Today: December 18, 2018, 1:44 pm

Working Group Nears Consensus on Transit Lanes for Fishing Vessels in 2018-12-06 18:36:24
WASHINGTON, DC / ACCESSWIRE / December 6, 2018 / The Responsible Offshore Development Alliance (RODA), which consists of regional fishing industry representatives from Maine to North Carolina, convened an Offshore Wind Transit Lane Working Group meeting on December 3rd at the Hotel Viking in Newport, R.I.

Fishing industry representatives, offshore wind developer lease-holders, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), and the U.S. Coast Guard, among others, joined RODA to continue an attempt to develop fishery transit lanes through the large group of Wind Energy Areas (WEAs) in federal waters off of Massachusetts and Rhode Island. The meeting was facilitated by the Consensus Building Institute. Currently, three WEAs are subject to active leases held by Ørsted U.S. Offshore Wind and Vineyard Wind. BOEM will hold an additional auction for three new leases in WEAs adjacent to the existing sites on December 13, 2018.

In addition to loss of access within the lease areas, commercial fishermen coastwide have long been concerned about their ability to safely travel across wind energy arrays to access other historical, traditional commercial fishing grounds. They are especially concerned with the size of the WEAs being proposed by BOEM, which are by far the largest in the world.

While fishing industry representatives and wind developers agree that minimizing transit time through wind energy arrays is a primary design goal, safety risks greatly increase due to the long distances - up to 50-70 miles - fishing boats may be required to transit either around or through wind energy arrays.

The Massachusetts Fisheries Working Group on Offshore Wind began to consider the development of transit lanes earlier this year, and RODA has since held a large workshop followed by the smaller working group meeting to continue this task. To prepare for the working group meeting, RODA asked NMFS and the Northeast Regional Ocean Council Data Portal team to evaluate historic transit patterns to identify options for safe and direct access to fishing grounds. NMFS presented an analysis based on VMS and AIS data that substantially supported input received from the fishing industry regarding prevailing transit patterns.

As some examples, vessels from Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and other ports frequently cross the Wind Energy Areas in a "diagonal" Northwest-Southeast direction to access offshore fishing grounds, and will no longer have access to direct routes. Vessels from New York must additionally transit in an East-West direction, whereas other fisheries access grounds in a variety of directions including North-South in western and eastern portions of the lease areas.

Fishing industry representatives have considered a wide range of transit lane options and continue to support options that generally preserve these most important routes to their historic fisheries, which must include a "diagonal" route or, less favorably, smoothing out the Northwest-Southeast edges of the lease areas to allow more direct transit along the perimeters. Offshore wind lease-holding developers, for their part, have attempted to identify routes to meet those goals that also preserve the energy-generating nameplate capacity for each site that allows them to meet pricing goals for power procurement. Developers have various viewpoints on preferred transit lane locations and, as such, layouts have differing ranges of support including for the currently unleased areas.

Examples of the options the group has considered, which received general support from the fishing industry but may continue to be refined to better meet developers’ needs and to accommodate broader fishing industry outreach before a full consensus can be attained, include:

The series of discussions regarding transit lane design was further from achieving consensus on the necessary width of transit lanes. Offshore fishermen have consistently requested lanes to be a minimum width of 4 nautical miles to allow for safe passage in an area known for extreme weather and tidal conditions, and to mitigate the anticipated effects of radar interference emanating from large monopole turbines. The developers have proposed lanes of only one to two nautical miles in order to optimize site layouts for wind exposure.

In order to foster evidence-based progress on necessary transit lane widths, RODA and others have requested the Coast Guard and BOEM to conduct an in-depth analysis regarding fisheries vessel position data, radar functionality, emergency incident reports, and other items.

While the group has not yet finalized recommendations, both fishermen and developers broadly agree that the most efficient timing for transit lane identification would occur before a lease is issued. RODA therefore strongly urges BOEM to include stipulations for the continuation of these transit lanes in its upcoming lease sale, and welcomes inquiries as to the status of these recommendations as potential bidders prepare proposals.

Additional materials, including a meeting summary with details regarding each of the options, will be available shortly on the RODA website.

About RODA

The Responsible Offshore Development Alliance (RODA) is a broad, membership-based coalition of fishing industry associations and companies working to improve the compatibility of new offshore development with their businesses. It seeks to coordinate science and policy approaches, through public and private partnerships, to manage development of the Outer Continental Shelf in a way that minimizes conflicts with existing traditional and historical fishing.


Annie Hawkins

Executive Director, RODA

SOURCE: The Responsible Offshore Development Alliance

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