Windmills are Coming to New Jersey in a Big Way

by John Toth
(from Jersey Coast Anglers Association November 2018 Newsletter)

On July 9th, I attended a meeting in the Municipal Building at Belmar hosted by the NJ DEP and the Bureau of Energy Management (BOEM), a federal agency that is involved in determining windmill placements. Both of these agencies explained that Governor Phil Murphy issued an Executive Order mandating that he wants to see 3,500 Megawatts of energy produced by windmills off New Jersey’s coast by 2030. These windmills would be placed in federal waters approximately 17 miles off New Jersey’s coast. NJ’s Bureau of Public Energy (BPU) would interface with potential developers in the leasing process, and the NJ DEP would focus on environmental issues involved in setting up these windmills.

For recreational anglers, there are two major concerns with these windmills and they are: we do not want them to be placed on prime fishing locations, and we want to be able to fish by them when they become operational. The concern is that these windmills can be like Earle Pier and we would get chased away by security guards if we get to close to them. We were told that we would be able to fish by them, but do we really know for sure? In Europe that has extensive windmill development and with the exception of England, all other European countries ban fishing by their windmills. In regard to prime fishing grounds, we will have to further review their recommended locations to determine if windmills should be placed on them.

BOEM showed four locations under consideration for these windmills: Fairways North, Fairways South, Hudson North and Hudson South. These locations were strongly criticized by commercial fishermen in the audience since they are in the areas they fish, especially for scallops and clams. They said that they would eventually be put out of business. In response to that, a BOEM representative indicated that a fund could be established to compensate commercial anglers for loss of their fishing business! I don’t think any of us would like to be told that a new project will put us out of business! A number of commercial fishermen and their families have been in the fishing business for generations and now they hear that they will be the casualties of these new windmills.

The commercial fishermen requested that there should be at least two nautical miles between the windmills to facilitate their dragging operations. BOEM did not respond positively to this request. The commercial fishermen were livid that BOEM would not at least do this for them and they loudly expressed their frustration over this issue.

I asked BOEM how many windmills they envision being built and the answer I got is that they don’t know. I also indicated that a couple of years ago Clean Ocean Action (COA) made a big fuss about seismic testing by one boat and the blasts it produced, harming whales and other species in their migratory patterns. Drilling the ocean bottom to establish pylons for windmill foundations will most certainly make a lot of noise to vastly exceed anything done by one boat doing seismic testing. The BOEM representative conceded that this is a major concern since it would especially affect whales. However, they are looking at way to reduce this harmful effect.

A question was raised from the commercial anglers about the projected lifespan of these new windmills. The BOEM representative indicated that these windmills will have a lifespan of 25 years. This answer caused quite a stir among the crowd with someone yelling, “They won’t last that long with corrosive salt water. Don’t you people know that these windmills will be in the ocean”! Another person asked, “Who is going to monitor the operation of these windmills so that potential problems with them can be easily rectified such as broken wind blades?” The BOEM response was that they will resolve that issue in the near future.

This is an ongoing process and at this time this major project is in a public comment period. There is certainly more to come on this windmill program and I will keep you informed as it moves forward.

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