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Wind-energy meetings scheduled amid concerns about East End

Politicians and fishermen have doubts about visibility and impediments to fishing.

Rhode Island's five-turbine Block Island wind farm on

Rhode Island's five-turbine Block Island wind farm on Nov. 23, 2016. Photo Credit: All Island Aerial / Kevin P. Coughlin

New York State will hold a public meeting Monday in Southampton to discuss its blueprint for wind energy and the recently released federal government call for wind-energy projects along the shore of practically all of Long Island, including the East End.

The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, which is hosting the meeting and wrote the blueprint, has released its own map of potential sites for wind energy in the state’s coastal waters, one of which notably excludes the East End. The authority’s chief executive Alicia Barton, said last month the agency “does not support” the proposed federal areas off the East End, which the federal government on its map refers to as Fairways North.

She is not alone.

“We definitely would have concerns” about the federal area mapped out for the East End, said Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman. “While offshore wind has extraordinary potential to power our homes and our lives in a more environmentally responsible way . . . I need to see that it’s far enough away that they are not visible from anywhere on the land mass.”

Schneiderman said he can see the five-turbine Block Island wind farm from Montauk beaches and “I can’t say I’m thrilled about seeing the blinking lights” at night.

Holding the symposium in Southampton is likely to draw forces on both sides of the issue. East End governments and green-energy advocates have been among the most progressive on Long Island in calling for more green energy to power the regional electric grid. Committees of local government representatives from East Hampton and Southampton met with PSEG Long Island to review proposals to power the South Fork and ultimately decided on a wind farm 30 miles from Montauk Point.

The South Fork is also home to the single greatest force in opposition to offshore wind: hundreds of fishermen who see the turbine structures and undersea cables as impediments to fishing. The Long Island Commercial Fishing Association has already joined a lawsuit contesting the federal government’s auction for a lease area of some 70,000 acres 15 miles south of Long Beach that is scheduled to be home to the Empire Wind project.

Dave Aripotch, a commercial fisherman from Montauk who said he makes most of his money in fishing grounds beyond the 20-mile mark, where many wind farms are slated, says his message to government wind-farm planners is to “slow down and do more research” on impacts to fishing grounds and fish migration, among other things.

“Maybe everything will be fine with the wind farms, but what if it’s not?” he said. “Thousands of people will lose their jobs.”

Speaking at a wind-energy conference last month, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke expressed the Trump administration’s most vocal support to date for offshore wind energy in announcing the call for proposals and input about the New York areas.

Offshore wind has “enormous potential” and is “morally the right thing to do” over importing fossil-fuel energy from conflict-ridden global hot spots, Zinke said.

He added that the government doesn’t want to “cripple or hurt the fishing industry” and said the federal agency will work with fishermen to avoid impacts.

Gordian Raacke, executive director of Renewable Energy Long Island, which has long promoted offshore wind, said he has seen NYSERDA’s presentation of the areas it supports, excluding the East End. Raacke said he supports the New York agency’s vision.

“I know the work they’ve done as part of the master plan is pretty extensive, and I would trust their research and findings,” he said.

Raacke said he understands the viewpoint of those concerned about impacts on ocean views.

“It’s not a big issue, but in people’s minds who have ocean-view homes it may be a very big issue for them,” he said. “I see them [offshore wind turbines] as signs of a sustainable energy future but other people may see them as something they may not want to look at. That’s a fair view.”

The Southampton meeting, to be held 6 to 7:30 p.m. at the Southampton Inn at 91 Hill St., is the first of two scheduled meetings. The second is to be at 6 p.m. Tuesday at the Long Island Association, 300 Broadhollow Rd. in Melville.

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