State Rep. Dylan Fernandes, D-Falmouth, has taken steps to ensure the superintendent of the Manuel F. Correllus State Forest has a place to live. Housing played a decisive role in former Superintendent Ginny Dautreuil leaving the position. It’s unclear if it informed the departure of Dautreuil’s successor, Chris Bruno, but with rentals costly and exceedingly scarce on the Vineyard, a secure housing option could remove a longstanding handicap from the position.
“Housing is a chronic problem on-Island,” Fernandes told The Times. He described it as the Vineyard’s “largest issue outside sea level rise.”
The Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) governs the 5,343-acre forest but has few people on-Island to manage it. What it does have is a dwelling in the forest near the deer check station off Barnes Road.
“There’s already a house on the property,” Fernandes said. “Why not let the superintendent live in it?”
Housing is not permitted in state forests, but the bill would make an exception for the pre-existing dwelling. It would not expand the use of the forest beyond the narrow purpose of utilizing that house.
Sheriff’s Meadow executive director Adam Moore described the idea as “fantastic.” Moore said it would be “very positive” for the forest, the state, and the superintendent. “We’d be pleased to do whatever we can to help with this bill,” Moore said.
Edgartown Police Chief Bruce McNamee said he thought the idea was “great,” and hoped it might “get the ball rolling” on a dedicated Environmental Police officer for the Vineyard — another housing-sensitive position.
Another bill filed by Fernandes, put together with the Environmental League of Massachusetts (ELM), seeks to enhance and boost offshore wind development.
ELM clean energy coalition director Susannah Hatch described it as a large, “next-step” bill that “ensures continued progress toward net-zero.”
A special feature of the bill, Hatch said, was an emphasis on “minority economic representation in offshore wind.”
Hatch said investors from Massachusetts’ black and brown communities were poorly included in the development of Boston’s Seaport District, the biotech boom, and during the advent of state cannabis opportunities. The bill aims to make minority investment a component of the evaluation process for future wind development projects. Fernandes described it as an effort to ensure an “equitable and just transition to clean energies.”
Hatch said Maryland and Virginia already have such measures “in statute,” and New York and New Jersey have made such measures part of recent wind development contracts.
Another component of the bill calls for at least 1 percent of an offshore wind development’s project cost to be devoted to workforce development, to fishing groups, and to procurement expansion. This percentage would be paid by the bidder of the project.
In part, Hatch said, the funds will bolster “wildlife and fisheries monitoring and mitigation” and will advance the “super-important” task of ensuring a prepared workforce is in place for the green jobs that stem from offshore wind farms. Fernandes said part of the bill is tailored to ensure offshore wind workers receive prevailing wage.
Hatch said the New England for Offshore Wind coalition assisted with the bill. A similar bill sponsored by Senator Julian Cyr, D-Truro, has been filed in the state senate, Hatch noted.
“It’s really exciting,” she said.