Two studies released by the Baker administration Tuesday found “no significant conflicts” between wildlife and offshore wind development in federally designated areas off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard that are being eyed for large-scale wind farms.
The studies were funded by the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management and the Massachusetts Renewable Energy Trust and looked at the presence of endangered whale, turtle and bird species, according to the state Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs.
Baker administration officials say the studies deliver baseline data that they hope will expedite the federal permitting process for wind energy developers who hope to help the state meet its new goal of providing 1,600 megawatts of offshore wind power.
The whale and turtle data was collected based on 76 aerial surveys conducted between October 2011 and June 2015. Researchers also used more than 1,000 days of continuous underwater acoustic recordings for whales.
New England Aquarium researchers sighted 60 critically endangered North Atlantic right whales during their observations.
College of Staten Island researchers recorded 25 species of seabirds and two “hot spots” where larger than usual aggregations of seabirds occurred on a regular basis, according to state environmental officials.
“This multi-year study is a major advance in the scientific understanding of marine mammals in what was largely a previously un-surveyed and uncharacterized habitat revealing new right whale habitat-use patterns and demonstrating consistent seasonal occurrence in portions of the study area,” New England Aquarium Chief Scientist of Marine Mammals Dr. Scott D. Kraus said in a statement. “The study provides a robust baseline assessment to inform the federal permitting process, and will help inform strategies to minimize or avoid impacts from construction or operations.”
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