There were no chants or marching at a protest late Tuesday afternoon outside the Cape May County Administrative Building.
Instead, several dozen Jersey Shore residents and business owners who oppose a wind energy farm coming 15 miles off the coast quietly held up signs.
Tricia Conte organized the demonstration. She also created the group Save our Shoreline which has over 4,000 members.
A lot of people are upset about seeing the turbines when looking out on the coast. For Conte, that’s the least of her current concerns.
Whales topped her list on Tuesday.
“Wind farms are dangerous to them,” she said. “It messes with their sonar, or whatever their system is, it messes with that. Whales are incredibly important to our ecosystem.”
She’s especially worried about the endangered North Atlantic Right Whale.
Another one of her concerns is the potential impact the wind farms could have on commercial and recreational fishing because of electromagnetic fields around the turbines. Fluke fishing is of greatest concern.
“We’re concerned they will not be crossing that fish fence,” Conte explained. “Fluke is a very large commercial fishing draw, and also recreational fishing.”
Wayne and Jeffrey Reichle, who own Lund’s Fisheries based out of Cape May, were also at this rally along with some of their workers.
“In the last 40 years we’ve worked vigorously to create sustainable fisheries to feed our public with,” said Wayne Reichle.
“We’re very concerned these wind farms will have an impact on our ability to keep doing that.”
He doesn’t believe there’s been enough science to know how the wind farms will affect the waters in South Jersey.
“There’s a lot of data from other areas of the world, but right off the mid-Atlantic coast here, New Jersey in particular has a very unique dynamic,” he added.
He said they aren’t opposed to wind and renewable energy; he just wants to make sure it’s done right. Jeffrey Reichle explained further what “done right” means to the protesters.
“Getting information that’s readily available to the government, because the government knows exactly where we fish, when we fish, how long we fish,” he said.
“You would think if someone would have researched that in the beginning, some of these wind farms wouldn’t be placed right on top of prime fishing, but they are.”
He then explained how fisherman can’t just drop line wherever they want. As big as the ocean is, fish are only in certain areas.
While the protest was happening outside, Commissioner Director Gerald Thornton was telling county commissioners inside the building why he’s against the wind farm.
At one point, Thornton came outside to thank the protestors for being there.
Ørsted, the company building the wind farm, is currently in the developmental phase. They, along with the federal Bureau of Ocean Emergency Management, hosted three virtual sessions earlier this month that gave the public the chance to express these concerns.
BOEM is working on an environmental impact statement based in part on those responses.
The project is expected to be completed in 2024.
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