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Apr 25, 2017 1:55 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Deepwater Gets An Earful From East Hampton Fishermen

Apr 25, 2017 5:38 PM

Deepwater Wind got an earful from East Hampton’s commercial fishermen and members of the Town Trustees on Monday night, at the first public forum, where the main critics of the project confronted the developers.

Commercial fishermen and baymen from around the region bombarded Clint Plummer, the vice president of development at Deepwater Wind, with questions, doubts and accusations about the company’s plans to build as many as 15 wind turbines in the ocean off Block Island in a popular fishing area known as Cox Ledge.

The fishermen echoed concerns they have voiced to the media in the months since the Long Island Power Authority inked a contract with Deepwater to buy energy from the wind farm starting in 2022—that the construction of the 600-foot-tall turbines could kill fish and/or drive them from the area during the height of fishing season. They also argued that laying the 50-mile transmission cable would damage bottom habitat, and that the cable’s electromagnetic pulses once it starts delivering power to the South Fork could drive away fish from broad swaths of the sea, Block Island Sound and Gardiners Bay.

As Mr. Plummer sought to address each concern with claims that the project would prove not to have negative impacts on fish, he was met with the simple message that the fishermen simply didn’t like the idea.

“We are against this project from the beginning to the end,” Montauk fisherman Terry Wallace told Mr. Plummer. “This is our future, right before our eyes.”

Mr. Wallace noted that the proposed route of the transmission cable runs directly through many of the areas he regularly fishes. He worried that the proposal to “jet plow” a trench to bury the cable would harm sea life along the route.

Others questioned whether the project would drive up electricity bills, while some lobbied in favor of it because the supply of renewable energy would be cheaper and cleaner than the current diesel generator-based energy supply. But the fishermen were not swayed.

“They’re not doing this to help us,” said Brad Loewen, a bayman. “They’re not doing this to provide us with green energy. They’re doing it to make boatload of money.”

Deepwater Wind has proposed investing some $740 million to design and construct the wind farm, 30 miles southeast of Montauk. The company signed a contract earlier this year with LIPA to sell the electricity it would generate for the next 20 years, for more than $1 billion.

They plan to start the two-year construction process in 2020. But first, the company has a year of meetings with interested members of the public—like the fishermen at Monday’s Town Trustees meeting—to settle on the specific designs of the project.

With most of the criticism seeming to come over the proposal to run the power line through Block Island Sound and Gardiners Bay and bring it ashore in either Napeague or near Fresh Pond in Amagansett, Mr. Plummer said that the company is still open to exploring the possibility of laying the transmission cable only in the ocean floor and bringing it ashore on the Atlantic side of the South Fork, as the company had proposed in a shelved proposal for a larger wind farm in 2014 that would have connected to shore somewhere in Southampton Town.

“The route is still up for discussion,” Mr. Plummer said. “It’s the reason we’re out here—we want to avoid sensitive areas.”

Mr. Loewen, who fishes pound traps in Gardiners Bay and is a former town councilman, said that even though the approvals for the project would mostly come from state and federal environmental agencies, he sees the Town Trustees playing a crucial role in the review process.

“You have a lot of leverage on where this thing comes ashore—you own the property,” he told the Trustees, who own the bay bottoms in the places where the cable would run through town waters along the Amagansett shoreline. “My suggestion is to charge them for the use of the land. Take the money and help the people that are injured [by the project].”

Mr. Loewen said he was also skeptical of Deepwater’s search for fishing industry liaisons to act as go-betweens with fishermen and the company as the planning is conducted. The company has offered to compensate fishermen for the time they lose at sea while working on the project negotiations.

“I find it very disturbing that this wind farm would attempt to hire fishermen for $50 an hour for their advice,” he said. “You can try to buy advice. You can try to buy trawl surveys. You can buy scientific data. But you can’t listen to data. You can listen to the people who are running around out in that bay trying to catch fish to earn a living.”

Mr. Plummer, for his part, labored to assure fishermen that Monday’s meeting would be only the first of many the 
company plans to hold with fishermen and that he hoped they would be able to find a path for constructing the turbines and connecting them to the South Fork that would assuage the fears about it hurting fisheries.

“It’s not only critical that this project is seen as a success in the community but that this process is seen as successful,” he said. “This is something new, and people are rightly going to have questions about it, and the only way we can have answers is to have a dialogue. It’s impossible to know all the questions without listening.”

Mr. Plummer said that the company doesn’t believe the project would have any long-lasting effect on any fishery. Using the five turbines Deepwater has already built just three miles off Block Island as a template, Mr. Plummer said the construction of the turbines and the electricity pulsing through the transmission cables do not appear to have any effect on the robust fishing in the region—though he noted that since the turbines only started operating in November, scientific surveys comparing marine life in the vicinity to before the construction are yet to be completed. He said that recreational fishermen have already regularly congregated around the footings to the turbines and that divers have reported marine organisms growing on the steel stanchions below the surface.

Bonnie Brady, executive director of the Long Island Commercial Fishing Association, questioned the need for the wind farm. She said that LIPA could have found the needed energy to meet forecast deficits on the South Fork by “fixing” the delivery system and that the wind farm is still only a Band-Aid, deferring costs that will have to be borne by LIPA ratepayers down the line anyway.

“If you’re going to be transparent, be transparent,” she said. “You’re haven’t told anybody what’s really going on.”

Mr. Plummer said that the decision to contract the wind farm was LIPA’s to make, and that they had both a ultimatum to generate more power from renewable resources rather than fossil fuels, and had cost savings in mind. The wind farm provides both with what is seen by most to be minimal collateral impact, he said.

To the fishermen who had pledged their devout opposition to the project at first blush, he asked only that they participate in the next 12 months of discussion.

“I know you don’t support the project,” he said. “I hope over the next year-plus you can respect the process. I myself and my company will work tirelessly to earn your support or, at least, earn your respect.”

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Thousands protest the XL pipe line last fall,
No one wants fracking,
No one wants coal,
No one wants Nucler,

Now no one wants wind

Hey lets all just go back to living by candel light!
By Ditch Bum (929), Water Mill on Apr 27, 17 5:56 PM
These alt energys have to be thought out or they will just make new problems... Take the proposed solar energy array that is planned for 350 acres of pristine forest next to the Shoreham plant. Removing this wooded area for so-called "green" energy is a contradiction to the purpose of green power. It goes against the idea of clean air, wildlife conservation and preservation... and will unquestionably have an impact on storm runoff into the LI Sound. There are too many better solutions out there ...more
By joe hampton (3461), The Hamptons on Apr 28, 17 7:56 AM
No one wants their livelihood destroyed either! Still no word if the power generated by the windmills will cost us ratepayers more , that's something we ALL , need to know.
By bigfresh (4666), north sea on Apr 27, 17 7:20 PM
1 member liked this comment
Green energy will cost us more. All the costs are not stated... Lost taxes, as they will get no taxes for years. They are a business.
When has a project come in on budget. Most government contracts end up triple of the estimate and we pay it...
By knitter (1941), Southampton on May 3, 17 1:37 PM