Measures taken to ensure preservation of shipwrecks as underwater transmission projects develop

Dan Friedhoff, secretary of the Straits of Mackinac Shipwreck Preserve and Michigan Underwater Preserve Council (MUPC), remembers going onboard the Cedarville as a young boy with his father, who was a crewman on the ship, walking the deck and wandering around over time before the 600-foot ship sank in an accident on May 7, 1965 in Lake Huron.

Ten men were lost from the crew of 35 that day. His father, William, who was about 37 years old at the time, was among the survivors, Friedhoff told TransmissionHub on Oct. 17.

He had been sailing for seven years before the accident, Friedhoff said of his father, who had broken his leg in the sinking when he was thrown overboard but did not realize it was broken for some time after the accident because the water was so cold that it numbed his leg.

“That was enough of a motivation that he gave up sailing,” he said. “He never sailed again. After that, he became a truck driver. He said he wanted a job where if something went wrong, he could get out and walk home.”

Now, the younger Friedhoff goes back and dives the wreck. When his father died about nine years ago, it was his wish to be buried on his former ship.

“[W]e had him cremated and my wife and I put his ashes back in his room on the shipwreck,” he said. “We had started diving just a few years before that and he said, ‘Okay, good then, I know what I want to do when I die.’ We put him in his room. I put his ashes in a cylinder and placed him back in his room.”

Friedhoff said the special connection to that ship is why he has become involved in preserving such shipwrecks.

Planning underwater electric transmission projects

While areas along the East Coast have seen underwater electric transmission projects proposed, resulting in the need to ensure such projects do not negatively affect such historical artifacts, that has not been the case in the Great Lakes to date.

“Normally, I don’t think underwater electric transmission lines are an issue for us,” Friedhoff said.

The MUPC is an umbrella group covering 13 preserves around the state.

“What we’ve understood so far is the state is nowhere close to approving any offshore [wind projects], but if they were to do that, I’m pretty sure [with] anything they want to put on the bottom [of the Great Lakes] like that, they would consult with the” Michigan Underwater Preserve and Salvage Committee, he said, adding that several MUPC members have seats on that committee and would have some input.

“I’m sure that if they were going to try to do something offshore [involving an energy project], that they would consult with us to make sure that they would not put it on a known shipwreck, and that they would give us an area to consider,” he said. “Then, I suppose that it’s possible that some interested parties would go out and survey just to make sure there’s nothing that they hadn’t noticed before.”

There has been talk about putting offshore wind energy farms in deeper water where unchartered shipwrecks could be located, but so far, nothing has come of it, he said, adding, “We have discussed it briefly in meetings years ago but … we haven’t really had any concrete action on it.”

As TransmissionHub reported in April, developers are banking on the calmer waters of the Great Lakes to build offshore wind energy, compared to the waves, tides and currents associated with the oceans. For instance, the Lake Erie Energy Development Corporation’s Icebreaker demonstration project has been proposed in Cleveland Bay, about seven miles from downtown Cleveland, Ohio.

One project along the East Coast that has prepared for shipwrecks is Transmission Developers Inc.’s $2.2bn, 333-mile Champlain Hudson Power Express project, which involves a high-voltage direct current 1,000 MW cable.

Company spokesperson Andrew Rush told TransmissionHub earlier this month that the company has done extensive surveys of the project route and is working to use those surveys to ensure the route is the best one possible. The company has worked with the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum to ensure the project avoids sensitive areas.

He added, “Their assistance has been to make sure we avoid any known shipwrecks – there have been cultural resources identified in the lake related to the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812.”

Bryan Sanderson, senior vice president of Anbaric Transmission, told TransmissionHub on Oct. 18 that the company works with archaeologists, historical societies and preservation societies to identify in advance any potential areas of cultural or historic significance.

“We try to do this early in our planning process so we can choose a route that avoids sensitive sites to the greatest extent possible,” he said. “As we permit our lines, we continue our work with these groups as we conduct field studies of the route and areas of potential cultural or historic significance.”

Anbaric Transmission has been part of the development teams behind the Neptune Regional Transmission System, a 660 MW HVDC line from Sayreville, N.J., to Long Island, N.Y., completed in 2007, and the Hudson Transmission Project, a 660 MW back-to-back HVDC system connecting Ridgefield, N.J., to Manhattan, completed last June.

“We’re actively developing the Green Line, a 1,000 [to] 1,200 MW HVDC connection from northern Maine to Massachusetts, the Poseidon Transmission Project, a 500 MW HVDC connection from Brunswick, N.J., to Long Island, and the Grand Isle Intertie, a 400 MW AC connection from Plattsburgh, N.Y., to Williston, Vt.,” he added. “Significant portions of each of these projects are underwater.”

Roger Rosenqvist, vice president, business development, Power Systems Division North America Grid Systems with ABB, told TransmissionHub on Oct. 16 that owners of proposed submarine transmission projects undergo a lengthy permitting process, which includes environmental impact studies involving a detailed survey of the proposed route. Typically, that survey is done using sonar equipment with closer inspection by diver teams if the equipment shows something unusual.

“If there are any artifacts on the seabed, you adjust the route accordingly so that you try to go around or find an alternative path,” he said.

ABB builds such projects, including manufacturing and installing the equipment, he noted.

ABB has been involved with the Cross Sound Cable system which, according to the company, interconnects in Connecticut with the New England 345-kV electric transmission system at New Haven, adjacent to United Illuminating’s existing East Shore substation, and in New York with the Long Island 138-kV electric transmission system adjacent to the decommissioned Long Island Power Authority’s Shoreham nuclear power station. TransÉnergie U.S., a wholly owned U.S. subsidiary of Montreal-based Hydro-Québec, developed the project.

UIL Holdings (NYSE:UIL) is the parent company of United Illuminating.

Among advantages of underwater transmission projects, Rosenqvist, said, “If you can’t build underwater, it’s sometimes impossible to make that kind of interconnection between two geographical areas and then you lose out of all the economic benefits that come with a joint operation.”

Shipwrecks protected by law

Friedhoff noted that the federal government turned over the bottomlands of the Great Lakes to the states and Michigan law says the state owns all of the shipwrecks on the bottomlands as well as the submerged archaeological resources. By law, he said, “you’re not allowed to damage the underwater shipwrecks.”

According to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), Michigan law, Part 761 Aboriginal Records and Antiquities, and the Federal Abandoned Shipwreck Act of 1987 provide necessary and sufficient statutory authority. Part 761 prohibits the removal, alteration and destruction of abandoned property which is in, on, under or over the bottomlands of the Great Lakes including those within a Great Lakes underwater preserve without a permit issued by representatives of the DEQ and the Department of History, Arts and Libraries. Each permit may contain appropriate conditions, the DEQ added, noting that engaging in activities prohibited under Part 761 are crimes.

“Up to that point, people would go down and simply strip off anything they wanted [from the shipwrecks],” Friedhoff said, referencing when Michigan passed its law.

The shipwrecks are significant archaeological resources, he noted, adding that divers are interested in how the ships were built in earlier times as each shipbuilder used to do things differently.

The shipwrecks “are a significant tourism resource” and divers from Michigan, surrounding states, as well as from such countries as New Zealand, Norway, Germany and Russia have gone to dive with the charter operator he works with, he said.

The freshwater preserves the shipwrecks well, he said, adding that the state would not want to give up the tourism aspect of it as there is “serious investment in dives and diving shops,” for instance. “It brings a lot of people, lot of travel, lot of spending and they’re, of course, fish habitat as well.”

Offshore wind energy turbines may turn out to be such habitats as well, depending on the construction of their bases, he said.

“I know in the ocean, any offshore structures become fish habitat, I don’t think it would be quite as significant here in the Great Lakes, but there could be some sort of traction for that,” he said. “The main thing, I think it’s good public relations for offshore wind energy developers – they wouldn’t want to anger a significant constituency there in the state.”

Measures taken in Maine

Offshore wind energy efforts are well underway along the East Coast, including by the University of Maine, which earlier this year did what renewable energy developers have tried to do for years: install a grid-connected offshore floating wind turbine off of the U.S. coast – albeit, on a much smaller scale.

Elizabeth Viselli, manager, Offshore Wind Programs and Global Communications with the university, told TransmissionHub on Oct. 18 that the university has conducted magnetometer and other surveys at the test site and along the proposed cable route to check for such archaeological artifacts as shipwrecks.

“Because portions of the University of Maine’s offshore wind research programs are federally funded, our projects fall under the jurisdiction of the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA), which requires a ‘Finding of No Significant Impacts’ to be issued after an environmental assessment and public scoping process are completed,” Viselli said. “This process includes formal consultations with the Maine Historic Preservation Commission, among other agencies.”

Additionally, she said, the university’s offshore wind projects fall under Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act, giving permitting jurisdiction to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The USACE General Permit process requires consultation with USACE and other agencies, including the Maine Historic Preservation Commission.

Among the university’s efforts, she said the university’s “VolturnUS 1:8 project in Castine, Maine, is connected to the Central Maine Power grid via a subsea cable. Maine Aqua Ventus I, a 12 MW deepwater offshore wind demonstration project scheduled for deployment in 2017, will be grid-connected via a subsea transmission cable.”

A Maine company, Maine Aqua Ventus GP, whose three general partners consist of Cianbro, Emera and Maine Prime Technologies, a spin-off company representing the university, is developing that project, she said.

Central Maine Power’s parent company is Iberdrola USA, which is a subsidiary of Iberdrola S.A.

About Corina Rivera-Linares 3286 Articles
Corina Rivera-Linares was TransmissionHub’s chief editor until August 2021, as well as part of the team that established TransmissionHub in 2011. Before joining TransmissionHub, Corina covered renewable energy and environmental issues, as well as transmission, generation, regulation, legislation and ISO/RTO matters at SNL Financial from 2005 to 2011. She has also covered such topics as health, politics, and education for weekly newspapers and national magazines.