Winds of Worry: US Fishermen Fear Forests of Power Turbines - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Winds of Worry: US Fishermen Fear Forests of Power Turbines

Posted: Dec 26, 2017 7:56 AM Updated:
In this Monday, Aug. 15, 2016, file photo three wind turbines from the Deepwater Wind project stand in the Atlantic Ocean off Block Island, R.I.  (Photo: AP) In this Monday, Aug. 15, 2016, file photo three wind turbines from the Deepwater Wind project stand in the Atlantic Ocean off Block Island, R.I. (Photo: AP)

NEW BEDFORD, Mass. (AP)- East Coast fishermen are turning a wary eye toward an emerging upstart: the offshore wind industry.

In New Bedford, Massachusetts, the onetime whaling capital made famous in Herman Melville's "Moby-Dick," fishermen dread the possibility of navigating a forest of turbines as they make their way to the fishing grounds that have made it the nation's most lucrative fishing port for 17 years running.

The state envisions hundreds of wind turbines spinning off the city's shores in about a decade, enough to power more than 1 million homes.

"You ever see a radar picture of a wind farm? It's just one big blob, basically," said Eric Hansen, 56, a New Bedford scallop boat owner whose family has been in the business for generations. "Transit through it will be next to impossible, especially in heavy wind and fog."

Off New York's Long Island, an organization representing East Coast scallopers has sued the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management to try to halt a proposal for a nearly 200-turbine wind farm. Commercial fishermen in Maryland's Ocean City and North Carolina's Outer Banks have also sounded the alarm about losing access to fishing grounds.

Supporters of offshore wind say they have learned from Europe's long experience with it. They also point to the more recent opening of America's lone offshore wind farm, off Rhode Island, as evidence the actual impact to U.S. fishermen will be less than feared.

"We want to do this the right way, and I believe we have a path to do that," said Matthew Morrissey, a vice president at Deepwater Wind, the Rhode Island company that opened that five-turbine operation off Block Island last December and is proposing larger farms elsewhere along the East Coast.

In New Bedford, where the state has already built a $113 million heavy-duty terminal to take on turbine construction and shipment, city officials envision commercial fishing and offshore wind working hand in hand to revive a region that has long lagged behind nearby Boston.

"There's a lot more in common between these industries than pulling them apart," said Edward Anthes-Washburn, executive director of New Bedford's port, citing the potential for wind farms to provide fishermen with extra work and to contribute to port investments, like a new shipyard.

For fishermen, the broader concern is that offshore wind farms will only lead to more stifling restrictions.

"Fishermen are losing ground one a nibble at a time," said Joseph Gilbert, a Stonington, Connecticut fisherman who owns boats that range from Virginia to Maine. "Eventually, it adds up to a very large piece of the pie."

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, which oversees wind farm developments in federal waters, has taken steps to address fishermen's concerns, among them excluding specific habitats off Massachusetts, Rhode Island and New York from wind farm development, said spokesman Stephen Boutwell.

It has also invested in studies looking specifically at questions raised by fishermen, from the effects of pile-driving during wind farm construction to the effect of electromagnetic fields on fish behavior, he said.

Deepwater Wind, meanwhile, said preliminary findings from environmental studies of its Block Island wind farm suggest fish and lobster populations are "just as strong" as before construction.

The company says it has compensated over a dozen fishermen who temporarily lost access to their fishing grounds during construction.

But while there haven't been reports of fishing boats striking the turbines, about a dozen boats have reported trawls getting damaged by concrete structures covering undersea power cables, costing tens of thousands of dollars in equipment and lost fishing time, said Richard Fuka, president of the Rhode Island Fishermen's Alliance.

U.S. fishermen also cast a worried glance at to Europe, where a range of restrictions have been imposed on fishing around the more than 3,500 turbines spinning off the shores of 10 different countries. U.S. officials and developers stress similar bans aren't being considered stateside, except during construction.

Studies in the North Sea suggest the turbines act as reefs, supporting mussels that draw fish and other sea life. But where advocates see biodiversity, commercial fishermen point to other studies noting modest effects on native species in Europe.

In the U.K., navigation through wind farms remains challenging during bad weather, said Merlin Jackson, treasurer of the Thanet Fishermen's Association.

There have been at least two minor cases of fishing boats hitting turbines, he said. Fishermen largely rely on turbine platform lights as guides, but they're not always well maintained. The most persistent problem has been sea currents exposing buried power cables, prompting restrictions while they're repaired, he said.

America's slower, more complex licensing process has "forced more questions to be asked," and East Coast fishermen seem more unified than many of those in Europe when wind farms were being developed, Jackson said.

"If fishermen can be organized and be allowed to have input into the earliest parts of the planning process, then there should be a way forward," Jackson said.

  • Delmarvawide NewsDelmarvawide NewsMore>>

  • Pocomoke City Proposes Building Ordinance

    Pocomoke City Proposes Building Ordinance

    Jan 17, 2018 6:20 PM2018-01-17 23:20:00 GMT
    Wednesday, January 17 2018 6:20 PM EST2018-01-17 23:20:32 GMT
    A proposed ordinance in Pocomoke City would require property owners to be more proactive in taking care of their buildings. 

    City officials say there are more than 60 abandoned properties and many of those buildings are an eyesore.
    More
    A proposed ordinance in Pocomoke City would require property owners to be more proactive in taking care of their buildings. 

    City officials say there are more than 60 abandoned properties and many of those buildings are an eyesore. 
    More
  • Mountaire Farms Addresses Contaminated Water Concerns in Public Meeting

    Mountaire Farms Addresses Contaminated Water Concerns in Public Meeting

    Jan 17, 2018 10:46 PM2018-01-18 03:46:00 GMT
    Wednesday, January 17 2018 10:47 PM EST2018-01-18 03:47:03 GMT
    MILLSBORO, Del.- Mountaire Farms held a public meeting on Wednesday night in Millsboro to discuss neighbor's concerns about nitrate contamination in private well water. Mountaire says they don't believe the chicken plant is responsible for the elevated niMore
    Mountaire Farms held a public meeting on Wednesday night in Millsboro to discuss neighbor's concerns about nitrate contamination in private well water. More
  • Update: Selbyville Suspect Arrested for Multiple Burglaries

    Update: Selbyville Suspect Arrested for Multiple Burglaries

    Jan 17, 2018 8:59 PM2018-01-18 01:59:00 GMT
    Wednesday, January 17 2018 10:31 PM EST2018-01-18 03:31:07 GMT
    Courtesy of Delaware State Police Courtesy of Delaware State Police
    SELBYVILLE, Del. -- Delaware State Police say they charged a Selbybville man Wednesday in connection to multiple burglaries in the Swann Keys Development that happened over the past several months. DSP said William A. Wagner Jr., 25 of Selbyville, was arrMore
    Delaware State Police say they charged a Selbybville man Wednesday in connection to multiple burglaries in the Swann Keys Development that happened over the past several months. More
  • Most Popular VideosMost Popular VideosMore>>

  • Pocomoke City Proposes Building Ordinance

    Pocomoke City Proposes Building Ordinance

    A proposed ordinance in Pocomoke City would require property owners to be more proactive in taking care of their buildings. 

    City officials say there are more than 60 abandoned properties and many of those buildings are an eyesore.

    More

    A proposed ordinance in Pocomoke City would require property owners to be more proactive in taking care of their buildings. 

    City officials say there are more than 60 abandoned properties and many of those buildings are an eyesore.

    More
  • Parkside High School Teacher Back Behind Bars

    Parkside High School Teacher Back Behind Bars

    The Wicomico County Sheriff's Office says the Parkside High School teacher arrested earlier this week in connection to a drug investigation is back behind bars. Monica Snee, 51, of Salisbury was released from prison after posting $50,000 bond. A district court judge revoked the bond and issued a bench warrant today. As a result, deputies located and arrested Snee in the area of Westbrook Drive in Salisbury.

    More

    The Wicomico County Sheriff's Office says the Parkside High School teacher arrested earlier this week in connection to a drug investigation is back behind bars. Monica Snee, 51, of Salisbury was released from prison after posting $50,000 bond. A district court judge revoked the bond and issued a bench warrant today. As a result, deputies located and arrested Snee in the area of Westbrook Drive in Salisbury.

    More
  • Morning Weather: January 17

    Morning Weather: January 17

Powered by Frankly

All content © Copyright 2000 - 2018 WBOC. All Rights Reserved. For more information on this site, please read our Privacy Policy, and Terms of Service, and Ad Choices