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Fishing Industry Pushes Back On Biden Admin Mega Wind Project
Massachusetts fisherman
Adam Glanzman/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Biden administration announced Tuesday that it approved the Vineyard Wind project, a mega clean energy development and “the first large-scale, offshore wind project in the United States,” according to the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI), a decision that received backlash from the fishing industry.

“Today’s offshore wind project announcement demonstrates that we can fight the climate crisis, while creating high-paying jobs and strengthening our competitiveness at home and abroad,” said Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo. “This project is an example of the investments we need to achieve the Biden-Harris administration’s ambitious climate goals, and I’m proud to be part of the team leading the charge on offshore wind.”

The Department of the Interior announced:

Today’s Record of Decision (ROD) grants Vineyard Wind final federal approval to install 84 or fewer turbines off Massachusetts as part of an 800-megawatt offshore wind energy facility. The project is expected to create 3,600 area jobs and will power up to 400,000 homes. Turbines will be installed in an east-west orientation, and all the turbines will have a minimum spacing of 1 nautical mile between them in the north-south and east-west directions, consistent with the U.S. Coast Guard recommendations in the Final Massachusetts and Rhode Island Port Access Route Study.

The ROD adopts mitigation measures to help avoid, minimize, reduce, or eliminate adverse environmental effects that could result from the construction and operation of the proposed project. These mitigation, monitoring, and reporting requirements were developed through input, consultation, and coordination with stakeholders, Tribes, and federal and state agencies.

“A clean energy future is within our grasp in the United States. The approval of this project is an important step toward advancing the Administration’s goals to create good-paying union jobs while combatting climate change and powering our nation,” said Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland. “Today is one of many actions we are determined to take to open the doors of economic opportunity to more Americans.”

Some members of the American workforce are unhappy with the approval. National Fisherman reported that some advocates of the fishing industry are concerned that the decision to approve such a project “sets the stage for privatizing the public resource on which their livelihoods rely.” They also pushed back on the lack of consideration of their proposals in the decision, which included concerns over fishermen safety. 

The Responsible Offshore Development Alliance (RODA), a membership-based group of fishing industry associations and fishing companies, said in a statement that it “condemns in the strongest possible terms the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s (BOEM) issuance of a Record of Decision for the previously terminated Vineyard Wind 1 Offshore Wind Energy Project.[The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management] continues to abdicate its responsibility to the public and leave all decision making to large, multinational corporations, including this decision which includes effectively no mitigation measures to offset impacts to critical ocean ecosystems and commercial fisheries.”

The group continued, “To the best of our knowledge BOEM did not even consider any mitigation measures recommended by RODA or any fisheries professionals, scientists, or natural resource managers, despite having clearly defined requests available to them.

“In one pen stroke, BOEM has confirmed its scattershot, partisan, and opaque approach that undermines every lesson we’ve learned throughout environmental history: the precautionary principle, the importance of safety and environmental regulation, the scientific method and use of the best available data, and adaptive management policies.”

National Fisherman reported that one of the main points of concern for fishermen was the spacing for vessel transit lanes. Commercial fishermen, alongside the Responsible Offshore Development Alliance, had pushed for 4-nm-wide transit lanes, which they said would create a safer environment.

The outlet reported, “In its decision document, BOEM reasons that 1-nm spacing will be sufficiently safe, while dedicated transit lanes could increase congestion and potentially collisions by funneling vessel traffic.”

Using advice from the Coast Guard, agency personnel said that the “uniform grid pattern will result in the functional equivalent of numerous navigation corridors that can safely accommodate both transits through, and fishing within, the WEA (wind energy area) and provide the USCG with adequate SAR (search and rescue) access.”

The Responsible Offshore Development Alliance pushed back on the move, saying that traffic lanes were not the only suggestion by the fishing industry that was not included in the decision.

“For the past decade, fishermen have participated in offshore wind meetings whenever they were asked and produced reasonable requests only to be met with silence,” said Anne Hawkins, executive director of RODA. “From this silence now emerges unilateral action and a clear indication that those in authority care more about multinational businesses and energy politics than our environment, domestic food sources, or U.S. citizens.”

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