Local mayors, others call for moratorium on wind power surveys
Credit: Jan 30, 2023 | capemaycountyherald.com ~~
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A delegation of a dozen mayors from barrier island communities signed a letter, dated Jan. 30, to New Jersey’s federal legislators, calling for a moratorium on any offshore wind farm activities until state and federal officials can determine what is killing whales off the New Jersey coastline.
Local mayors Judith Davies-Dunhour (Stone Harbor), Patrick Rosenello (North Wildwood), and Don Cabrera (Wildwood Crest) each signed the letter addressed to U.S. Sens. Cory Booker and Robert Menendez (both D-NJ), and U.S. Reps. Jeff Van Drew (R-2nd), Frank Pallone (D-6th), and Chris Smith (R-4th).
The letter, addressed to the New Jersey delegation, expressed concern that seven whales washed up on New Jersey beaches in a 38-day period. In calling for a moratorium, the letter says the seven strandings represents an unprecedented number of whale strandings.
The letter says the moratorium should remain in place “until an investigation is held by federal and state agencies that confidently determines these activities are not a contributing factor to recent whale deaths.”
The most recent incident was Jan. 12 when a dead whale washed ashore in Brigantine. The mayors’ letter says the strandings happen to coincide with “ongoing activity from acoustic survey vessels for the development of offshore wind.”
Their letter says that while the mayors are not opposed to clean energy, they are concerned about needless deaths in the pursuit of alternative energy sources.
The letter was sent out by Dan Ginolfi, of Warwick Group Consultants LLC, a coastal advocacy group based in Chevy Chase, Maryland.
The letter says the high number of whale deaths in such a short period of time caused alarm among environmental groups and shore area residents. The letter notes that an eighth whale washed up at Lido Beach, New York, the same day the letter was issued.
Besides the communities of Wildwood Crest, North Wildwood, and Stone Harbor, the mayors of Linwood, Brigantine, Long Beach Township, Mantoloking, Bay Head, Point Pleasant Beach, Spring Lake, and Deal also signed the letter.
The letter says offshore wind developers have obtained permits for the “incidental taking,” or killing, of whales, which would typically be illegal under federal law.
Concern was also expressed regarding potential injury to whales, such as damaging their hearing or causing behavioral disruptions in feeding and migration.
The letter quotes Benjamin Laws, deputy chief, Permits and Conservation Division, Office of Protected Resources, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries, who said, “There is an expectation that the work will impact marine life, including whales.”
The mayors said in the letter that while NOAA and others denounce the lack of evidence about the cause for these recent whale deaths, they nevertheless encourage the wind industry and New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy to press on with his plan to install 11.5 gigawatts of offshore wind projects in New Jersey.
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