Public Health & Recreation

Anglers Concerned About Effects of Mayflower Wind Project’s Cable on Fish Habitats

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Mayflower Wind has said the impact to marine habitats from the buried cable will be minimal, and maintenance of the cables will be limited to surveys of the river floor around the cable corridor. (Semper Offshore)

PORTSMOUTH, R.I. — An organized group of recreational anglers is opposing a proposal that would bury an export cable from a new offshore wind farm under the Sakonnet River.

The Rhode Island Saltwater Anglers Association (RISAA) has come out against the proposal from offshore wind developer Mayflower Wind, expressing concerns over the impacts to existing fish habitats, and recreational fishing.

“We believe that during cable installation, an industrial operation such as burying a cable that is more than a foot wide will disturb fishing across the entire River,” wrote RISAA president Greg Vespa in a letter sent last month to Mayflower Wind.

The group instead advocates for Mayflower Wind to avoid using the river entirely and proposed that the company run the cable over land in Massachusetts from Westport to Fall River, where land is already developed and disturbance to habitats would be minimal.

RISAA also expressed concern over the impacts to cod stocks. The New England Fishery Management Council has designated the Sakonnet River as an inshore juvenile cod habitat area of particular concern, and cod fishing remains restricted.

Mayflower Wind said it has conducted extensive field surveys to assess seabed conditions across its entire project area, including the proposed cable corridor in the Sakonnet River. The bottom of the river is mostly mud and silt, with areas of crepidula, a kind of colonizing mollusk, according to preliminary data from the company.

Results of the field surveys will be assessed by the appropriate Rhode Island agencies for potential impacts on fish habitats, but the company asserts the impacts to fishing will remain minimal.

“Because of the speed and nature of the cable installation, the construction phase will create minimal interference with vessel traffic, including recreational fishing,” said Daniel Hubbard, Mayflower Wind’s director of external affairs. “During construction the seabed will be disturbed but recovery will occur relatively quickly with minimal long-term disturbance around the installation area.”

Operation and maintenance of the cable will also have minimal impacts, according to Hubbard. Once the cables are buried, the only expected intrusion will be an annual seabed survey on the areas surrounding the cable.

Recreational anglers use the Sakonnet River from March to December, catching black sea bass, summer flounder, blue fish, striped bass and scup, according to RISAA vice president Rich Hittinger.

“Our concern is the Sakonnet River,” said Hittinger. “It’s heavily used for fishing.”

The Mayflower Wind project is a joint venture between the renewable energy arm of Royal Dutch Shell and renewable energy developer Ocean Winds (itself the joint venture of two European multinational utility companies).

Its lease area is roughly 30 nautical miles south of Martha’s Vineyard and contains 149 positions for turbines and substations. The wind farm is estimated to generate 2,400 megawatts of energy, enough to power 800,000 homes across New England.

The Mayflower Wind offshore wind project would bury an export cable up Rhode Island Sound, through the Sakonnet River and across Aquidneck Island before landing at a proposed substation site at Brayton Point, Mass. (Mayflower Wind)

The generated power will be transported along two main export cables: one landing in Falmouth, Mass., and another snaking its way up Rhode Island Sound through the Sakonnet River before it takes a left turn to go overland under the town of Portsmouth and exiting across Mount Hope Bay to a proposed substation site at Brayton Point.

At a meeting last month, Mayflower Wind officials emphasized the project would create 14,000 new jobs between construction and the 30 years the farm will be in operation. The operations and maintenance port in Fall River would create around 400 full-time jobs, 75% of which Mayflower Wind has pledged to hire locally.

Rhode Island remains hungry for energy. The state’s Office of Energy resources earlier this week opened the comment period on a request for proposal (RFP) on the new offshore wind procurement act signed into law earlier this year by Gov. Dan McKee. The law provides that Rhode Island procure 600 MW or more of electricity from offshore wind sources.

State lawmakers earlier this year also passed an aggressive 100% renewable energy standard, requiring all electricity sold in Rhode Island by 2033 to be offset with renewable energy projects such as the Mayflower Wind offshore farm.

The push for renewable energy is also coming at a time where the state is feeling the impacts of climate change. Storms over Labor Day weekend dropped 11 inches of rain in Cranston — more rainfall than the state received all summer — across a 24-hour period, overwhelming stormwater management systems on I-95 and collapsing one building in Providence.

But the project still has to work its way through Rhode Island’s regulatory apparatus, the Energy Facility Siting Board. Mayflower Wind gave a brief overview of the project to the board on Aug. 18. Both the towns of Tiverton and Little Compton petitioned the board for intervenor status at the meeting, contending they would be affected by the project.

The EFSB has yet to issue a ruling on the matter.

Mayflower Wind continues to host community outreach events as the project progresses. Concerned recreational fishermen can meet with officials from the company during their monthly Port Hours at Point Judith. The next port hours event is scheduled for Friday, Sept. 9, at 9 a.m.

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  1. Offshore wind companies will in all likelihood use HVDC lines in Rhode Island and all along the East Coast.
    There is presently only four high-voltage direct-current (HVDC) transmission systems operating in North America.

    There was a questionnaire sent by post and distributed by campaign groups in 1980 to people living near a 400,000 volt HVDC overhead power line in Minnesota, followed up by telephone calls. The survey was called the “Minnesota Landowner Health Perceptions Survey.”

    Up to 35% of the respondents said they had suffered adverse health effects that they attributed to the HDVC power line.

    An epidemiologic study was not conducted on the residents. This study and investigation could have compared two or more groups of people who are alike except for one factor, the 400,000-volt high voltage direct current power line.

    Today there are no epidemiologic studies for HVDC in the United States.

    There are no health studies on the health of people living near High Voltage Direct Current power lines.

    There are no epidemiological studies done for DC cables vs Alternating Current cables and EMF

    There are no public or publicly available studies available for High Voltage Direct Current power lines.

    The plan in Falmouth, Massachusetts, and Portsmouth, RI next appears to be for two buried HVDC, High Voltage Direct Current at 345,000 volts. The plan also includes spare cable ducts for later.

    The cables will run through residential locations in Falmouth, Ma, & Portsmouth RI

    The total output of the Pilgrim Nuclear Plant on Cape Cod was 680 megawatts. These buried cables using a four duct system of 800 megawatts per cable duct are four time higher than a nuclear plant buried through neighborhoods…..

  2. Let’s assume for the sake of argument that the Mayflower wind power company is behaving ethically and environmentally carefully and that any disruption to Sakonnet recreational fishing would be very minor and temporary, during the period the cable is out into place. That doesn’t explain why they chose (and were granted by RI authorities) that all-water route to Fall River in the first place, rather than bringing the cable to shore at the closest landfall, somewhere between Westport and Little Compton. Is it correct to assume that the Sakonnet option was preferred because a longer land corridor would have been more costly and more problematic politically, as private properties would need to be acquired or taken through eminent domain for the onland cable route? If so, those additional costs would presumably ultimately be paid by RI & Mass electricity consumers – perhaps still worth it, but quantifiable.

  3. You can’t have it both ways.You oppose towers and electric lines for transmission of the power and you oppose burying of the cable.
    Has an environmental impact study not a simple overview but an in depth review of the environmental impact of the proposal. Then if approved a clerk of the works employed by DEM with the power to shutdown the project fl it is in noncompliance of all environmental safeguards.
    This clerk much make weekly written reports to the director if DEM detailing progress or lack thereof of the project.

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