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Revolution Wind developer to pay $3.5M to R.I. fishermen for undersea cables

Providence Business News|Nancy Lavin|December 14, 2022
Rhode IslandOffshore WindTransmission

Conflict between fishermen and offshore wind developers is not new; the groups have butted heads repeatedly as the massive wind farms work their way through federal and state reviews. That includes in Rhode Island, where the CRMC in 2021 signed off on another wind farm, South Fork Wind, over objections from fishing industry representatives. While the process for leasing and reviewing major offshore wind turbines largely rests at the federal level, the CRMC through its Ocean Special Area Management Plan gets a say for wind farm projects within a certain distance of the state coastline.


The Revolution Wind farm developers have agreed to pay $3.5 million to local fishermen to offset potential harms from the cables connecting the wind turbines to land at Quonset Business Park. The payment was included in the R.I. Coastal Resources Management Council's approval of the cable burial plan Tuesday. Pictured is the Block Island Wind Farm. 

PROVIDENCE – Initial tensions between Rhode Island fishermen and an offshore wind developer over the project’s cable burial plan have dissipated, eased by a $3.5 million compensation package.

The payment, as well as other mitigation efforts such as extra studies on how undersea cables impact native fish species, was incorporated into state coastal regulators’ Tuesday approval of the Revolution …

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The Revolution Wind farm developers have agreed to pay $3.5 million to local fishermen to offset potential harms from the cables connecting the wind turbines to land at Quonset Business Park. The payment was included in the R.I. Coastal Resources Management Council's approval of the cable burial plan Tuesday. Pictured is the Block Island Wind Farm. 

PROVIDENCE – Initial tensions between Rhode Island fishermen and an offshore wind developer over the project’s cable burial plan have dissipated, eased by a $3.5 million compensation package.

The payment, as well as other mitigation efforts such as extra studies on how undersea cables impact native fish species, was incorporated into state coastal regulators’ Tuesday approval of the Revolution Wind cable burial plan. The R.I. Coastal Resources Management Council’s unanimous decision concludes a more than year-long saga of public hearings and private negotiations, focused largely on fishing industry concerns with the project.

Conflict between fishermen and offshore wind developers is not new; the groups have butted heads repeatedly as the massive wind farms work their way through federal and state reviews. That includes in Rhode Island, where the CRMC in 2021 signed off on another wind farm, South Fork Wind, over objections from fishing industry representatives. 

While the process for leasing and reviewing major offshore wind turbines largely rests at the federal level, the CRMC through its Ocean Special Area Management Plan gets a say for wind farm projects within a certain distance of the state coastline.

That includes the 704-megawatts Revolution Wind Farm Orsted A/S and Eversource Energy planned for federal waters off the coast of Block Island.

The CRMC still has to review the full project, including the 100 turbines, for its impact on Rhode Island waters and coastline. The decision Tuesday relates only to the cables and transmission connecting the turbines to Quonset Business Park, as well as plans for a new National Grid substation there. 

Fishing groups, including the Fishermen’s Advisory Board and the R.I. Saltwater Anglers Association, initially expressed concern with the 23-mile-long underwater electric lines running from Revolution Wind through Rhode Island Sound and Narragansett Bay to the mainland power grid. Industry representatives said the noise, electromagnetic fields and materials used to build and bury the cables could harm the fish species and habitats, in turn hurting recreational and commercial fishermen, according to documents submitted to the CRMC.

Based on these concerns, and requests for more time to study how the emerging industry might impact the ocean environment, the CRMC agreed to postpone its initial decision. Which is how the opposing sides came together.

Marisa Desautel, an attorney representing the Fishermen’s Advisory Board, on Tuesday called the memorandum of understanding  a “very reasonable agreement” that can serve as an example for future negotiations on other offshore wind projects.

Meaghan Wims, a spokesperson for Revolution Wind LLC, also said the developers were “pleased” with the agreement.

“The package is grounded in science-based fisheries analysis from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and designed to further support Revolution Wind’s co-existence with commercial fishermen and others in the fishing industry,” Wims said in an emailed statement on Wednesday.

A majority of the payment package, about $3.1 million, would be given directly to fishermen to offset losses from the cable installation and burial. The total amount was  determined based on a per-day cost over the estimated 60-day construction timeline. If the cable burial takes longer, the developer will pay more, while it will pay less if construction finishes ahead of schedule, according to Robin Main, an attorney representing Revolution Wind LLC. 

The developer is putting $200,000 into a community fund for grants to support the fishing community, and another $200,000 into a third-party trust, which will review and approve claim requests from fishermen.

The agreement also calls for the R.I. Department of Environmental Management to survey fishermen in 2027 about how the cables have affected area species. If the survey and data collection shows the cables have created a “statistically significant” change in the number or type of species, the developer will give more money to affected fishermen.

The meeting Tuesday included public comment, though only a handful of people spoke and were largely in support of the project.

Coastal regulators are slated to issue a federal consistency decision on the entire project, including the turbines, by February of 2023. The U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management is also in the midst of its own review, with a final decision expected in the summer 2023, according to BOEM spokeswoman Lissa Eng. 

Assuming the project secures necessary permits on schedule, construction is slated to start in the fall 0f 2023, with a targeted 2025 completion date. Once completed, the project by Orsted A/S and Eversource Energy will supply power to Rhode Island and Connecticut.


Source:https://pbn.com/revolution-wi…

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