US: RODA Condemns Vineyard Wind 1 OWF Approval

Responsible Offshore Development Alliance (RODA), a coalition of fishing industry associations and companies, has issued a press release voicing its disapproval of the US authorities’ decision to issue a Record of Decision (ROD) for the Vineyard Wind 1 project.

The Record of Decision for the 800 MW offshore wind farm, issued on 11 May, granted the project final federal approval to install 84 or fewer turbines off Massachusetts.

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RODA said it condemned “in the strongest possible terms the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s (BOEM) issuance of a Record of Decision for the previously terminated Vineyard Wind 1 Offshore Wind Energy Project”.

The coalition states that the Decision does not include any mitigation measures to offset impacts to critical ocean ecosystems and commercial fisheries, except a suggestion for developers to cooperate with the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to mitigate major impacts to scientific research.

“To the best of our knowledge, BOEM did not even consider any mitigation measures recommended by RODA or any fisheries professionals, scientists, or natural resource managers, despite having clearly defined requests available to them”, the coalition said.

According to the news on the issuance of the ROD, the ROD adopts mitigation measures to help avoid, minimise, reduce, or eliminate adverse environmental effects that could result from the construction and operation of the proposed project, which were developed through input, consultation, and coordination with stakeholders, Tribes, and federal and state agencies.

However, RODA said that in a letter signed by nearly 1,700 individuals, fishing industry and community members had asked BOEM for twelve mitigation measures in this Record of Decision to ensure the continued success of the US fishing industry, but the only response BOEM issued was that it had received the letter.

The coalition highlighted the protection of the country’s ocean resources and the request for a transit lane, for which it said was ignored.

“The Record of Decision adjudicates against this input by stating that safe transit is ‘inconsistent with the goals of [Vineyard’s] proposal’ and goals of the Administration. Specifically, the Record of Decision says the addition of a transit lane would lead to project delays for additional geophysical and geotechnical surveys. These delays would be inconsistent with the goals expressed in Executive Order (E.O.) 14008, ‘Executive Order on Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad’, particularly the goal of doubling offshore wind by 2030”, the press release states.

The proposed mitigation measure of spacing the turbines 1×1 nautical miles apart on its own is insufficient to ensure safety at sea for all types of fishermen and other seagoing vessels, RODA said.

According to information published earlier, the project’s turbines will be installed in an east-west orientation, and all the turbines will have a minimum spacing of one nautical mile between them in the north-south and east-west directions.

This is consistent with the US Coast Guard recommendations in the Final Massachusetts and Rhode Island Port Access Route Study and the consensus between offshore wind developers on implementing 1 NM spacing between the turbines for transit purposes.

Namely, after the draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Vineyard Wind project was published, and in response to stakeholder feedback, Vineyard Wind (a joint venture between Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners and Avangrid Renedwables) and other Rhode Island and Massachusetts offshore wind leaseholders committed to implementing grid layout with a spacing of one nautical mile between the wind turbines.

In June 2020, BOEM issued a Supplement to the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) for Vineyard Wind, which also contained some new alternatives for the wind farm layout that propose a wider transit lane, either a 2 NM or a 4 NM one, which would require relocating more wind turbines compared to the initial layout proposal, than the 1×1 NM array.

Following the SEIS release, the industry voiced its opposition to the new layout alternatives, saying that the 1×1 NM layout, agreed to by all New England offshore wind leaseholders, provides ample and uniform navigation transit lanes, and that this was larger spacing than in any other wind facility currently operating in the world. The 1×1 NM grid layout has also been determined by the US Coast Guard as the one to maximise safe navigation, the industry pointed out.