaseholding developers submitted a proposal for a uniform [one squarenautical mile] wind turbine layout for the New England offshore wind energy areas,” RODA wrote in its letter submitting the new proposal. “Neither RODA nor our members had direct input into that proposal, and it does not represent the needs and requests that fishing industry participants have clearly and consistently documented through public meetings and on the record.”

RODA is requesting that the USCG analyze their new proposal, “at a minimum giving it equal consideration to that presented by the developers.”

“This proposal enhances safety for mariners, and closely follows expected and reasonable design and process principles recommended by fishing industry experts,” RODA wrote. “Neither of these proposals should supplant any of the ongoing work for the USCG MARIPARS study, and each of them should be analyzed under the process for MARIPARS including full consideration of all factors that impact navigational safety.”

The MARIPARS, or “Massachusetts and Rhode Island Port Access Route Study,” is currently ongoing and evaluating the need for establishing vessel routing measures.

“The goal of MARIPARS is to enhance navigational safety by examining existing shipping routes and waterway uses,” a summary of the study, posted to the Federal Register, states. “The recommendations of the study may lead to future rulemaking action or appropriate international agreements.”

The new layout proposed by RODA includes six four-nautical-mile wide transit lanes through the current turbine layout that would account for:

  • “Reduced effectiveness of radar equipment;”
  • “Sufficient sea room for large enough alteration of course, made in good time, to avoid close quarters situations and passing at a safe distance;”
  • “The safe passage of vessels accounting for the funneling effect of the wind energy generator siting, vessels impeded in their ability to maneuver, vessels anchored, vessels fishing, potential changes in concentrations of fishing gear, overtaking or crossing situations, vessels that may be obscured by intervening obstructions of wind energy generators or sub-stations and traffic navigating in the opposite direction;”
  • “Coordinated connectivity between inshore and offshore for marine living resources (including protected resources) that migrate through these areas and for the fishermen that depend no these resources’ well-being.”

Even with the proposed transit corridors, however, the fishing industry would still be losing real estate to wind energy, according to RODA.

“RODA reiterates, consistent with each of our previous comments on the record, that most fishing vessels will not be able to operate in this array and significant displacement will still occur due to [one-nautical-mile] spacing,” the association’s letter states. “A comprehensive and inclusive mitigation plan will be necessary to account for these impacts.”  

Image courtesy of the Responsible Offshore Development Alliance


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