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Wind Farm Proposal Prompts 'Deep Dive Into Data'

Thu, 07/11/2019 - 12:02

At the request of the East Hampton Town Trustees, the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management has engaged consultants to evaluate existing studies of potential effects of electromagnetic fields on fish species as part of its environmental studies program. That evaluation could lead to a field study, a trustee reported to his colleagues on Monday. 

Electromagnetic fields, or  E.M.F., are a concern to fishermen with respect to the cables associated with offshore wind farms. The proposed South Fork Wind Farm, like others under consideration in the Northeast, would include both inter-array and wind-farm-to-shore transport cables. Fishermen are concerned about the E.M.F. produced by such cables and their potential to impact migratory patterns or to attract or repel particular species. 

John Aldred, a trustee, told his colleagues that a request to the bureau last year for a field study on the effects of E.M.F. on migratory fish was answered with authorization of a literature search, “a deep dive into existing data with a focus on potential E.M.F. impacts on species of commercial or recreational importance,” he said. Should the literature search warrant further study, the bureau would consider a subsequent field study, he said. 

“The study may involve identifying local species of interest to recreational fishermen in the Long Island communities, specifically species identified by the New York Department of Environmental Conservation,” according to the plan. “Communication materials will be developed about E.M.F., existing cables, and potential for interactions with the identified species of importance.” Should a reasonable concern about effects of E.M.F. on key species be identified, “then a proposed methodology for field work will be included.”  

“Even with shielding and burial, these cables can produce both electric and magnetic fields that extend some distance into the water column,” the Studies Development Plan says. “[The federal agency] funded a literature review that evaluated the potential for E.M.F. to affect species that identified elasmobranchs [sharks, skates, and rays] and decapods [crustaceans, including lobster and shrimp] as having the greatest potential for effect as well as a lack of knowledge about the effects of high voltage direct current cables.” 

The plan refers to existing bureau-funded studies “Electromagnetic Field Impacts on Elasmobranch” and “American Lobster Movement and Migration from Direct Current Cables.” The latter report includes direct measurements of the field from the Neptune cable, an undersea high-voltage direct current cable extending from Sayreville, N.J., to Levittown that supplies some 22 percent of Long Island’s electricity demand; and the sea2shore cable, National Grid’s 20-mile undersea cable between Block Island and the Rhode Island mainland that transports electricity generated by the five-turbine Block Island Wind Farm to the mainland power grid. “We would expect the field from the South Fork cable to be less than the existing Neptune cable,” Mary Boatman, environmental studies chief of the bureau’s Office of Renewable Energy Programs, wrote in an email to Mr. Aldred last year. 

The evaluation will also include direct measurements and a review of E.M.F. from cables, conducted in Europe. 

The bureau engaged CSA Ocean Sciences, a marine environmental consulting firm, and Exponent Inc., to evaluate the existing studies. 

Bureau officials told Mr. Aldred that the draft of the report is under internal review, and a final report could be completed by the end of this year. “I’m hoping it will warrant a field study,” Mr. Aldred said after the meeting.

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