Gov. Hochul and other officials throw a ceremonial switch at...

Gov. Hochul and other officials throw a ceremonial switch at Stony Brook University's Southampton campus on Thursday, marking the completion of the South Fork Wind Farm. Credit: John Roca

Gov. Kathy Hochul Thursday announced the formal completion of the South Fork Wind Farm, the nation’s first utility-scale offshore wind array in federal waters. She called the LIPA project a “triumph of New York ambition,” while Native Long Island tribes and fishermen said the milestone fell short of including their interests.

Hochul, who visited Southampton to pull a ceremonial switch for the $2.01 billion, 12-turbine array, said it marked “an incredible milestone of progress for New York” and for “all America,” with enough energy to power 70,000 homes.

“This is how you get it done,” she said of the project built off the coast of New England 35 miles from Montauk Point and contracted by LIPA in 2017. The event included U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland and Suffolk County Executive Ed Romaine, a Republican proponent of offshore wind.

Romaine said the completion of South Fork “will give me a guidepost for the next project,” Sunrise Wind, with a cable project he helped negotiate through Brookhaven Town. “We’re all together in this,” he said.

WHAT TO KNOW

  • Gov. Hochul Thursday announced the formal completion of the South Fork Wind Farm, the nation’s first utility-scale offshore wind array in federal waters.
  • Hochul visited Southampton to pull a ceremonial switch for the $2.01 billion, 12-turbine array, saying it marked “an incredible milestone of progress for New York.”
  • However, Native Long Island tribes and fishermen said the milestone fell short of including their interests.

South Fork Wind was developed for the Long Island Power Authority by a joint-venture partnership between Denmark-based Orsted and New England utility Eversource. Eversource has since sold its interest in the project.

Hochul, in an interview, said bigger setbacks for the nascent U.S. offshore wind industry would not slow the state’s progress for 9,000 megawatts of offshore wind by 2035. The South Fork project at 130 megawatts is the only offshore project in the state, and in federal waters, but two other state projects are slated for completion by 2026.

Sunrise Wind, at 924 megawatts, is “on the path to move forward,” Hochul noted. The state last month approved a preliminary new contract that gives Sunrise, as well as Empire Wind 1 slated for 12 miles off Long Beach, more money for their power.

The first operating South Fork Wind Farm turbine stands east of...

The first operating South Fork Wind Farm turbine stands east of Montauk Point in December 2023. Credit: AP/Julia Nikhinson

Hochul noted “supply chain issues, the cost of capital — a lot of things have intervened since we started” on an aggressive plan for offshore wind. “And we’ve had to make some adjustments. But we are leaning hard into the energy of the future which I believe for this area is offshore wind.”

Outside the event, Becky Genia, a Shinnecock Indian Nation member and chairwoman of the Shinnecock Graves Protection Warrior Society, held a sign suggesting that turbines should be built on golf courses, not in the ocean.

“This is not about eco-friendly or green energy or clean energy, it’s about who’s going to make the most money in the least amount of time,” she said, adding that tribal nation’s have only received “token inclusion” in the federal review and benefits of the projects. “There’s nothing fair or equitable about the way they treat the Indigenous people, especially the Shinnecock,” Genia said.

Other tribal members criticized the governor for not inviting them to the event. Harry Wallace, chief of the Unkechaug Indian Nation in Mastic, said he’d called the governor’s office Wednesday night asking to attend but was told “there wasn’t any room.”

“The alleged good faith in consultation doesn’t exist with her,” said Wallace, who has  expressed concerns about Sunrise Wind, the cable for which traverses several sites the tribe considers sacred.

Hochul, in a question-and-answer session, said, “My understanding is representatives were invited here,” and she noted that Shinnecock members did attend the event.

One attendee, Bryan Polite, outgoing chairman of the Shinnecock Nation, said the federally approved project has fallen short in including Native members in the benefits. He said Shinnecock members have not been offered training or jobs from offshore wind, and attempts to include the tribe in the regulatory review process have fallen short.

“We just don’t have the resources to review the voluminous documents,” he said, adding the tribe could use a team of outside experts to help in the reviews. And while there have been “conversations about jobs,” there’s been “nothing specific for training anybody from Shinnecock. We’d love to be involved.”

Sandi Brewster-walker, executive director of the Montaukett Nation, said she also was not invited to Thursday’s event. Tribal leaders have criticized the governor for twice vetoing bills that would return the tribe’s state recognition. Asked if her administration would approve such a measure, Hochul on Thursday said Montaukett recognition is “something we’ve addressed before and continue to work with the legislature on.”

Another group that expressed dismay at completion of South Fork Wind and the project’s promised benefits was the Long Island Commercial Fishing Association. The group’s executive director, Bonnie Brady, noted that South Fork and other New York projects have yet to provide a mechanism for compensation for lost fishing grounds and income from those who fish waters hosting turbines and cables.

Commercial fishermen in Rhode Island and Massachusetts have access to programs that compensate them for those losses, Brady said, but New York fishermen can only get compensation for lost fishing gear, if they can prove it, through an application process administered by Orsted.

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