- National Wind Watch: Wind Energy News - https://www.wind-watch.org/news -

Important fishing ground removed from wind farm area

New plans for wind farm almost 100K acres smaller than original. However it may still be too close for tribe and too dangerous for right whales

An article published today on the Cape Cod Times website said that the federal government has dropped almost 100,000 acres from the area of ocean between Rhode Island and Massachusetts that was being considered for offshore wind energy projects.

The new area under consideration “now includes more than 164,000 acres of federal water southwest of Nomans Land between Martha’s Vineyard and Block Island.”

While many state officials from Rhode Island and Massachusetts praised the revised plan, the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah) is questioning whether the area still comes too close to what the tribe has considered sacred views for centuries.

The tribe’s historic preservation officer, Bettina Washington, told the Cape Cod Times that the tribe would prefer that, “any projects be located at least 21 nautical miles off the coast to avoid disrupting the traditional views from the island.”

Washington also pointed out that even then, the tribe is concerned about archeological resources that may exist beneath the ocean floor, as much of the area underwater was once Wampanoag land.

The new area is almost 100,000 acres smaller than the 256,000 acres originally proposed last year. According to the Cape Cod Times, “Federal officials with the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) said Friday that it was reduced by eliminating commercially important fishing grounds from consideration. That includes a slice of leasing blocks located roughly in the middle of the proposed planning area.”

The area is still being analyzed as to whether or not it will effect vessel traffic and “visual and cultural resources.”

Other concerns about the newly proposed area include the presence of the endangered North Atlantic right whale that have been seen in the propsed are more often in the past two years than in the past. There have already been a number of whales spotted in Cape Cod Bay this year, and several right whales were reported earlier this week in the water between the Vineyard and Nomans Land.

Due to a 2010 agreement between Rhode Island and Massachusetts, the two states will “collaborate on offshore wind energy projects in the area of federal waters that borders the jurisdiction of both states.” According to the agreement, governors of both states must approve area projects, and economic benefits from the projects are to be shared.

Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick and Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee both made statements Friday praising the refined planning area. “I commend the Obama administration for moving forward in support of offshore wind development in the region, while also respecting our important fishing grounds,” Patrick said.