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NY spending $2M to study offshore wind impact on waterways, fishing

Bonnie Brady of the Long Island Commercial Fishing

Bonnie Brady of the Long Island Commercial Fishing Association in Montauk uses maps to show where the turbines will affect the fishing industry during an informational meeting.on May 7, 2018, at the Southampton Inn. Photo Credit: Joseph D. Sullivan

New York State said Thursday it will spend more than $2 million for five studies to examine ways to reduce offshore wind farms’ impact on marine environments and commercial fishing.

The studies, awarded by the  state Energy Research and Development Authority, or NYSERDA, followed Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's announcement of the first two large offshore wind projects for the state power grid.

The projects will produce 1,700 megawatts of a potential 9,000 megawatts planned by the state by 2040. Hundreds of turbines upward of 800 feet high will spin in waterways off Long Island, New Jersey, Rhode Island and Massachusetts.

Another project by Norway-based Equinor for 816 megawatts will be located as close as 15 miles offshore from Long Beach.

Commercial fishing groups largely oppose offshore wind, due largely to the potential loss of fishing grounds and impacts on fish migration and sea-bottom changes they say are largely unknown.

Bonnie Brady, executive director of the Long Island Commercial Fishing Association, offered tepid applause for the state’s decision to award the study grants.

“It’s great that we’ve gotten some funding but there’s a ticking time bomb once these turbines hit the water,” Brady said. “The monitoring and research should have started long ago, so we are playing catch-up to try to get data we need to make sure we do no harm.”

The study projects include a $500,000, two-year study on the need to “understand and develop safe and efficient access” to fishing grounds while “ensuring that offshore energy projects meet their operational goals,” NYSERDA said in a statement.

Another project will get $300,000 to create a “data trust” to incorporate “fishermen’s knowledge” into decisions about offshore wind energy.

A $500,000 study will examine the relationship between marine predators and forage fish to “better understand the linkages” between fish and sea birds “and implications of offshore wind development on seabird behaviors and distribution.”

The state also will provide $500,000 for an 18-month study to develop three-dimensional models of wildlife distribution in the New York Bight, in waters off the South Shore and New Jersey.

And $300,000 will go to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to develop guidelines for the use of mini radio transmitters to monitor offshore wind turbines’ impact on birds and bats.

State officials said the projects stem from a state blueprint for offshore wind that emphasized the need to mitigate environmental and economic impacts of wind energy, with fishermen at the forefront.

“These projects will help foster the development of offshore renewable technologies while continuing to protect our state’s invaluable ocean resources and fishing community,” Basil Seggos, commissioner of the state Department of Environmental Conservation, said in a statement.

NYSERDA chief executive Alicia Barton said the studies would give the state “evidence-based environmental- and commercial-fishing-related research to help us advance offshore wind development in way that is sensitive to the environment, ocean and the economy.”

Said Brady, "Being an environmentalist means you do no harm, but everyone is throwing that out the window" in the rush to build wind energy and mitigate impacts to climate change.

Brady urged a slowdown in construction schedules until studies are complete. 

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