Last week, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke announced three major developments in American offshore wind energy that set the table for fishermen engagement through public comment on plans. Two of the announcements impact fishermen in Rhode Island and Massachusetts directly.
Last Friday the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) published a Notice of Intent to prepare/review an Environmental Impact Statement (ESI) for the Construction and Operations Plan (COP) for the South Fork Wind Farm project off Massachusetts and Rhode Island being developed by Deepwater Wind.
If approved, the plan would allow construction and operation of up to 15 turbines that connect via a transmission cable to a grid in East Hampton, New York — the east end of Long Island. The project is approximately 19 miles southeast of Block Island. The notice will have a 30-day public comment period closing on November 19.
“The public will have the opportunity to review the Construction and Operations Plan and provide input to BOEM at three community meetings to be held in East Hampton, Rhode Island, and in Massachusetts, or through written comment,” Jeffrey Grybowski, CEO of Deepwater Wind said. “We’re on-track to begin construction on the South Fork Wind Farm once the EIS and permits are in-hand, by 2021, and to deliver clean energy to the South Fork starting in 2022.”
An open house will be held at the Narragansett Community Center, at 53 Munford Road in Narragansett, RI, on Thursday, Nov. 8. In New Bedford, the meeting will be Wednesday, November 7 at UMass-Dartmouth’s School for Marine Science and Technology East, located at 836 South Rodney French Boulevard. Both open houses are from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., with a presentation followed by a question-and-answer session starting at 6 p.m. For copies of the plans and information on how to comment online, by mail or for information on the Long Island meeting, visit https://www.boem.gov/South-Fork/.
In a second development last week, Secretary Zink announced a much-anticipated wind auction in federal waters off the coast of Massachusetts which will take place on December 19. And, the third announcement pertained to the next steps to the first-ever wind auction in federal waters off California.
Now is the time for anglers to engage by reviewing these plans, attending public meetings and presenting their comments on construction and operations plans as the South Folk Wind Farm Environmental Impact Statement is being developed and reviewed.
Jersey fishermen organize for seat at wind-farm table
Last Thursday, 35 recreational fishermen attended an informational meeting held by Anglers for Offshore Wind Power at the Langosta Restaurant in Asbury Park, NJ. Fishermen listened to a summary of wind-farm development plans scheduled for New Jersey, and as a Rhode Island fisherman, I shared the positive experience local fishermen have had with the Block Island Wind Farm through planning, construction and operation.
Anglers for Offshore Wind Power, a project of the National Wildlife Federation, sponsored the informational meeting. The group’s mission is to provide anglers with the information and resources needed to play a part in ensuring ocean wind farms are responsibly developed.
Capt. Paul Eidman of Reel Therapy Fly & Light Tackle Charters in New Jersey and a fish advocate for Anglers for Offshore Wind Power, said, “The state of New Jersey plans to generate 3,500 megawatts of clean energy though wind power over the next 12 years (this is enough energy to power approximately 1.5 million homes). This is the largest offshore wind energy commitment of any state to date. Our job is to make sure our concerns for safety and those to safeguard the fish and habitat are addressed as ocean wind farms develop.”
Zach Cockrum of the National Wildlife Federation, said, “Offshore wind is a proven technology that has been generating clean energy elsewhere in the world for nearly three decades. Offshore wind also reduces pollution that is harming fish, and creates good-paying jobs.”
The presentation I gave related the new habitat created and abundance of fish being caught in the Block Island Wind Farm Area, i.e., scup, black sea bass, summer flounder, cod, bluefish and striped bass. Turbine foundations there have acted as artificial reef structure creating new fish habitat. Video footage of the bases shows mussel growth with scup and black sea bass feeding and larger fish such as striped bass and bluefish circling the bases interested in feeding on the smaller fish.
Fishermen at the meeting said they question where the New Jersey turbines would be sited with concerns about them being in high-traffic areas as well as in areas where scallops and ocean clams are presently harvested commercially.
Where’s the bite?
Cape Cod Canal. Ed Doherty of Mattapoisett said Monday, “I plugged the east end this morning. Only school bass taken by a few guys until I fooled a 30-inch with my trusty soft plastic white five-ounce Bill Hurley paddle tail lure. It was a beautiful healthy fish. As soon as I released him, he headed west for South Carolina and is probably spending tonight in the waters off of the Ocean State. Canal was very clean with not much seaweed coming in on the west tide from Cape Cod Bay.”
Striped bass, bluefish and false albacore fishing has been very good. In Mt. Hope and Narragansett bays, bluefish with striped bass under them have been surfacing. Dave Henault of Ocean State Tackle said, “Angler Jim Gilbane was able to hook up with striped bass in the 21- to 25-inch range fishing under blue fish in Mt. Hope Bay Sunday when fishing with his son. We also have some large gator bluefish in the Providence River basin and in front of the Hurricane Barrier in Providence.” Ken Ferrara of Ray’s Bait & Tackle said, “Bluefish are all over the bay with false albacore working their way up into the bay, as they are following the bait that pushed into the bay with recent storms.”
Tautog fishing remained strong for those that made it out in windy/rough conditions this week and over the weekend. Anglers are caching their limit at rock piles and on ledges off Newport, Pt. Judith and off Narragansett Pier. Ken Ferrara of Ray’s Bait & Tackle in Warwick said, “The tautog bite is very good in the bay with nice keepers being taken at the Coddington Cove jetty, Hope Island and around the bridges.” Dave Henault of Ocean State Tackle said, “Tautog fishing paid off for those that got out in high winds and bad weather. Nice plump keepers have been taken at Conimicut Light, at Bold Point, and at Pier Five, Narragansett.” Capt. Frank Blount of the Frances Fleet said, “Last Friday we had very good action on the blackfish. High hooks left with limits of fish to nine pounds.”