CREST HAVEN – “So far, for the commercial fishing industry, (the offshore) wind (turbine project) does not seem compatible,” said Greg DiDomenico, of Lund’s Fisheries, in Lower Township.
“It does not seem we are going to be able to exist with (the project) in the current size and scale. The impact to the commercial fishing industry will be serious,” he continued.
DiDomenico was one of three industry representatives who voiced concerns for their livelihoods to the Cape May County Board of County Commissioners, at their April 27 caucus.
The others were Jeff Kaelin, of Lund’s Fisheries, and Scot Mackey, of the Garden State Seafood Association.
Their joint concern is for the Ocean Wind Project “farm” to be built by Orsted and Public Service Energy Group (PSEG).
Commissioner Director Gerald Thornton restated his opposition to the proposal that would impact fishing trawlers, due to the spacing of the turbines, and have a land impact by running cables, possibly from an Ocean City beach to the former B.L. England generating station, in Beesley’s Point.
Further, Thornton acknowledged it is an “uphill battle” since state and federal backing is on the side of the wind project. Again, he pointed to the total pounds of seafood landed in the county, and the economic impact that has on a county with limited employment opportunities year-round.
At the board’s regular meeting, a resolution was unanimously approved that urged all parties, including the state, which advocates wind energy, to “comprehensively and thoughtfully” begin “engaging community stakeholders and addressing concerns about the ocean wind project.”
Between the caucus and regular sessions, Thornton briefly met with a group of project opponents.
The planned turbine farm, according to the resolution, would be located between 15 and 27 miles off the county’s coast.
Spacing between the 98 turbines, each 900 feet tall, would mean they could be seen from local beaches, and trawlers would be impeded due to their placement. Further, trenches would require excavation of miles of seabed floor to bury energy-carrying cables to shore. That disruption, cited in the resolution, was also mentioned by the fishermen.
While the spokesmen said they met with the project leaders, they did not believe their concerns resonated with the planners.
Further, the spokesmen noted they are not against the project’s concept but want the plan to address their concerns to allow them to continue making a living using the ocean.
‘Failed to Adequately Engage…’
The resolution stated that the project planners have “to date failed to adequately engage and provide information to residents, business owners, and commercial fisheries about the details and supportive science of the project…”
DiDomenico cited an initial Fishermen’s Energy plan that failed to get power-buying agreements by late 2016. It was advocated by a local commercial fisheries leader and would have built six 4-megawatt turbines off the state’s coast.
Kaelin said, “We fish from North Carolina to Maine. We are looking at over 2,000 of these (turbines) between Virginia Beach and Cape Cod, right in the middle where we fish.”
Tourism, Seafood Linked
“I think it goes without saying seafood is a huge economic engine of Cape May County,” said Mackey. “It’s the second-largest economic generator of jobs. It’s why people come to the New Jersey Shore for tourism. The two go hand-in-hand.”
“I don’t want to say we’re against (the) wind (turbine project). We would like to coexist. To date, it’s been difficult. We haven’t seen anyone holding the developers accountable or pushing back to force some type of coexistence,” Mackey said.
The resolution urged Orsted, PSEG, and the state to “immediately engage the Board of Commissioners, residents, and community stakeholders to address the impacts that may be caused by the Ocean Wind Project and work in earnest to resolve these issues.”
The federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management March 29 issued a notice of intent to prepare an environmental impact statement on the project. That notice opened a 30-day public comment period when the bureau held three virtual public scoping meetings to accept comments on the project. A story on those comments is forthcoming.
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