Articles filed under Impact on Wildlife from Massachusetts
[S]ome fear that this project and others in the planning stage could also irreparably harm Massachusetts fishing and lobstering industries in the vicinity of these turbine sites. But that didn’t stop the Biden administration, as part of its aggressive offshore wind and renewable-energy agenda, from issuing final permits for Vineyard Wind in May. It’s evident that not all green-conscious activists believe wind power’s the optimum clean-energy solution.
Concerns about the fate of the right whale, whose population is dwindling, are not new. The downturn in the whale population is already happening without any wind farms being built, primarily because the whales are being hit by boats or becoming ensnared in fishing nets. Still, officials from 17 prominent environmental groups wrote a letter to the National Marine Fisheries Service in September 2020 raising concerns that regulators were failing to protect environmentally endangered mammals, including right whales, in their review of offshore wind projects. It’s unclear whether any changes were made in response to the letter; efforts to reach two of the signers were unsuccessful. Erica Fuller of the Conservation Law Foundation in Boston did not return calls over a two-day period.
The group, Nantucket Residents Against Turbines, says the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and National Marine Fisheries failed to ensure that Vineyard Wind would not jeopardize the survival of federally listed critically endangered species like the North Atlantic right whale. The suit also names Interior Secretary Debra Haaland and Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo. "The North Atlantic right whale is on the verge of extinction. However, one of its longtime safe havens – where there is ample food and protective areas for birthing and rearing young – is the area immediately south-southwest of Nantucket Island," the lawsuit reads.
Little is known about the impact offshore wind could have on wildlife. Scientists across the country agree we need to be monitoring its potential impacts, though it’s not consistently studied across the country. “I believe strongly in responsible development of offshore wind. I think it is a key to fighting climate change,” said Jessica Redfern, a senior scientist at the New England Aquarium. “What’s critically important is that it is responsibly developed and to have responsible development, we need to continue monitoring and understanding species numbers, understanding a species that are in the area, how long they’re there.”
Between December and May, almost a quarter of the right whale population may be present in the region, and the individual residence time for whales has increased to 13 days during the period, the study states. Visual and acoustic monitoring, from flight surveys and photography, showed consistent use of the wind energy area by a third of the species, including 30 per cent of breeding females. The study was funded by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, the federal agency responsible for permitting offshore wind development, as well as the state Clean Energy Center.
Conducted by scientists with NOAA Fisheries, the New England Aquarium and the Center for Coastal Studies using aerial survey data from 2011 through 2019, the study found that 327 unique right whales have been spotted in the waters of southern New England, making the area a crucial habitat for a species teetering on the edge of extinction. Scientists estimate the North Atlantic right whale population at less than 400 total specimens, including approximately 100 breeding females.
Overwhelming, too, for Al Eagles, a lobsterman from Newport, who questioned why the federal government is allowing projects to go forward when so little is known about their effects. “To me, everything you said up here was all unknowns,” Eagles said to Hare. “We could be devastating entire species out there. By the time we realize it, it would be too late.” Lanny Dellinger, also a Newport lobsterman and chair of a board that advises Rhode Island coastal regulators on fishing issues related to offshore wind, said the entire fishing industry is under threat.
Advocates and legislators gathered Monday to discuss the threats facing North Atlantic right whales and to call for more conservation efforts.
Locally, Massachusetts and Rhode Island commercial and recreation fishermen continue to be concerned about the lack of habitat and fish studies before development starts in wind farm lease areas.
Project officials late Wednesday announced that they had been informed by the Department of Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) that “they are not yet prepared to issue” the final environmental impact statement (EIS) for the 800 megawatt project.
The Massachusetts Fishermen’s Partnership claims that the 84-turbine offshore wind project soon to be developed by Vineyard Wind lacks scientific backing and will inevitably harm the local ecology and way of life for fishermen and boaters.
Vineyard Wind says it will adopt research measures recommended by a local university to monitor the effects on fisheries of the 84-turbine offshore wind farm.
In a March 15 letter, Michael Pentony, the head of the Greater Atlantic Regional Fisheries Office, warned that the report on Vineyard Wind completed by the U.S Bureau of Ocean Energy Management in December included conclusions that were not well supported by data and needed additional analysis of several key angles of impact.
Brady said the Block Island Wind Farm, owned by Deepwater, is only five turbines, tiny by comparison to Vineyard. Yet charter fishermen, who traditionally operate south of the wind farm from January through April, reported a dismal fishing season: the once bountiful cod had disappeared. Ørsted Energy, the parent company of Deepwater, like the owners of the Vineyard, have a practice of paying off fishermen whose livelihoods are damaged by the wind farms.
While the newly discovered right whale gatherings have attracted scientists studying population trends, food sources and more, the information arose because state offshore wind energy officials want to answer some basic questions. The four-year study sets baseline data about marine wildlife in the lease areas, and that information could be used in federal and state environmental permitting in the future, Massachusetts Clean Energy Center Offshore Wind Director William White said.
Federal agencies violated Endangered Species Act and must go back to the drawing board to evaluate impacts and protection measures for birds and right whales. ...The plaintiffs have long argued that Nantucket Sound is the wrong place for this project. The court's decision requires the federal government to go back to the drawing board to take the required hard look at the impacts that make Cape Wind's proposal so harmful for the environment.
With planes and underwater recordings, the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center has been cataloguing which marine mammals and turtles pass through two offshore areas set aside for wind turbine development. The survey aims to paint a full picture of the underwater residents of these energy areas in order to make sure the whales, dolphins and turtles are not disturbed by any turbines that will be driven into the seabed.
The technology lets researchers track all of the tagged birds on one frequency but identify them separately, including 600 birds and bats tagged by other researchers in the Gulf of Maine. ...The Nantucket Sound pilot project is designed to help researchers figure out what marine and coastal birds are doing and where they are doing it offshore, said Caleb Spiegel, a biologist with the wildlife service, which is supporting the work.
EAST SANDWICH - The view from Spring Hill Beach includes pieces from a complicated puzzle: large wind turbines, tiny birds and David.
As the permitting process for a wind turbine at Mass Audubon's Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary is about to begin, I still can't connect the dots with regard to common sense here. ...Seems so hypocritical to me since, according to its website, Wellfleet Audubon's woodlands attract a wide variety of wildlife, especially songbirds and shorebirds. But apparently a wind turbine isn't in conflict with nature? Really?