U.S. Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., Jack Reed, D-R.I., Edward J. Markey, D-Mass., and Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., are urging the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) to continue to adopt policies for the offshore wind leasing and permitting process that bring fishermen and other marine stakeholders into the conversation early on.
According to the lawmakers, this would minimize spatial conflicts and reduce the risk of economic harm to the fishing industry.
As wind developers lease areas in federal waters, the senators contend that existing stakeholders must be thoroughly consulted both before and after leases are granted. In a letter to BOEM, they point to Rhode Island’s success in fostering collaborative engagement between offshore wind and marine industries. The lawmakers argue that while BOEM has tried to improve communication between the fishing industry and wind developers, many of their constituents consider the existing efforts to be ineffective.
“Our states understand that smart planning and consultation with stakeholders, particularly the fishing industry, will allow offshore wind to flourish in the United States, protect important ocean resources and maintain access for existing users,” the senators wrote in their letter to BOEM’s acting director, Dr. Walter Cruickshank.
In their letter, the senators ask BOEM to respond to the following questions:
- Which types of location-specific data has BOEM used before leases are granted to understand where fishermen fish and transit?
- Has BOEM used fishing location data from the Northeast Regional Data Portal to inform lease areas in the northeast, before and after leases were granted?
- At what points in the offshore wind siting and leasing process, from call to operation, does BOEM use fishing location information to inform lease locations?
- For the projects that are beyond the leasing stage, what are the avenues for the public to provide feedback, including through comment periods, listening sessions tied to environmental reviews and other approvals?
- How has BOEM consulted with NOAA Fisheries to identify which ports are most affected by individual leases?
A copy of the letter can be found here.