BOEM approves South Fork Wind’s ‘alternative habitat’ plan

November 24, 2021

The Bureau of Offshore Energy Management has approved a plan for 12 wind turbines in the South Fork Wind project 35 miles east of Montauk, NY BOEM graphic.

The design of the South Fork Wind project will be reduced from 15 turbines to 12 as part of an amended construction and operation plan, the Federal Office of Ocean Energy Management confirmed in a decision report on Wednesday.

The agency adopted an “alternative to habitat” turbine layout as the preferred plan for the project’s environmental impact assessment, scheduled 35 miles east of Montauk, NY, by wind developers Ørsted and Eversource.

Originally leased by the wind power pioneers of Rhode Island Deep waters Wind – the startup later absorbed by Ørsted – the South Fork area is about 19 miles southeast of the five-turbine, 30-megawatt Block Island wind farm at Deepwater Wind, the first commercial offshore wind facility in the United States.

On track to begin construction in January 2022, South Fork with a capacity of around 130 MW would follow the 800 MW Vineyard wind project underway off southern Massachusetts.

Named after the southeast corner of Long Island, the South Fork project is touted as a response to the island’s growing power needs and New York State’s goal of 9,000 MW or d ‘renewable energy.

Skeptics dispute the project’s real energy potential, and commercial fishermen in New York and Rhode Island are battling the disruptions looming for their industry.

BOEM’s early outlines for wind power areas off southern New England excluded much of Cox’s Ledge, productive and heavily fished bottoms, and the agency’s preference for the habitat alternative. recognizes the value of keeping turbine construction away from what fishing experts call a complex bottom that is home to many species of fish.

Yet the summary of the BOEM decision recognizes major effects on the region’s fishing industry. The agency predicts “negligible to major negative impacts of construction and installation, operation and maintenance, and conceptual decommissioning on commercial and for-hire fisheries due to the increased port congestion; changes in access to fishing, mainly through reduced fishing opportunities when construction activities take place; damage or loss of fishing gear; and impacts on catches due to changes in the abundance or availability of target species during construction activities.

The turbine foundations and their rock shielding for scour protection could provide recreational fishing with new artificial reef habitat to attract fish, the report notes. But for the fishing fleet in general, “the overall cumulative negative impacts would be major”.

Offshore wind advocates say the decision’s toll is another boost in building a U.S. industry.

“Last week Vineyard Wind hosted its groundbreaking ceremony, and this week the South Fork Wind announcement strengthens investor confidence in the certainty of the US offshore wind market,” said Liz Burdock, President and Chief Executive Officer of the industrial group. Business network for Offshore Wind. “This is essential to harness the local economic benefits associated with the offshore wind industry. “

The Responsible offshore development alliance, a coalition of fishing groups, said BOEM continues to misjudge the effect of southern New England wind developments on its industry.

“South Fork is now the second project approved by BOEM without taking reasonable steps to protect seafood producers and the marine environment off New England. Making this decision on the eve of a public holiday dedicated to the community and to the appreciation of the local harvest is particularly ironic, ”the group said in a statement Wednesday evening.

“The government has chosen to grant a free license to introduce the world’s largest hammers (pile drivers) and fast ships for the next 30 years to an area that the State of Rhode Island recognizes as” one of the few remaining locations in Rhode Island Sound that Atlantic cod are found in all life stages, “and home to the largest aggregations of the North Atlantic’s highly endangered right whales,” the group said.

“Again, the agencies did not demand any significant mitigation measures that could have reduced these impacts, such as time-of-year restrictions for cod spawning, replacements for long-standing biological surveys. that will be prevented from functioning or safe shipping lanes. “

New York labor and industry groups see South Fork as the first in a wave of opportunities for their members.

“Offshore wind is seen as the seed of hard work in the growth of a fair economy that extends far beyond the coastline,” said Matthew Aracich, president of the Nassau and Suffolk Counties Building and Construction Trades Council, AFL-CIO. “BOEM’s resolution on South Fork Wind sets the stage for a period of prosperity that spans a generation.”

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