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Town Trustees to review Deepwater surveys

Deepwater Wind, the Rhode Island company that plans to construct a 15-turbine wind farm approximately 30 miles east of Montauk, will present the conclusions of surveys pertaining to its potential impacts at the East Hampton Town Trustees’ meeting on Monday. One survey relates to the area where the wind farm is to be built; other surveys were done following the construction of the Block Island Wind Farm, which Deepwater Wind also built and operates. The trustees’ meeting will start at 6 p.m. at Town Hall.

Officials of Deepwater Wind have engaged with the community, including commercial fishermen who oppose the project, throughout this year in preparation for submission of permit applications early next year. They have delivered presentations at several trustee meetings, to the Wainscott Citizens Advisory Committee, and at a public event at Clinton Academy in East Hampton.

The company recently opened an office at 524 Montauk Highway in Amagansett, where Jennifer Garvey, the company’s Long Island development manager, and Julia Prince, a fisheries liaison, are based.

On Tuesday, Catherine Bowes, the National Wildlife Federation’s national manager for climate and energy, met with trustees and a group of residents, the latter at the residence of Susan McGraw Keber, a trustee-elect.

With the belief that climate change poses the greatest threat to wildlife, the National Wildlife Federation launched a campaign to promote offshore wind in 2010, Ms. Bowes said. The group held broad discussions with Deepwater Wind as it planned the five-turbine Block Island Wind Farm, which began operation one year ago, and is in ongoing discussions with the company as it prepares to submit a formal plan for the South Fork Wind Farm, as the project off Montauk is more formally known.

Chief among the group’s concern, Ms. Bowes said on Monday, is the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale, which she said numbers approximately 480. Fewer than 200 are females, she said. Construction of the wind farm must minimize any threat to the whales, which migrate up and down the East Coast, she said.

Once built, the structures are not a significant concern, Ms. Bowes said. “It’s the construction process that creates significant underwater noise and activity that can jeopardize whales.” For the Block Island Wind Farm’s construction, she said, “We reached an agreement to ensure that pile-driving and installation” of the turbines’ foundations “would occur outside of the peak migration periods for right whales,” which come in April and May. “We’re working on a similar agreement for the South Fork project. They’re well aware of our concerns and have a proven track record with their Block Island project.”

Ms. Bowes said that she has not seen data indicating that electromagnetic frequencies emanating from a wind farm’s transmission cable pose a threat to marine life or alter their habitat, as the project’s opponents have suggested. “All energy sources have some impact on wildlife,” she said. “When we say we support responsibly developed offshore wind power, we’re not suggesting there’s going to be no impact at all. We really try to look at the big picture, and recognize there are a host of threats to the ocean from dirtier sources of energy, whether acidification, climate change, mercury contamination, acid rain. . . .”

Warming and more acidic oceans caused by the burning of fossil fuels are what prompted the National Wildlife Federation to advocate for large-scale renewable energy sources, she said. “That said, it has to be done right, and ‘Wildlife’ is our middle name. We do look at it very closely. But to suggest there would be zero impact – you’re building energy infrastructure in the ocean. We think that, on balance, it’s critically important that we find a way to do it and do it right. That comes to making sure we’re picking good sites, and the timing and method of construction are done with the highest standards of environmental protection along the way. We’re following it very closely in the case of this lease area and this project.”