NEW BEDFORD – Vineyard Wind has announced that it will adopt research measures recommended by a local university to monitor the effects on fisheries of the 84-turbine offshore wind farm, which when operational could be the first industrial-sized installation in the country.
The company, which intends to begin construction later this year of an 84-turbine wind farm south of Martha’s Vineyard, entered into a multi-faceted agreement in 2017 with the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth School for Marine Science and Technology. Part of the agreement was for the school to design an approach to research that would be capable of monitoring the effects on fisheries of the one-time construction of the wind farm. The approach also needed to be capable of handling longer-term, regional studies.
“The fishing industry has raised important questions about the impacts of offshore wind development on the marine environment and on sea life,” the company said in a statement released Friday.
While Rhode Island fishermen in February approved a mitigation package that includes $4.2 million in payments over 30 years for direct impacts to commercial fishermen as a result of the wind farm, as well as the creation of a $12.5-million trust set up over five years that could be used to cover additional costs to fishermen resulting from the project, tensions continue to exist.
“It’s this industry against the world,” Lanny Dellinger, a leader in the Rhode Island commercial fishing community, said at a February meeting. “Look around and see what you’re up against. That’s what we had to weigh as a group. There is no choice here.”
The methodology the school is recommending is based on workshops held in November and December, and pilot projects. The procedures should encompass an array of fish species, and an integration of methods that can support additional and on-going fisheries research; the use of a “nested and modular” study design for both a relatively small construction site as well as a wider region; the creation of a standing committee of commercial fishermen to review findings and make recommendations; and the use of local fishermen to provide vessels to support the studies.
The research is meant to be used by the growing U.S. offshore wind industry and fishing communities, beyond its application to the Vineyard Wind project, the company said.
As part of the 2017 agreement, the school will also conduct the studies, which are expected to begin later this spring.
“SMAST worked with Vineyard Wind as well as fishing industry representatives and government regulators to conduct a series of workshops that culminated in the recommendations,” Steven Lohrenz, the school’s dean said in an email. “Key aspects are that the monitoring will cover a range of spatial scales and will include ongoing interactions with the fishing industry throughout the course of the monitoring effort.”
Last May, Vineyard Wind was selected to negotiate what could be the first contracts in the country for a large-scale, offshore wind farm, to provide 800 megawatts of electricity to three power distributors in Massachusetts. The contracts are now signed and are pending approval before the state Department of Public Utilities. The power cables from the wind farm are to land at a south-facing beach in Barnstable and then snake underground to a new substation off Independence Drive in Hyannis, to connect to the regional power grid. Those cable connection plans, too, are pending approval before the state Energy Facilities Siting Board.
The final environmental impact statement on the project’s construction and operations plan is expected to be completed this summer.
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