The report, ‘A Biogeographic Assessment of Seabirds, Deep Sea Corals and Ocean Habitats of the New York Bight,’ provides mapping, analysis for renewable energy planning, and offshore habitat protection, and will serve as a resource to help New York state officials manage coastal waters and inform decisions on offshore wind power development.
The study will help the state identify favorable wind energy development sites in the Atlantic while protecting critical offshore bird and fish habitats. Ultimately, siting decisions will be streamlined, spurring the development of wind energy industry jobs in the region, NOAA says.
The report is the result of a two-year collaboration between the New York Department of State's Ocean and Great Lakes Program and NOAA's National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science (NCCOS) to compile and interpret existing ecological information the state needed for offshore renewable energy planning.
The report also will help coastal managers better understand the interactions between renewable energy development and natural resources, as well as reduce uncertainties for investors in renewable energy projects, according to NOAA.
The New York Offshore Planning Area covers 16,740 square miles. NOAA worked with New York to better understand the biodiversity, habitats and natural resources in the study area.
Key findings include understanding the biodiversity, habitats, resources and ecological processes of seabirds, deep-sea corals, sponge habitats, seafloor sediments and bathymetry, and identification of data gaps in the study area. The data helped create maps that can be used by industry, federal and state managers, and other stakeholders to make informed decisions moving forward.
This will be particularly helpful to the offshore renewable energy developers in their siting decisions, NOAA says.
"Developing these studies with our regional and state decision-making partners ensures their needs are met and that NOAA's expertise is being leveraged to balance the protection of the natural ecological resources along the coast and needs of the users in the region, namely renewable wind energy," says David Kennedy, assistant NOAA administrator for the National Ocean Service. "Working together early in the process is not only more time efficient and economical, but leads to better science-based decisions."
Information from this study – one of several regional studies under way at NCCOS – will serve as a model to support interstate planning initiatives launched by the Mid-Atlantic Regional Council on the Ocean, which works to maintain and improve the health of ocean and coastal resources, and ensure that they continue to contribute to the high quality of life and economic vitality of the region.
The project was made possible by many academic partners and federal and state agencies that provided data and reviews of the study approach and results. NOAA and the New York Department of State staff worked on the project, and partners included the University of Alaska, Biology and Wildlife Department; the University of Texas, Institute for Geophysics; NOAA and University of New Hampshire Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping & Joint Hydrographic Center; The Nature Conservancy, Mid-Atlantic Marine Program; and NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service.
A map of the study area can be viewed here.
Map courtesy of the New York State Department of State.