RODA Calls for Pause in Gulf of Maine Offshore Wind Regulatory Process Amid COVID-19 Pandemic, Among Other Requests

WASHINGTON, DC / ACCESSWIRE / April 14, 2020 / In a letter sent today to Governors Charlie Baker (MA), Janet Mills (ME) and Chris Sununu (NH), and Dr. Walter Cruickshank, Acting Director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, the Responsible Offshore Development Alliance (RODA) made four requests regarding offshore wind development in the Gulf of Maine, including a six-month pause in the regulatory process during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Because of the use of floating offshore structures for offshore wind development in the Gulf of Maine, lease areas will become de facto closures to fishing, making it a topic of extreme concern to the region’s fishermen and fishing communities, wrote RODA Executive Director Annie Hawkins.

“Public participation and engagement is exceedingly important throughout the entire regulatory process, but especially at the early stages of project siting,” Ms. Hawkins wrote. “Due to COVID-19, many meetings and opportunities for this engagement have been postponed until further notice.”

The fishing industry has been hit especially hard by the pandemic, forcing the commercial fishing sector to divert time and effort to addressing the current crisis, and leaving insufficient opportunities for engagement in offshore wind siting and other planning, according to the letter. A six-month pause would not only demonstrate good faith to the fishing industry, but also allow for additional research on offshore wind’s impact on marine ecosystems and better data sharing that will benefit offshore development moving forward.

Second, the letter called for the creation of a fisheries-driven Gulf of Maine regional working group to fully participate in the offshore development process. Fishermen in Maine, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts all fish in the Gulf of Maine, and are currently forced to follow every meeting and engagement opportunity in each state to fully understand how offshore wind would affect their livelihoods. A regional group, convened and led by the fishing industry, would more efficiently address industry concerns and allow for industry input, according to the letter.

Third, RODA reiterated its previous request, also made by the New England Fishery Management Council and others, that BOEM not consider any unsolicited bids for offshore wind development areas in the Gulf of Maine. The letter called for states to support this request because unsolicited bids circumvent sufficient and comprehensive engagement with other users, especially fishermen.

Finally, on behalf of Gulf of Maine fishermen, RODA requested greater transparency in offshore wind procurement goals and their context within overall energy strategies. A more open exchange of information regarding the region’s existing and potential energy sources would benefit all those who depend on resources in the Gulf of Maine, RODA wrote.

In an indication of strong industry support for RODA’s requests, the letter was signed by over 50 individuals representing Northeast fishery sectors, fishing associations, vessel owners, and seafood businesses throughout Maine, Massachusetts and New Hampshire.

RODA is a membership-based coalition of fishing-related companies and associations committed to improving the compatibility of new offshore development with their businesses. RODA’s approximately 170 members represent every Atlantic coastal state from North Carolina to Maine, and Pacific coast members in California, Oregon and Washington.

Bob Vanasse

SOURCE: Responsible Offshore Development Alliance

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