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December 27, 2017

Fishermen express concerns about offshore wind turbines

New England fishermen are concerned about difficulties with navigation and gear conflicts if the offshore wind industry installs more turbines in traditional fishing grounds. Pictured is a drawing of an offshore wind system proposed for a site off of Monhegan Island.

New England fishermen are concerned about difficulties with navigation and gear conflicts if the offshore wind industry installs more turbines in traditional fishing grounds.

According to an Associated Press report published by the Bangor Daily News, an organization representing East Coast scallopers has sued the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, which oversees wind farm developments in federal waters, to try to halt a proposal for a nearly 200-turbine wind farm off Long Island, N.Y.

"Fishermen are losing ground one a nibble at a time," said Joseph Gilbert, a Stonington, Conn., fisherman who owns boats that range from Virginia to Maine.

But Deepwater Wind, the Rhode Island company that opened a five-turbine operation off Block Island, R.I., last December, said preliminary findings from environmental studies of its farm suggest fish and lobster populations are "just as strong" as before construction. The company also said it compensated over a dozen fishermen who temporarily lost access to their fishing grounds during construction.

There haven't been reports of fishing boats striking turbines, but a dozen boats reported trawls getting damaged by concrete structures covering undersea power cables, costing tens of thousands of dollars in equipment and lost fishing time, said Richard Fuka, president of the Rhode Island Fishermen's Alliance.

Maine is considered a leading candidate for offshore wind. A consortium, led by the University of Maine and the construction company Cianbro, is pursuing a pilot project called New England Aqua Ventus 1 that involves building two 6-MW wind turbines two-and-a-half miles off Monhegan Island, with a goal of installing the floating hulls at the Monhegan test site by fall 2019.

That project has raised concerns among residents of Monhegan and the St. George peninsula, where local fishermen have said the project and its transmission cable would harm their livelihoods. In December, Maine Aqua Ventus issued a statement that said it is "working diligently with state and federal agencies to allow fishing over the cable with both mobile and fixed fishing gear."

The purpose of the project is to evaluate the University of Maine's award-winning floating concrete hull technology at full scale and develop best practices for coexistence with marine users so that future wind projects farther offshore can minimize impacts to fisheries and fishermen, the statement continued.

The University of Maine has cited studies showing Maine's offshore wind potential to be a higher-quality resource than most parts of the United States, with more than 156 gigawatts or 156,000 megawatts of potential renewable wind power waiting to be harnessed.

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