Opponents of Deepwater Wind’s proposal to build a wind farm off the shores of Block Island continue their efforts to thwart the project five years after the company’s inception in April of 2008.
The most recent efforts to forestall the project were impeded by the Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC) earlier this month when the council voted unanimously to deny intervenor status to a group of individual property owners seeking legal standing during Deepwater Wind’s permitting process.
A group of six individuals represented by counsel were denied the right to examine witnesses and participate in legal proceedings. Also denied was Tina Jackson individually and on behalf of the American Alliance of Fishermen and their Communities (AAFC). Jackson made a 2012 primary bid for the House of Representatives seat currently held by Rep. Donna Walsh (D-Dist. 36).
Attorneys for Deepwater Wind argued that Jackson and the AAFC could not be granted intervenor status due to the fact that the organization’s certificate of incorporation was revoked on January 14, 2013 and her paperwork had not been filed in due time.
CRMC in unanimous votes denied all intervenor motions.
“I will say that I am going to support Mr. Lemont’s motion,” said Anne Livingston, CRMC Chair. “I agree that there’s no particularized harm stated by any of the potential intervenors and also I feel strongly that the Ocean SAMP, the whole point of it was to answer a lot of these questions and to provide the correct place to put this kind of offshore building.”
Although the CRMC process is scheduled to continue, the project itself is currently stalled due to the inability of Deepwater Wind to come to an agreement with the Town of Narragansett, as to a mainland access point for its underwater energy transmission cable.
The Town Council in March considered a motion to suspend talks with Deepwater Wind, put forth by its newest member, Matthew Mannix in an effort to halt the momentum of the project. Mannix, who felt there was an issue of transparency with negotiations for the “landing point,” passing directly across the town’s Narragansett Town Beach succeeded in getting the motion to suspend continued to May 6.
The town’s attorney, at the direction of the council, submitted a letter to CRMC as notice that the town had not reached any agreement with Deepwater Wind.
“You should be advised that the first part of the motion regarding suspension of negotiations was continued until May 6, 2013. The second portion regarding the correspondence to be sent to CRMC passed 5-0,” said town solicitor, Mark McSally.
“I am therefore following up on that direction and advising you that at the present time the Town Council, elected in November of 2012 has not had any substantive negotiations with DWW since their election and at the present time has not entered into any type of agreement regarding the granting of easements or approvals that may be necessary for DWW to construct portions of its project in the Town of Narragansett,” he said.
Deepwater Wind must have a mainland tie-in for its transmission cable in order to connect with National Grid mainland power lines. Deepwater’s research identified the Narragansett landing point as the most feasible means of connecting Block Island and the wind farm with mainland power.
“Working with National Grid and utilizing the SAMP it was determined that Narragansett was the best option for the landing spot,” said Jon Duffy, spokesperson for Deepwater.
Other arguments in opposition included aesthetics and the possibility of Rhode Island taxpayer’s being left with defunct turbines twenty years after project completion.
“Offshore Wind Farms have a life expectancy of at least 20 years. The Block Island Wind Farm has been planned using this and a decommission plan has been put in place. The BIWF will have a properly funded and structured decommissioning fund, with sufficient funds to decommission the wind farm at the end of its life,” said Duffy.
The U.S. Department of the Interior through its Northeast Region National Park Service also expressed concern with the Deepwater Wind project. In a letter dated February 8, 2013, Maryanne Gerbauckas, Associate Regional Director, detailed concerns with the project landing on Block Island and possible adverse effects to the South East Lighthouse.
“In the case of the Deepwater Wind BIWF and BITS proposals, our concerns center on impacts to the South East Lighthouse National Historic Landmark (NHL),” Gerbauckas said. “We may also have concerns for other listed or eligible National Register of Historic Places properties and districts as we understand some of the details of onshore transmission interconnection may or are changing, and other details of onshore impact to mainland Rhode Island have yet to be determined.”
The Department of the Interior also announced plans that could undermine Deepwater Wind’s plans for Rhode Island. In November of last year, the Federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) announced its first ever renewable energy lease sales for the outer continental shelf. The announcement entails the creation of two renewable energy – wind energy areas (WEA) encompassing 278,000 acres offshore of Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Virginia for the purposes of wind energy.
As part of the Obama Administration’s all-of-the-above strategy to continue to expand domestic energy production, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, Deputy Secretary David J. Hayes and Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) Director Tommy P. Beaudreau announced competitive lease sales for renewable energy development in two wind energy areas (WEAs) in federal waters.
“Wind energy along the Atlantic holds enormous potential, and today we are moving closer to tapping into this massive domestic energy resource to create jobs, increase our energy security and strengthen our nation’s competitiveness in this new energy frontier,” said Salazar. “We are implementing the President’s all-of-the-above strategy by focusing on developing areas with the lowest potential conflicts and the greatest expected gains. As we experience record domestic oil and gas development, we are moving forward at the same time with efforts to ensure that America continues to lead the world at developing the energy of the future.”
Despite the efforts to stall the project, Deepwater Wind is moving forward with its plans. The Department of Environmental Management (DEM) will hold public hearing on the wind farm and transmission system dredge permit application in Narragansett on April 24 and New Shoreham on May 8. They have also begun talks with DEM to house a maintenance facility at the Port of Galilee. The port is considered an ideal location by Deepwater Wind due to its immediate access to the water and proximity to the wind farm location.
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