WARWICK, R.I. – Eight hours of ideas, conversation, debate and dialogue from two industries relying on use of the ocean filled the the large grand ballroom at the Crowne Plaza Hotel on Wednesday.
In a meeting described as the first of its kind, the fishing industry from Maine to New York as well as the offshore wind industry in Massachusetts and Rhode Island met for a workshop hosted by Responsible Offshore Development Alliance (RODA) to discuss two key aspects: fishing transit lanes and input on potential mitigation. NOAA and the Coast Guard were also in the room to get all the key players in a single spot at one time.
“We didn’t reach full consensus at the end of the day but we made progress …It’s step one,” said Mary Beth Tooley of the the O’Hara Corporation in Portland, Maine. “I think that’s the biggest takeaway that we have for the day.”
Most of the discussion revolved around transit routes with some success. Both industries agreed for the most part on two routes, specifically a north/south route and an east/west route.
Two obstacles remain, though, including the width of the lanes as well as a diagonal northwest/southeast lane through the current and future leased land. The issues really pop up in the northwest corner of that diagonal lane.
“The next big step is to try to resolve whatever the issues are that exist and then move forward with a transit lane consensus so not only the industry knows what’s coming but future leaseholders (know),” Eric Reid of Seafreeze Shoreside said.
The fishing industry agreed on a 4-mile width for transit lanes. The offshore wind industry offered lanes at one nautical mile and 2 nautical miles.
At one point toward the end of the meeting, the discussion focused on a north/south transit lane passing through unleased space. The fishing industry posed a question if the land is currently not held by any company, could a 4-mile lane be established?
No representative from the wind industry spoke on the topic specifically.
When asked after the meeting, Matthew Morrissey, vice president of New England Deepwater Wind, expressed hope a compromise could be reached.
“I think that we came to consensus on a number of issues,” Morrissey said. “And there are still a few more that need more conversation, more data to better understand any particular position, but I’m confident that in the process we can get there.”
John Williamson, a fishery liaison for Orsted, said the width of the lanes comes down to a balancing act.
“It really boils down to being able to build a wind farm based on a viable business plan and still create safe navigation conditions within that plan,” Williamson said.
The fishing industry was adamant throughout every discussion that nothing less than 4 miles allowed for safe travel.
Many at the meeting also expressed disappointment in the overall process, specifically, that transit lanes should have been discussed prior to the land being leased.
While few parties likely left Warwick completely satisfied, most left with a sense of satisfaction that a compromise could be agreed upon.
“My expectations for the day were realized,” Tooley said. “We didn’t make it all the way to the end, but we utilized a process that I think can function and use it again and feel like you’re getting there.”
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