A proposed wind farm off Long Island’s South Shore isn’t likely to start construction until at least 2022, but fishing interests at a hearing in Montauk on Friday questioned whether it should be built at all.
The U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management was on Long Island last week soliciting comments about the project, stalled in lease approvals since it was first proposed in 2009. The project is a collaboration among LIPA, the New York Power Authority and Con Edison.
At the lightly attended Montauk meeting, representatives of the fishing industry from as far away as Rhode Island spoke against the project, saying the proposed site 11 miles south of Point Lookout would devastate a vital squid fishery, among others. “It’s a pretty heavily fished spot,” Montauk trawler captain Mike Fallon said. “You couldn’t pick a worse place,” added Mike Decker of East Hampton, who just bought two large commercial trawlers and fishes the area.
The proposed LIPA-NYPA-Con Ed wind farm, with a price tag estimated in 2011 at between $2.34 billion and $4.67 billion, would be built in two phases of 350 megawatts each, with more than 200 turbines placed in the water starting at 11 miles out. The array, which would extend as far east as Islip, isn’t expected to be seen from shore. NYPA has applied for a lease for the hundreds of square miles of ocean needed to accommodate the array, but the process was extended after two other developers – Fishermen’s Energy LLC and Energy Management Inc. – expressed interest in the site.
Andrew Krueger, project manager for the bureau’s office of renewable energy, said a lease award that could happen as soon as 2017 was just the beginning of a long process of environmental and other reviews which could take an additional five to 10 years. “The more complex an area, the longer it takes,” he said, and the LIPA site is in the middle of busy shipping lanes.
Brian Hooker, a marine biologist at the bureau, said 2022 is “the earliest we’ll see construction.” Krueger noted other developers can still enter the bidding, and if an award was made, it would go to the highest bidder. Krueger added that, depending on the bureau’s assessment, the proposed New York site “could shrink, change shape or go away.”
The bureau held meetings in Freeport, Riverhead and Montauk to solicit input from local groups on the project as it works to assess the potential benefits and drawbacks. In Montauk, an active fishing community, six fishermen and three industry representatives turned up, all imploring the bureau to choose another location.
“There’s mass panic in Point Judith about this,” said Meghan Lapp, a fisheries liaison for Seafreeze Ltd., a commercial fishing company, referring to the major fishing port in Rhode Island. She noted the proposed site is “one of the most heavily fished squid areas on the East Coast” and is particularly important for Rhode Islanders.
Asked how much the impact on fishing communities would weigh on the final leasing decision, Krueger said, “Heavily.” Hooker noted the lease award was ultimately up to the bureau’s director, who will make the final ruling. But he noted that the effects on fishing interests have previously led to carve-outs in other planned offshore wind lease awards.
A LIPA spokesman said the agency continued to pursue a lease agreement with NYPA and Con Ed through the bureau.
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