The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) says in a notice to be published in the April 15 Federal Register that it has received an application from Deepwater Wind Block Island LLC (DWBI) for an Incidental Harassment Authorization (IHA) to take marine mammals, by harassment, incidental to the installation of the Block Island Wind Farm (BIWF) export and inter-array cables.
Under the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA), NMFS is requesting comments for 30 days after April 15 on its proposal to issue an IHA to the company to incidentally take, by Level B harassment only, small numbers of marine mammals during the specified activity.
On March 11, 2016, NMFS received an application from DWBI for the taking of marine mammals incidental to the installation of the BIWF export and inter-array cables. This work was originally authorized by NMFS as part of a September 2014 (modified in June 2015) IHA issued for construction of the BIWF itself, including offshore installation of wind turbine generator (WTG) jacket foundations and export/inter-array cable installation. However, only the construction activities associated with the WTG jacket foundation installation were performed during that one-year authorization which expired in October 2015. DWBI has, therefore, reapplied for a new IHA to complete the remaining export and inter-array cable installation activities.
DWBI has begun construction of the project, a 30-MW offshore wind farm. Construction activities began in July 2015 with the installation of the five WTG foundations. The submarine cable (export and inter-array cables) installation is scheduled to occur sometime between May and October of 2016. Use of dynamically positioned (DP) vessel thrusters during cable installation may result in the take of marine mammals. Take, by Level B Harassment only, of individuals of nine species is anticipated to result from the specified activity.
The BIWF will consist of five, 6-MW WTGs, a submarine cable interconnecting the WTGs, and a transmission cable. Erection of the five WTGs, installation of the inter-array and export cable, and construction of the onshore components of the BIWF is planned for 2016.
NMFS is proposing to issue an authorization effective May 2016 through April 2017, based on the anticipated work window for the in-water cable installation activities construction that could result in the incidental take of marine mammals. While project activities may occur for over a six-month period, use of the DP vessel thruster during cable installation activities is expected to occur for approximately 28 days. Cable installation (and subsequent use of the DP vessel thruster) would be conducted 24 hours per day.