BOEM suspends some Vineyard Wind forums

Federal government shutdown blamed for placing forums in limbo.

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The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management suspended public-comment talks in New Bedford and Narragansett, R.I., on the Vineyard Wind offshore wind project due to the government shutdown, and plans to reschedule them.

“If the federal government shutdown continues into the morning of Jan. 7, the meetings scheduled for Jan. 8 and 9 will be rescheduled,” a BOEM statement posted to the Vineyard Wind website states. “If the federal government shutdown continues into the morning of Jan. 14, the meetings scheduled for Jan. 15-17 will be rescheduled.”

The meetings are meant to provide a forum for public comment on the draft environmental impact statement for the Vineyard Wind project. The statement “sets forth all of the understood, known impacts” of the project, Vineyard Wind spokesman Scott Farmelant said, “and ultimately it’s a tool for decisionmaking by the permitting agencies.”

The forums are also meant to foster comment for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permit process for Vineyard Wind’s project, Farmelant confirmed.

The New Bedford meeting was slated for Jan. 8, with the Rhode Island meeting scheduled for Jan. 9.

A Hyannis forum is slated for Jan. 15, and one is also scheduled on Nantucket on Jan. 16.

Unless the government shutdown remains in effect, an open house, presentation, and question and answer period will be held in Vineyard Haven at the Hebrew Center on Jan. 19, from 5 to 8 pm.

Information and portals for commenting on the draft environmental impact statement can be found on the Vineyard Wind website.

The Army Corps of Engineers is involved in the permitting process for the Vineyard Wind project. The Corps plans to attend one of the BOEM meetings slated for January.

The regulatory project manager did not plan to attend the Martha’s Vineyard meeting,” Army Corps spokesman Tim Dugan wrote in an email. “The partial government shutdown is not impacting Corps operations, as Corps funding bills were authorized in September.”

Should Vineyarders want the Corps’ regulatory project manager to come to the meeting in Vineyard Haven, “they can make the request to the Corps of Engineers New England District Regulatory Division and the project manager through the email address cenae-r@usace.army.mil,” Dugan wrote.

“The decision whether to issue a permit will be based on an evaluation of the probable impact of the proposed activity on the public interest,” the Corps stated in a release. “That decision will reflect the national concern for both protection and utilization of important resources. The benefit which may reasonably accrue from the proposal must be balanced against its reasonably foreseeable detriments. All factors which may be relevant to the proposal will be considered, including the cumulative effect. The Corps is soliciting comments from the public; federal, state, and local agencies and officials; Indian tribes; and other interested parties in order to consider and evaluate the impacts of this proposed activity. The Corps will consider all comments received to determine whether to issue, modify, condition, or deny a permit for this proposal.”

Public forums notwithstanding, Dugan wrote that public comments and public inquiry can be made directly to the Corps as follows: “Public comments on the Corps jurisdiction of the proposed work (file # NAE-2017-01206) should be forwarded no later than Jan. 28, 2019, to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New England District, Regulatory Division (ATTN: Christine Jacek), 696 Virginia Road, Concord, MA 01742-2751. Additional information is available from Permit Project Manager Christine Jacek at 978-318-8026 or toll-free 800-343-4789 or 800-362-4367 (if calling from within Massachusetts) or by email to christine.m.jacek@usace.army.mil.”

Farmelant said Vineyard Wind is awaiting notice from BOEM on rescheduling the suspended meetings, but doesn’t anticipate news until the impasse in Washington ends. “We’re following the lead of BOEM on that,” he said.

Calls to the BOEM press office for more information went to a recording stating neither voicemails nor emails could be accessed until the shutdown is over.