Energy

Block Island Wind Farm Work Frustrates Fishermen

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PROVIDENCE — Building the country’s first offshore wind farm hasn’t come without its glitches. Since construction began last summer off Block Island, there have been safety slip-ups and lapses with equipment. The latest issues relate to fishing and undersea cables.

Concerns about fishing access at the five-turbine site have persisted since last July. Fishermen were initially kept outside a 500-yard safety zone whenever workboats were stationed at any of the turbine foundations.

“We have a small contingent of fishermen that are really unhappy with the progress and the scheduling and delays of this project,” said David Beutel, an aquaculture specialist with the Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC).

Beutel noted that the buffers are particularly inconvenient for fishermen using gillnets. Gillnets are sheets of nylon mesh that ensnare fish by entangling their gills. The nets are sometimes fixed on or near the sea floor to snare groundfish such as cod, haddock, pollock, flounder and hake.

Monkfish fishermen from three fishing boats are complaining because their permits only allow the use of gillnets in state waters. The wind farm is in Rhode Island waters at the boundary with federal waters.

“They want to set [their nets] in between the turbines and, when the jack-up vessels come and when the cable-laying vessels come, they need to move their gear. That is their issue,” Beutel told the CRMC governing board at its April 26 meeting.

The issue calmed somewhat after construction ceased between November and April and peak fishing season slowed. Construction, however, is expected to ramp up this month just as spring fish migration begins. The turbine site will be crowded with more boats, including vessels with overnight quarters. Now that the base structures have been installed, the 500-yard buffer has become less restrictive and only applies to the area around a single turbine when a workboat is at the structure.

The 25-mile cable-laying project between Block Island and Narragansett is causing similar concerns. National Grid is building and will own the underwater power line system that will deliver wind energy to the mainland.

In recent weeks, drilling the 4- to 8-foot deep trench in the seafloor has been slowed by poor weather and a stubborn substratum of granite off Scarborough Beach. The process requires dive teams and offshore boats. The trench digging frustrates fishermen because, unlike the immovable wind farm, the mobile trench boats require a 200-yard floating buffer. According to National Grid, the trench digging is about 85 percent complete and is expected to finish in two weeks.

The slowdown prompted National Grid to seek a 45-day extension for completing its trench and cable work. The request didn’t go over well with the New Shoreham (Block Island) Town Council. After a meeting in executive session April 25, the council voted to reject National Grid’s terms for an extension and instead asked the utility to pay an unspecified fee. National Grid rejected the counteroffer, calling the payment a large sum that funds some purposes unrelated to the project.

“We’re committed to working with the town and other stakeholders as we continue to advance construction,” National Grid wrote in prepared statement.

A cable-laying vessel connecting the wind farm to the Block Island Power Co. also is having unspecified complications. Deepwater Wind, the developer of the wind farm and the cable from the turbines to Block Island, hasn’t said if the complications will push back the launch of the 30-megawatt wind farm, which is expected to be operational in the last quarter of this year.

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  1. You Know What . . . Screw the Fishermen !
    They’ve been DISTORYING the ocean environment for 150 years & more !
    They troll the waters all in the name of the Almighty Dollar. They practice 0 stewardship of the sacred ocean they so loudly pronounce as theirs. If they could – they’d take every single fish out of the water – and care nothing for the next generations. Maybe giving the fish a break from their nets is just what the doctor ordered.
    I have absolutely NO SYMPHATY for these last remnants of legal hunters who believe they have a Right to completely destroy the last of the wild places – hidden from vast majority of human eyes.
    Screw them, and all their crying.
    For a short time – Many Years ago – I’ve worked with them side by side. and watched as they laughed all the way to the bank !, at the expense of countless tonnage of once living things they raped out of the ocean.

    As an environmental watchdog group – be warned – be VERY, VERY Careful of who’s tears you decide to advertise !

    GB

  2. Jay Carr
    Just got around to reading Greg and his eloquent description of commercial fishermen. According to Gregg, they destroy the ocean, troll for the almighty dollar, practice zero stewardship, claim to own the ocean, would take every fish from the ocean, and care nothing for their children’s future. Oh, and did I say that they rape the ocean also.
    Imagine creating all this carnage year after year, generation after generation, in the most dangerous occupation in the country for an income that is generally less then that of a policeman or fireman (those rate 13 and 25 respectively on the dangerous occupation list). I never realized that this noble and historical vocation, feeding their families and providing fresh fish for their neighbors, could be so terminally devastating. Yes, "screw the fishermen"! And screw the farmers too! They rape the land and kill the animals……and …..and…..where does Gregg get his food from, anyway?

  3. oh Greg….you didn’t say that! My family has been fishing since before the Mayflower landed. They fished in England, then came to the "new" world. Fishing has NEVER been raped by our Commercial guys, back in the day the Soviets and Chinese with their "Mother" ships raped our fishing grounds. Since then Mag-Stevens Act, fish have rebounded to high numbers. If the truth be told here, the "sport" guys do more of the raping than commercial guys. Sport guys fill their coolers , then bring ashore and sell them. Whereas commercial have quotas and tags, all fish accountable. When you SPORT guys start accounting for what you land then and ONLY then can you make a statement!

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