Todd Presson Mr. Presson is director of wind energy development for Patriot Renewables, LLC.
I would like to take this opportunity to provide an update on the status of the South Coast Offshore Wind Project and to thank the many individuals, various organizations and agencies that provided formal comments on the ENF. Some comments were in favor of the project, and some were opposed. We have read them all carefully, and we appreciate the concerns and thoughtfulness expressed by many individuals.
As we move ahead with the environmental study and design phase of the project, we will be able to respond directly to those questions and concerns.
Some writers expressed concerns about the lack of detailed information in the ENF. We understand that it can be challenging to comment at a conceptual stage, but we believe this is the right way to develop a project – with input from impacted communities and various stakeholder groups from the very beginning. For our part, we have committed to conducting an interactive public involvement process that addresses people’s concerns.
The Secretary of Environmental Affairs has issued a scoping certificate for the project, which was based in part on the above-mentioned comments. This certificate highlights potential project impacts and requires that certain studies be performed as part of an Environmental Impact Report for the project. The Secretary’s Certificate is available on both the MEPA website (http://www.mass.gov/envir/mepa/) and on the South Coast Wind website (http://www.southcoastwind.org).
The scope described in the certificate is broad, as is necessary given our collaborative project development approach. Many studies will be required as part of the environmental review process, including studies to evaluate the potential impact of the project on birds; fisheries and marine habitats; marine mammals and sea turtles; historical and archeological resources; visual and aesthetics; air quality; noise and vibration; wetlands and water quality; shipping and boating; and aviation, navigation and communications. In addition, the secretary has required a detailed analysis of project alternatives, including alternative configurations and phasing of the project at the proposed site area.
We estimate that it will take one to two years for Patriot Renewables to complete the draft environmental impact report, and another one to two years to finalize the studies and fully complete the development process. We are just now beginning the detailed environmental study phase of the development process. The studies that will be conducted as part of the Environmental Impact Review process will present a detailed picture of potential impacts and will assist us in designing the project to avoid, minimize or mitigate those impacts.
The potential impact on the roseate tern is a significant concern noted in the secretary’s certificate. Therefore, our first priority is to better understand siting considerations to avoid impacts to the roseate tern, as well as other birds that use the bay. We are in the process of conducting boat-based surveys to identify and quantify the birds that fly in Buzzards Bay during the fall staging and migratory period (approximately Aug. 15-Oct. 15). The results of this initial work will help form the basis for the design of subsequent field studies that will be developed in collaboration with the Massachusetts Audubon Society, Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, Natural Heritage and Endangered Species program, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
In addition to avian impacts, we will be conducting a preliminary assessment of fish, shellfish, marine mammals and benthic resources in the bay in the coming months to help us understand whether and where sensitive areas exist within the bay. Also, through discussions with recreational and commercial users of the bay, we will obtain a better understanding of boat use patterns in the bay. Further, we are refining our understanding of the wind resource in Buzzards Bay, and we will be conducting wind assessment activities to confirm previous meteorological estimates. The results of these initial studies will enable us to engineer a turbine layout that will have the least impacts on activities within the Bay.
As noted in recent news stories, the certificate states that the project is not currently permittable under the Ocean Sanctuaries Act. However, we disagree with this interpretation of the OSA. The language of the act expressly allows for the construction of generation and transmission facilities in the Cape and Islands Sanctuary, which encompasses Buzzards Bay. G.L. c. 132A, Â§ 16. Section 16 of the Act provides that all “activities, uses and facilities associated with the generation, transmission and distribution of electrical power” may be located within the five designated Massachusetts ocean sanctuaries, except for the Cape Cod Ocean Sanctuary. Therefore, we believe that wind power projects can proceed in some of the areas designated as ocean sanctuaries, including Buzzards Bay.
Wind power is the most viable near-term renewable energy source that we can choose in Massachusetts to begin to address the problems of climate change, emissions reductions, and overdependence on fossil fuels. Each new wind project will contribute to the long-term energy security and economic stability of Massachusetts and the region. Since the majority of wind power potential in Massachusetts is found offshore, and since over 90 percent of Massachusetts coastal waters are designated as Ocean Sanctuaries, we believe that properly designed and permitted wind projects should be allowed to proceed in some areas designated as ocean sanctuaries.
As we progress through the early development stages, we will be updating our web site at www.southcoastwind.org to keep you informed, as well as to solicit as much public input as possible during the study and design phase of the project. If you would like to contact us directly, please feel free to call us at (617) 890-0600 with any additional concerns or comments.
Director of Wind Energy Development
Patriot Renewables, LLC
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