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Guest Column: All Lobstermen Will be Affected by Wind Energy Array

Welcome to the Zone F meeting to discuss the offshore wind project proposed by the state of Maine. This windmill array is proposed to go somewhere in Zone D, E or F. If you do not fish in these zones please don’t make the mistake of thinking that this may not affect you. If roughly 16 square miles of Zone F are taken up by windmills the gear that is displaced from that area could relocate into your zone.

Jeff Putnam is chair of the Lobster Zone F Council. He also operates an oyster farm on Chebeague Island.

And even more importantly, the state is very clear that this commercial/research array is a pilot project. Full-scale commercial development could start within five years. If the area that you are fishing now is not impacted by this proposed project, the next project very well could end up in an area where you are working. The mid-coast and southern Maine offshore waters are going to be looked at as highly desirable by offshore wind developers because of the ease of access to the power grid in Maine that feeds the larger New England market. If this array does not directly affect where you fish now, the transmission lines into shore very well could. If you are a Zone F fishermen and this project goes in Zone E, it is very likely that the main transmission line could run right through the shrimp grounds offshore Zone F and the inshore scallop areas such as Broad Sound towards Cousins Island.

Unfortunately at tonight’s meeting you will not get a lot of answers to your questions. You will not know where this project is going to go, you will not know how big of an exclusion zone for fishing there will be around the floating platforms, you will not know what type of mooring system will be used or how much scope, you will not know how those mooring lines will affect right whales, you will not find out what the transmission lines will do to the lobster migration or the ground fish population, you will not see a magic location that the state has found that is unused by lobstermen or ground fishermen or tuna fishermen or scallopers. In fact, the state’s own data show that there is not an area that is not used for commercial fishing anywhere in this area and beyond.

You will not see a study that addresses the socio-economic impacts to fishing families on coastal Maine. You will know, however, that a box has been checked by the State of Maine that says ‘Outreach to fishermen’. It doesn’t matter that we may voice our displeasure with this project, all we will get is a simple “Thanks for your thoughts” or “Your opinion matters to us.”

To use an analogy, if an aquaculture firm came into Maine and said they wanted to develop a 16 square mile area for aquaculture but could not answer any of the questions that I just mentioned and could not show that existing users would not be adversely affected, they would be laughed out of the room by the very people who are proposing to file the permit for this offshore wind development. The Lobster Advisory Council has already voted against this project, the fishing organizations have all spoken out against offshore wind development and I hope that before the conclusion of tonight’s meeting Zone F can take an official position that we oppose offshore wind development off of the state of Maine. I hope that matters to this state.


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