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Frank chides feds over Georges Bank wind

NEW BEDFORD – Add U.S. Rep. Barney Frank to the list of those opposed to the notion that Georges Bank, or parts of it, may be suitable for wind farms.

Frank, D-Mass., on Friday issued a terse statement scolding the Interior Department for promoting the idea with a “request for interest” notification.

“I am deeply disappointed by this decision by the Interior Department and upset that neither Congress, the fishing industry nor fishing regulators were notified before the decision was made,” he said.

That’s the same criticism Interior officials heard in a public hearing Wednesday in New Bedford. Those officials presented a proposed map of the area where wind turbines might be erected, a total of 3,000 square miles.

Much of that area is closed to fishing but it is a protected habitat for yellowtail flounder spawning grounds. The eastern edge of the proposed area includes a rich fishing channel at the edge of Georges Bank.

Fishermen expressed deep skepticism that the process was as open and above-board as they were being told. One reason was that the map had been created and twice modified before they ever laid eyes on it. Another was that, as of Wednesday, there were just 12 days left in the comment period for the proposals.

Said Frank: “Georges Bank is a critical fishing ground for Northeastern fishermen and it must be protected for future generations. I will work closely with my colleagues in both the House and the Senate to insist that the Interior Department extend the period during which it must accept comments on this proposal.

“And I will submit comments against opening areas near Georges Bank to any form of energy development that would potentially harm the fishing industry.”