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East End forum on potential offshore wind turbine sites turns tense

Representatives of the commercial fishing industry worried about the potential impact on their industry if the federal government selects sites off eastern Long Island's southern coast for wind farm development.

A turbine at Deepwater Wind's Block Island wind

A turbine at Deepwater Wind's Block Island wind farm, the first offshore wind array in the United States, shown in 2016. Photo Credit: Newsday/Mark Harrington

A public forum on potential offshore wind farm sites turned tense as East End commercial fishing representatives railed against the renewable energy source and its potential impact on their industry.

The U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management in April released maps for possible lease sites including two large swathes off eastern Long Island’s southern coast, one south of Great South Bay and one off the coast of New Jersey, all in what's known as the New York Bight area. The federal agency, which acts as a landlord for sites located from 3 to 200 miles from shore, is seeking input on the most appropriate locations.

The forum, held Wednesday at the Montauk Community Center, was dominated by commercial fishermen who largely said none of the proposed sites were fitting.

“These should be removed off our fishing grounds completely,” said Bonnie Brady, executive director of the Long Island Commercial Fishing Association.

Others voiced fears that the turbines and their cables would interrupt fish migration and prevent trawlers from entering those areas. Those in the fishing industry also criticized data the agency presented on fishing hot spots in the area.

“You’re never going to make that [wind farms] relevant in a moving ocean,” said Anthony Sosinski, a Montauk-based lobsterman.

Those who spoke declined to suggest the western sites as appropriate, saying they didn't want to hurt colleagues' livelihoods either.

Those western locations are supported in New York State’s wind energy plan. The state removed the East End areas from its proposed wind-farm maps in a blueprint released earlier this year.

The demand for offshore wind sites is driven by the state, Bureau of Ocean Energy Management officials said. The Cuomo administration in January released its offshore wind energy master plan calling for hundreds of turbines producing 2,400 megawatts of power by 2030.

“If there is no demand then there is no market and, yes, there will be no leasing,” said Brian Hooker, a marine biologist with the federal agency.

Written comments will be accepted until July 30. The team hosting a second meeting in Hampton Bays on Thursday is to make a recommendation to the acting agency director Walter Cruikshank, who will make the final decision on lease sites.

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