Several months after they asked East Hampton Town for $30,000 to collect data aimed at protecting fishing grounds and compensating commercial fishermen when they are unable to work, that request has still not been granted, the director of the Long Island Commercial Fishing Association and the liaison chosen by East Hampton Town’s fisheries advisory committee to communicate with Deepwater Wind complained to the town board on Tuesday.
While the liaison, Julie Evans, and Bonnie Brady of the fishing association addressed the board, Deepwater Wind, the Rhode Island company planning to construct the 15-turbine South Fork Wind Farm approximately 30 miles off Montauk, is in the midst of a projected four-month survey at the site and along the transmission cable’s route to shore.
Commercial fishermen are mostly opposed to the wind farm, fearing damage or destruction of fishing grounds and potential alteration of migration patterns caused by the electromagnetic frequency emitted by its transmission cable.
A “mariners briefing” dated Tuesday and posted on Deepwater Wind’s website states that “all mariners transiting or fishing in the survey area are requested to give a wide berth to survey vessels as they will be limited in their ability to maneuver and towing gear out to 300 meters behind the vessel.”
Ms. Brady told the board that the purpose of a fisheries representative is to develop a mitigation-monitoring plan with a Deepwater Wind representative. “Unfortunately,” she said, “when it comes to Deepwater, their communication as far as the survey is ‘Get out of the way,’ and outreach is ‘Get out of the way now.’ ” Commercial fishermen who work in the survey area are now restricted, she said. “For how long? Who pays that? If you’ve got a day’s pay and have made that same day’s pay over the course of the last 10 or 20 years, and suddenly you can’t fish because the survey boat is there,” a mitigation plan is not only needed but should have been in place prior to commencement of the survey.
Ms. Evans was named the fisheries advisory committee’s liaison to Deepwater Wind in March. In July, the company began its survey, which includes drilling core samples 180 feet below the surface at the fertile fishing grounds of Cox’s Ledge. “Unfortunately for the fishermen I speak to, they’re very confused,” she said. “This budget would make it possible for us to let them know what’s going on with certainty.”
Councilman David Lys, the board’s liaison to the fisheries advisory committee, asked if the advisory committee could accomplish the study, or if the town should issue a request for proposals in order to “get the best document possible to protect our town’s interests” as Deepwater Wind’s proposal for the wind farm is scrutinized by state and federal permitting agencies. The town will participate as interveners in the Article VII review process under the state public service law. “I am an advocate of getting this plan started . . . but I just need to know the objectives and end result,” he said.
A lengthy discussion followed on the sort of details that might be collected, for example, who is fishing in a particular area and when, what and how much they are catching, how are the data to be compiled, and who would benefit from the study.
“For the people fishing in that area,” Ms. Brady said, “they know they’re going to be compromised.” Vessel trip reports are proprietary, she said, but “anyone that wants to be compensated if they’re going to lose fishing time” has a powerful incentive to volunteer data.
A part-time employee, Ms. Brady said, could collect such data and determine appropriate compensation based on time lost to Deepwater Wind’s survey and subsequent activity. Such a study, Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc said, could also inform Deepwater Wind as to when not to disturb an area based on factors such as seasonal migration. “We’ll figure out who the fishermen are, what they fish for, what they catch, where, and when,” he said. “That makes complete sense to me.”
Board members agreed that a request for proposals should be issued to identify a candidate versed in statistical data collection and scientific research, and asked Ms. Brady and Ms. Evans to help with its development.
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