The Fisheries Survival Fund (FSF), which represents the majority of the limited access Atlantic scallop fleet, said Dec. 8 that is the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit filed the prior day that seeks a preliminary injunction to delay a lease sale for an offshore wind farm project area that is about 11 miles off the coast of Long Island.
The lease sale is scheduled for Dec. 15, 2016. The filing alleges that the leasing process for the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) did not adequately consider the impact the proposed New York Wind Energy Area would have on the region’s fishermen. The site chosen is in the waters of the New York Bight, which the group said is a vital, documented scallop and squid fishing grounds. It is also an important foraging area for threatened loggerhead sea turtles and critically endangered North Atlantic right whales, the group added.
The lawsuit argues that fishermen’s concerns regarding the location of the lease area received “virtually no attention or analysis” from government officials ahead of the planned Dec. 15 lease sale, despite fishing stakeholders repeatedly making their concerns known. It further states that BOEM failed to identify the proposed wind farm’s environmental, economic, social, and cultural impacts, and failed to “consider alternative sites in an open, collaborative, public forum.”
Several other members of the National Coalition for Fishing Communities (NCFC)—including commercial fishing organizations, businesses, and communities that depend on the sustainable use of Atlantic Ocean resources—have joined the lawsuit, filed at the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. The suit was filed against Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, BOEM, and BOEM Director Abigail Hopper.
The lawsuit asks for the lease sale to be halted, and for BOEM to go back to do a more complete environmental review.
Jewell and BOEM Director Abigail Ross Hopper on Oct. 27 had announced that 79,350 acres offshore New York will be offered in this Dec. 15 commercial wind lease sale.
“Today’s announcement not only marks another milestone for the U.S. offshore wind energy program, but also demonstrates how our collaborative efforts with state, local and private sector partners can advance a clean energy future in the United States,” said Jewell at the time. “Industry interest remains strong with more than a dozen qualified bidders as we take another step closer to harnessing the enormous potential of offshore wind energy for Atlantic coastal communities.”
The New York Wind Energy Area starts approximately 11.5 nautical miles (nm) from Jones Beach, N.Y. From its western edge, the area extends approximately 24 nm southeast at its longest portion. The lease area consists of five full Outer Continental Shelf blocks and 143 sub-blocks.
After reviewing comments received on the Environmental Assessment, BOEM removed about 1,780 acres from the lease area due to environmental concerns regarding a seafloor feature known as the Cholera Bank. The National Marine Fisheries Service identified the Cholera Bank feature as a sensitive habitat to be avoided for the placement of structures. As a result of this removal, the revised lease area will be approximately 2% smaller than the lease area considered in the Proposed Sale Notice.
In response to concerns raised by commercial fishing interests, BOEM also has included a lease requirement for the lessee to develop a publicly available Fisheries Communications Plan and work with a Fisheries Liaison to facilitate communication with the fishing industry.
This Oct. 27 announcement also identified 14 companies that BOEM has deemed legally, technically and financially qualified to participate in the upcoming lease sale, including:
- Avangrid Renewables LLC
- DONG Energy Wind Power (U.S.) Inc.
- Innogy US Renewable Projects LLC
- Deepwater Wind Hudson Canyon LLC
- Convalt Energy LLC
- Statoil Wind US LLC
- EDF Renewable Development Inc.
- Fishermen’s Energy LLC
- Sea Breeze Energy LLC