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No Wind Farms in 'Fairways'

Thu, 04/22/2021 - 18:07

Two areas off the South Shore of Long Island that had been identified as potential federal lease areas for development of offshore wind will not be considered for leases, an official of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management said last week. 

The announcement came on April 14, during a BOEM-hosted virtual meeting of the Intergovernmental Renewable Energy Task Forces, comprising representatives from 14 coastal states, local governments, tribes, and federal agencies. A second meeting was held on Friday.

The areas in the New York Bight known as Fairways North and Fairways South, respectively 88,246 and 23,841 acres, "will not be considered for leases," said Luke Feinberg, a BOEM project coordinator. The Bight is in the waters between Long Island and the New Jersey coast.

The Fairways North area is approximately 15 miles south of Long Island, stretching from Moriches Bay to Montauk Point. Fairways South is farther west and mostly farther offshore. The New York Bight also contains federal wind energy areas known as Hudson North and the Central Bight, off Great South Bay, and Hudson South, south of New York City.

Mr. Feinberg's statement followed testimony from Michele DesAutels, the chief of maritime energy and marine planning with the United States Coast Guard, and Gregory Lampman, program manager for environmental research at the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority. Fairways South "is challenging," Ms. DesAutels said, "because putting a wind farm between two fairways provides navigation challenges." NYSERDA concurs, Mr. Lampman said, adding that wind farms should be at least 18 miles offshore.

Left unsaid at the meeting was the likely opposition to visible wind turbines by property owners on the South Fork, where real estate is among the most expensive in the country. But Doreen Harris, NYSERDA's president and chief executive, told Newsday that the state's opposition was due to the fairways' distance from the shore, as well as to fishing and maritime conflicts.

Last month, the Biden administration announced a set of actions to significantly expand offshore wind energy projects, including creation of a new wind energy area in the New York Bight. New York's 2019 Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act calls for 9,000 megawatts of offshore wind by 2035.

The Fairways North wind energy area has an installation capacity of 1,071 megawatts, sufficient to power some 375,000 houses, while the smaller Fairways South area has a capacity for 289 megawatts, enough to power around 100,000 houses. But if fully developed, the other wind energy areas in the New York Bight offer a combined capacity of more than 8,400 megawatts.

Meanwhile, the Responsible Offshore Development Alliance, a coalition of fishing industry associations, told the Intergovernmental Renewable Energy Task Forces that fishing interests would boycott last week's meetings. In a blistering letter, the group complained that its members have "urgently advocated for the survival of their family and communities, in a context where all the rules are set (and changed) by newcomers interested only in a large-scale ocean acquisition who often don't even treat them with common courtesy or basic respect."

There have been "effectively no accommodations to mitigate impacts" of wind farm development "or the supposedly unbiased federal and state governments," the letter says. Fishermen have "provided time, data, and knowledge to countless offshore wind deliberations, only to see that information misappropriated, discounted, distrusted, or simply disap-pear." BOEM's fast tracking of existing and future lease areas "without ever having addressed any of the reasonable, consistent concerns raised by fishermen and other environmentalists threatens the very survival of U.S. seafood production," RODA's letter says.

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