HYANNIS – While there were many supporters in the room for Vineyard Wind and renewable energy in general, more than a few had pointed questions at a public hearing Wednesday on a draft environmental report on the project’s construction and operations plan.
There are many issues in the draft impact statement prepared by the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, said George Maynard, of the Cape Cod Commercial Fishermen’s Alliance, at the meeting inside the DoubleTree by Hilton on Route 28.
An accurate representation of the effects of the offshore wind farm on the commercial fishing industry is needed, and inaccuracies in data and other problems “does not inspire confidence,” Maynard said.
Patrick Paquette with the group Anglers for Offshore Wind Power said recreational fishermen want written guarantees that public access will be allowed near Vineyard Wind’s turbines, and that the cumulative effects of additional wind farms in the federal lease area south of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket should be accounted for with an ongoing advisory group.
A commercial diver asked how his job would be affected by the wind farm construction and operations, and a Yarmouth resident wanted to know when the option for the company’s cable landing in Lewis Bay would be completely wiped from federal documents.
“I’m just curious more than anything as to where this project is going to come in to the Centerville and Hyannis area, and what kind of impact it’s going to have,” said Greg Monahan, of Hyannis.
Monahan said he and his family are frequent users of William H. Covell Memorial Beach, the location where the company intends to land its cable from the wind farm and then connect to a substation to the north.
“There’s a lot of wetlands in that area,” he said. “I don’t know what kind of environmental impact it’s going to have.”
Loni Monahan, sitting in the next seat, said they were at the meeting to also support their friend who lives closer to Covell Beach than they do.
“We want to see what it’s going to do to that area,” Loni Monahan said.
The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management hosted the meeting, which was attended by about 75 people. It is one of five scheduled this week in Southeastern Massachusetts to solicit input from citizens and organizations about the New Bedford-based company’s plan to build and operate an 800-megawatt wind farm. Vineyard Wind won a bid last year to sell electricity to three electricity distributors in Massachusetts, and the contracts and other regulatory decisions are expected to be finalized in the coming months.
Vineyard Wind intends to start construction onshore by the end of the year, according to company officials.
The federal agency extended its public comment period on the draft environmental impact statement due to the 35-day government shutdown and had to reschedule the public meetings, including the one in Hyannis. The deadline for public comments is now Feb. 22, and a final version of the environmental impact statement is expected to be released in the spring.
About 100 people attended the public hearing on Nantucket and 52 on Martha’s Vineyard, a bureau spokesman said.
“I initially was, I think, a little hesitant about the project,” said Candy Rufleth, of Centerville. “But the more I’ve attended these meetings and read about the project, now I’ve chosen to support it.”
Rufleth said she’s at Covell Beach every day.
“We’re a little concerned but we think the benefits outweigh the risk,” she said.
Joyce Flynn, chairwoman of Yarmouth Energy Committee, said she attended the meeting because she is concerned about carbon emissions.
“This project seems to me to be a great way to reduce those, and mitigate climate change,” she said.
Those citizens who live in coastal areas who aren’t concerned about the issue should be, Flynn said.
“We’re going to feel it very fast,” she said.
Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce and Cape Air representatives expressed their support of the project.
Both a Conservation Law Foundation attorney and North Atlantic right whale expert Charles “Stormy” Mayo of Provincetown asked that the federal agency incorporate a recent right whale protection agreement between Vineyard Wind and conservation groups into the final environmental impact statement.
The acoustic effects on the whales during construction are of “great concern,” Mayo said.
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