Update on Offshore Wind Forum with Recreational Anglers

by John Toth
(from Jersey Coast Anglers Association April 2019 Newsletter)

This forum was held on March 6th at the Ocean County Library and scheduled to start at 6:00 p.m. It was hosted by Paul Eidman, Anglers for Offshore Wind Power, and Helen Henderson from the American Littoral Society. In attendance were representatives from windmill developers: Equinor, Orsted, and EDF Renewables/Shell. Approximately 50 anglers were also in attendance.

The purpose of this meeting was to have recreational anglers hear what the developers had to say about their windmill operations and to ask questions about how these new windmills could affect their fishing opportunities. Before this meeting started, attendees were asked to write their questions for the developers on a piece of paper and the developers would then be asked to answer them in the order that they were presented to them.

After opening statements by Paul Eidman and Helen Henderson, each developer was asked to give background information on their respective companies in developing windmill projects. I have to say that I was impressed by their solid backgrounds in this industry. For example, Equinor has developed a huge windmill farm off Denmark and EDF Renewables also off the coast of Holland. They are not newcomers to this industry, and they have a lot of experience in developing and implementing windmills at many offshore locations around the world. While Denmark and other European countries have developed thousands of windmills as an alternate energy source, we have only five offshore windmills in our region located off Block Island, by Rhode Island’s coast.

Question – asked by Glenn Arthur representing the Diving community – can divers be allowed to do their diving activity by the windmills?

Answer – No problem, diving activity is not restricted by the windmills.

Questions – by John Toth, representing the Jersey Coast Anglers Association (JCAA) and the New Jersey Outdoor Alliance (NJOA) – Can anglers be allowed to fish by the windmills? Also, as a follow-up question: Do you see this access being restricted in the event of terrorist activity; possibly resulting with all access restricted and resulting (as an unintended consequence) in the creation of a Marine Protected Area (MPA)?

Answer – Anglers will be allowed to fish by the windmills. In regard to terrorist activity, the developers do not see this type of activity happening since there are so much better targets on land that would be far more effective in causing mayhem, such as bombing subways that a lot of people use.

Note: The offshore windmills in European waters do not allow any types of fishing by them with the exception of England that allows them.

Question – Have developers researched other forms of energy production alternatives besides windmills such as energy that can be produced by harnessing the motion of waves?

Answer – No, but it is an interesting concept and may be developed as an alternate energy source in the future.

Question – These windmills have a projected lifespan of 20 to 25 years and what are your plans to decommission them? Will you just leave them at their locations when they are not producing energy?

Answer – the developers intend to remove them. They will have a bond in their contracts to pay for their removal.

(Interestingly, there were some comments made to keep them at their location even when they are passed their energy production so that they still could be used as artificial reefs!) These unproductive windmills could become navigation hazards and the commercial fishing industry would want them removed.

Questions: By Bob Rush (member of New Jersey’s Marine Fishery Council who spoke on his behalf and not on the Council) – Why has there not been more science introduced to first answer the negative effects that these windmills can cause with fish migration patterns, whale activity, electromagnetic effects of the cables on fish life? It seems to me “that we are building the windmills first, and then figuring out later the negative drawbacks that they pose on marine life”.

Answer: An Environmental Impact Study (EIS) is being conducted presently to review possible negative impacts that the windmills can have on marine life. They will cover the effects of noise generated by the installation of the windmills by pile driving (that may have to stop when whales are located nearby) and the effects of the cables (that will be buried seven (7) feet underground). Presently, this EIS is in progress, but final results have not been concluded and there is not a projected time when it will be concluded.

Question: What kind of security will be provided by the windmills?

Answer: The Developers do not have any plans to provide security. They indicated that most likely the US Coast Guard would provide it.

Question: How much space will there be between windmills?

Answer: The spacing will be .7miles.

A number of attendees thought that this spacing is just too tight with both recreational and commercial ships using this narrow path.

Note: in a prior windmill meeting I attended with commercial anglers present, the commercial industry wants at least two (2) miles spaced between windmills to make navigation much easier.

Question: Will the windmills be able to withstand the hurricanes the USA has almost on annual basis and storms like we had with Sandy?

Answer: We have put up thousands of windmills and we have not lost any of them, especially the ones in or by the North Sea near Denmark. The North Sea is very rough on many sailing vessels.

Question: How much will taxpayers have to subsidize these windmills?

Answer: This subject is not part of this forum. It will be addressed at future windmill meetings.

Unfortunately, time did not allow me to ask other questions that I would like to have answered. Windmills are planned to be placed on productive scallop and clam grounds. The commercial industry plans litigation to prevent this from happening and, consequently, this litigation will possibly delay implementation of the windmill project. I want to know if there are any plans to change the location of these windmills. Why should we lose a valuable food source when these windmills can be placed in another location?

The developers talked about a substation that is part of this windmill project and they did not explain how it ties in with the windmills. I want to know more about it and will ask for clarification of this substation at another meeting.

I plan to attend future windmill meetings and keep you informed of all the latest developments.

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