The U.S. Department of the Interior's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), together with the commonwealth of Massachusetts, has announced that it is moving forward with the next step to consider commercial wind energy development on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) off the Massachusetts coast.
BOEM is publishing a call for information and nominations to identify locations within an offshore area in which there is industry interest to seek commercial leases for developing wind projects. BOEM is also seeking public comment about site conditions and other existing uses of the identified area that would be relevant to BOEM's potential leasing and development authorization process.
The area under consideration begins approximately 12 nautical miles south of Martha's Vineyard and 13 nautical miles southwest of Nantucket. From its northern boundary, the area extends 33 nautical miles southward to the 60-meter-depth contour and has an east/west extent of approximately 47 nautical miles. The area is approximately 826,241 acres and contains 132 whole OCS lease blocks and 19 partial blocks.
The area was identified by BOEM after considering comments received in response to a request for interest encompassing a larger area that was issued in December 2010 to launch BOEM's commercial wind leasing efforts on the OCS off Massachusetts.
Following consultation with stakeholders through BOEM's intergovernmental Massachusetts renewable energy task force – which includes federal, state and tribal government partners – BOEM announced that it would reduce the planning area off Massachusetts by about 50% and proceed to issue a call for the reduced area, BOEM explains.
In addition, BOEM is seeking public comment – through a notice of intent to prepare an environmental assessment (EA) – on the environmental and socioeconomic issues to be considered, as well as alternatives and mitigation measures. The purpose of the EA is to inform decision-makers and determine if there are significant impacts associated with issuing leases and approving site assessment activities in the potential wind energy areas.
In coordination with this National Environmental Policy Act review, BOEM will conduct a review under Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act. The bureau is requesting public comments regarding the identification of historic properties or potential effects to historic properties through the notice of intent.
"BOEM recognizes the proactive steps that the commonwealth has taken to encourage environmentally sound offshore wind energy development and we are working together to refine a suitable wind energy area off the coast of Massachusetts," says BOEM Director Tommy P. Beaudreau. "We will follow marine spatial planning principles as we continue to gather information and coordinate with other OCS users throughout the leasing process."
BOEM plans to conduct information sessions in Massachusetts during the comment period to explain the commercial leasing process and provide additional opportunities for public input on the scope of the EA. All comments or other information on the call and EA must be submitted within 45 days of publication in the Federal Register.
A map of the call area is available here.