BOEM will offer wind leases in New York Bight; scallop fishermen ask for a delay
The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management will offer eight new offshore wind lease areas in New York Bight, potentially opening up to 627,000 acres for energy development between New Jersey and Long Island.
With a production potential of more than 7 gigawatts, the leased areas are touted by the Biden administration as a new economic engine for the region – with and the explicit promise of Home Secretary Deb Haaland to put “a priority on creating and sustaining goods – paying for unionized jobs as we build a clean energy economy.
Northeastern state governors and lawmakers have made offshore wind development a new industry that will benefit their organized labor political allies, and this theme is at the center of the administration’s new ‘whole-of-government’ campaign. .
Friday’s announcement prompted an immediate setback for commercial fishermen in the scallop industry, one of the nation’s richest and most successful fleets, urging BOEM to delay rental and adjust proposed areas to preserve important shellfish habitat.
The agency should “move the boundaries of the Hudson South region to just five miles, so that BOEM can better ensure that critical scallop populations are not affected, while not diminishing the potential for wind power in the area. the area, ”according to the Fisheries Survival Fund, an advocacy group for the east coast scallop industry.
The rental in central New York Bight is expected to “be postponed for the time being, given the area’s great importance for scallops,” the group said.
This is the latest wave by the Biden administration to speed up planning for offshore wind, following announced plans for two wind power zones off California and a new study to determine the interest of the wind industry in the potential development of the Gulf of Mexico. So far, BOEM has organized 8 competitive lease sales and issued 17 active offshore wind commercial leases in the Atlantic from Massachusetts to North Carolina.
For the New York Bight, a Federal Register Proposed Sale Notice (PSN) Friday opened a 60-day public comment period and “provides detailed information on potential areas that may be available for rental, proposed rental terms and conditions, auction details,” according to the agency.
BOEM is proposing new lease clauses “which will reaffirm its commitment to create well-paying union jobs and engage with all stakeholders and users of the ocean. Some of these potential stipulations include:
• A requirement to make all reasonable efforts to enter into a project work agreement covering the construction of any proposed project for the rental area.
• A requirement to include a summary of stakeholder and ocean user engagement as part of tenant progress reporting requirements. This summary would describe the current users of the ocean in New York Bight, the engagement activities with those users during the reporting period, and a description of efforts to minimize any conflict between existing users and the tenant. This provision is intended to strengthen the current fisheries communication requirements and improve coordination between the lessee and the fishing communities from the outset of the planning of the proposed wind facilities.
• Mechanisms to deliver benefits to underserved communities and investments in a national supply chain, consistent with the goals and objectives of the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act. “
Despite BOEM’s avowed intention to include coordination with the fishing industry, the Fisheries Survival Fund has stated that “the lease sales currently offered by the government… do not incorporate any of the recommendations made by the FSF or the town of New Bedford, the country’s most valuable fishing port.
The advocacy group has sought – mostly unsuccessful, so far – to get federal courts to restrict BOEM’s offshore wind planning in the region. Crossed by scallops based from North Carolina to New England, the New York Bight boasts some of the most prolific bottoms in the fishery which, in 2019, landed over 60.6 million pounds worth $ 570 million according to the National Marine Fisheries Service.
“In the New York stopover areas alone, there were $ 268 million in scallops landed over a five-year period, from 2012 to 2016. Atlantic sea scallops are, in fact, the fishery. The country’s most valuable federally managed property, ”the group said.
Two of the wind power zones designated by BOEM, called Hudson South and Central Bight, “are located in particularly sensitive areas for scallops,” according to the group. “In their current form, these areas, including hundreds of thousands of acres of ocean, will have a serious negative impact on the fishery.”
The most easterly concession areas proposed in Hudson South are adjacent to the Hudson Canyon Scallop Access Area, one of the Northeast’s most significant scallop areas which, from 2001 to 2018, was produces some 60 million pounds of scallops valued at over $ 600 million.
A recent scientific study credited the successful management of scallops in the Hudson Canyon region by the NMFS and the New England Fishery Management Council resulted in a seven-fold increase in scallops in the elephant trunk scallop access area nearby – so called for its curvy appearance on maps east of Cape May, New Jersey
Maintaining this biomass has also maintained the abundance of scallops off the coast of Delmarva, according to the Fisheries Survival Fund.
“The ecological and economic benefits of the Hudson Canyon SAA explain why the FSF requested that BOEM operate under the well-recognized ‘precautionary principle’ to create a buffer zone between the South Hudson wind farms and this critical area of scallops, ”the group said.