NEW BEDFORD – New Bedford fishermen voiced serious concerns about the impact of offshore wind turbines on fish stocks and navigation at a meeting today with federal officials from the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management.
The morning meeting at the city’s Wharfinger building was called to provide the industry with input on the 1,300 square miles of federal waters south of Martha’s Vineyard where offshore turbines are being proposed.
“We’re very concerned about winter flounder spawning areas,” said Ron Smolowitz of the Fisheries Survival Fund. Studies have shown large concentrations of this species in the proposed area, he said. “What about the transmission lines? Winter flounder are a sub-strate species and their eggs adhere to the bottom,” he said. Little is known about the possible impact of electromagnetic frequencies on surrounding fish habitat, Smolowitz added.
Fisherman Tony Alvernaz said he is worried about the structural integrity of the turbines and their capacity to withstand ocean storms.
“When you have 20 foot seas and 70 mile-per-hour winds, with 5 knots of current at the same time, will these things be able to stand up to that?” he asked. Officials assured him that they would not allow the construction of turbines that had not been safely engineered to withstand the expected conditions.
Seafood consultant Jim Kendall also raised concerns about the navigational problems local boats could encounter, forcing them to “slalom” through crowded turbine fields when returning to port. “We don’t know how many turbines will be erected and this area is on the direct route back to New Bedford,” he said.
The meeting was called after BOEM recently published notice of its intent to conduct an environmental assessment of the area, an early step in the lengthy and complex process of authorizing commercial wind development. The Feb. 6 announcement also solicited interest from developers.
“Trust is the big thing,” said boat owner Eric Hansen, concerned that wind turbine developers might hire private companies to conduct environmental studies that might not be without bias.
“It’s a tough assignment to balance existing uses with the development of offshore wind,” said Maureen A. Bornholdt, program manager for the Ocean Energy Bureau’s Offshore Alternative Energy Programs. “The information you give us will help us to make our decisions.”
BOEM officials travelled to Martha’s Vineyard for hearing tonight with islanders and plan to conduct another in Boston Tuesday.
There will be further meetings with stakeholders and workgroups as the process continue, Bornholdt said.
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding