What studies have and will be done to measure the impact of this project on fish? Do we know how the vibrations will impact fish? Has Deepwater Wind built other wind farms? What about migrating birds, will some be killed by the wind mills? How is this project related to the larger wind farm off Block Island? These were some of the questions posed by recreational anglers after last week’s Rhode Island Saltwater Anglers Association (RISAA) screening of the film “Ocean Frontiers II: A New England Story for Sustaining the Sea”.
The film tells the story of the Rhode Island Ocean Special Area Management Plan (SAMP) that serves as a federally recognized coastal management and regulatory tool. The SAMP was developed with input from fishermen, scientists, academia, government and the community to map the future uses of the ocean off our shores. The effort is a far-sighted plan that was pushed by plans for offshore wind energy. The need to know where to put wind farms stimulated Rhode Island’s efforts to map or zone the ocean floor much the same way that towns zone land for various development uses.
Overall anglers were very supportive of the SAMP program and process depicted in the film. However, they expressed concerns about the five turbine wind project being built by developer Deepwater Wind three miles off the south coast of Block Island, as it is setting the table for the 200-plus wind turbine project that Deepwater Wind hopes to build between Block Island and Martha’s Vineyard in the Cox’s Ledge area. Additionally, many wind farms with thousand of wind turbines are planned for the east coast so with all this construction activity the fishing community has expressed concerns about any challenges created by wind farms being magnified.
The final schedule for the Block Island project depends on receipt of permits, financing, procurement and completion of engineering. Pending approvals work on the project could begin in late 2014 with contracting, mobilization and verification. If this start window is missed it would be pushed to the same time period in 2015.
Overall I am impressed by Deepwater Wind’s commitment to the fishing community. It is not easy to site and build an ocean wind farm as no wind farms have been built off the coast of the US. Deepwater Wind, government officials and regulators just have to keep the process transparent and open and keep the information flowing to recreational and commercial fishermen as well as other stakeholders.
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