The Vineyard Wind project, a proposed 800-megawatt offshore wind energy installation, has been stalled as the company – Vineyard Wind LLC – withdrew its construction and operations plan from review by the Bureau of Ocean and Energy Management (BOEM), on 1 December, effectively halting the project’s progress.
The withdrawal, announced in a letter to be published in the Federal Register on 16 December, is a win for the region’s fishing industry, which has objected to the project in addition to other proposed projects in the New England area. Fishermen have been worried about the proposed wind projects for years, and two groups representing fisheries in the region – the Fisheries Survival Fund and the Responsible Offshore Development Alliance (RODA) – have made layout suggestions, requested revisions to an earlier Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), and have pushed for a pause on development amid the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
RODA was not the only organization calling for a second look at the project proposal. A pair of reports by both NOAA Fisheries’ Marine Fisheries Advisory Committee and the Science Center for Marine Fisheries both raised further questions on how the wind projects would affect fisheries in the area, and called into question a draft EIS that BOEM issued in June.
The fishing industry also aired its grievances to U.S. Interior Secretary David Bernhardt in July, expressing concern at the lack of input from the fishing industry and the potential for the projects to impact historic fishing areas.
Now, BOEM has terminated the preparation of an EIS for the plan submitted by Vineyard Wind, a statement that was due in just a few weeks.
“In light of Vineyard Wind’s letter dated 1 December, 2020, this notice advises the public that the preparation and completion of an EIS is no longer necessary, and the process is hereby terminated,” the BOEM notice states.
Even as the Vineyard Wind project stalled, Maine has started preparing for its own potential offshore wind project. In October, the U.S. Economic Development Administration awarded a USD 2.2 million (EUR 1.8 million) grant to the Maine Governor’s Energy Office to advance offshore wind in Maine. As part of that, the state announced its intention to apply for the country’s first offshore floating wind research array, to be located in the Gulf of Maine.
The state has already pledged to work with fishing interests in order to develop the project "responsibly."
“The state pledges to work collaboratively with fishing and other interests in considering where any offshore wind projects could be located and work to minimize any negative impacts,” a press release from the Maine Governor’s Energy Office (GEO) states.
As part of that process, the state is hosting a series of webinars that will touch upon the project's potential impact to fisheries.
“The state, through the Governor’s Energy Office and in collaboration with the Department of Marine Resources, is fully committed to engaging stakeholders, in particular the fishing industry, in the development of the project, its siting, and the research questions that the initiative seeks to answer,” the GEO said in a release. “The state has initiated a collaborative process that gives fishermen and other stakeholders direct influence in the development of the proposed project.”
The webinars are being run through a collaboration with the Maine Fisherman’s Forum, an annual three-day meeting that was supposed to take place in March 2021 before it was canceled in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
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