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Study aims to shield marine mammals from offshore wind projects

State and federal officials announced Thursday a $2.2 million research effort aimed at preventing harm to whales and other marine mammals from building massive industrial wind turbines off Ocean City.

The two-year study, to be led by the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, will include using underwater microphones to record sounds of whales and other marine mammals in the ocean where the federal government is soliciting bids to place turbines.

Helen Bailey, the study’s lead scientist, said in a statement that determining the patterns of marine mammal occurrence in the area would be “a critical first step” in assessing potential effects of offshore wind energy on both resident and migratory species. The information collected is to be used in siting turbines or determining what impacts on marine life might need to be mitigated, officials said.

The project is jointly funded by the Maryland Energy Administration and the U.S. Department of Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, which is conducting the lease auction of nearly 80 square miles of Atlantic off the state’s coast. That auction will be held Aug. 19.