State officials discuss offshore wind area environmental study

State officials discuss offshore wind area environmental study

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A public information meeting hosted by state officials from the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) last week provided details about an environmental assessment (EA) of a wind energy area designated in federal waters offshore of Massachusetts.

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) released the 394-page EA on October 31. Maureen Bornholdt, program manager for BOEM’s office of offshore alternative energy programs, gave an overview of its highlights at last week’s meeting, according to Jo-Ann Taylor, the Martha’s Vineyard Commission’s (MVC) coastal planner.

The BOEM announced in June that the EA would consider, among other things, potential impacts on endangered North Atlantic right whales and effects on viewsheds. The EA also took into consideration mitigation measures that might reduce potential impacts on these and other resources in the WEA.

Ms. Taylor said she told BOEM officials that she thought the EA was well done, especially in regard to identifying species that inhabit or migrate through the wind energy area, particularly whales. She said she would also like to see more advanced protection methods used, such as passive acoustic monitoring, to help determine whales’ presence underwater, especially near shipping and boating lanes.

Meeting attendees included State Representative Tim Madden, some MVC commissioners and staff, Chilmark selectman Warren Doty, and several Vineyard Power representatives. One question raised at last week’s forum and at another meeting last February was about where electric cables from the wind turbines would eventually be plugged in. Ms. Taylor said as it stands now BOEM expects each leasee to make its own arrangements to connect to an electrical grid.

Ms. Taylor said BOEM will keep a comment period on the EA open until December 3. If nothing of significance is found, she said BOEM would next review lease block alternatives, which would be followed by the start of the leasing process.

More information and the EA document are available online at www.boem.gov/Renewable-Energy-Program/State-Activities/Massachusetts.aspx.