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Lobstermen Stand Firm to Protect LMA 1 From Wind Leases

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) held six virtual public meetings during November to get feedback on the 3.5 million-acre Gulf of Maine Draft Wind Energy Area (Draft WEA) released in October. The 30-day comment period on the Draft WEA ended November 20.

Two 'Secondary Areas of Interest" for wind leases are located within LMA 1. Orsted photo.

The meetings’ objective was to provide stakeholders an opportunity to understand BOEM’s process in identifying the area for potential offshore wind leasing and for BOEM to hear feedback and concerns about that area. BOEM anticipates announcing the Final Gulf of Maine Wind Energy Area in early 2024.

Lobstermen have voiced their opposition to offshore wind in the Gulf of Maine throughout the BOEM leasing process, with particular emphasis on the importance of keeping offshore wind leases outside of Lobster Management Area 1 (LMA 1).

The State of Maine, which set an energy goal of 3 gigawatts (GW) of offshore wind by 2040, has also remained adamant that offshore wind be sited outside LMA 1 in response to fishing industry concerns.

Governor Mills and Maine’s Congressional delegation have sent two letters urging BOEM to avoid critical fishing areas and to keep offshore wind development out of LMA 1 to minimize conflicts between offshore wind developments and Maine’s fishing industry.

Throughout November’s meetings, BOEM highlighted the importance and influence of feedback from fishermen on the agency’s decision to exclude LMA 1 from the Draft WEA. “We’ve heard that it’s really difficult for fishermen to draw lines on maps. Every area is important: important to the ecosystem, important to either individuals’ fishing operations or…their neighbors’ fishing operations,” said Zach Jylkka, BOEM’s lead project coordinator for the Gulf of Maine. “Given that difficulty, if and when fishermen do draw lines on maps, listen. That’s something we’ve heard and take seriously.”

Despite BOEM’s exclusion of LMA 1 in the Draft WEA, fishermen were surprised to see three Secondary Areas for Further Consideration (Secondary Areas) on the map, two of which — Secondary Areas A and B — fall directly in LMA 1.

BOEM staff explained that its computer model identified them as areas of “higher relative suitability” for leases due to wind conditions, proximity to potential connection points, as well as interest from wind energy developers — despite concerns raised by fishermen, the State of Maine, and federally recognized tribes.

BOEM sought comments to determine whether the Secondary Areas should remain in consideration for possible future leases — an effort they stated was in the interest of meeting Maine’s energy goals.

The fishing industry was united in its strong opposition to leasing in the two Secondary Areas, which encompass over 200,000 acres in LMA 1, and questioned how BOEM could consider development in areas that the state has specifically and repeatedly asked BOEM to avoid.

“If [BOEM’s] process is to meet the State’s energy goals, and the state says, ‘don’t put any [offshore wind] in LMA 1…’ it begs the question: why have you included two areas in LMA 1?” questioned Patrice McCarron, Maine Lobstermen’s Association (MLA) policy director.

Participants expressed frustration at all six meetings with the lease planning process, which requires stakeholders and BOEM to speculate on projects that have yet to be designed and accept decisions made using the “best available data” at hand at a given stage of the planning process.

“One of the inherent challenges is that we’re planning for projects that are yet to be designed,” said James Morris, a marine ecologist from NOAA’s National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science. This, he said, “make[s] it difficult to discuss critical components such as transmission costs, potential points of interconnection, and the design of the wind turbines themselves, which make it difficult to determine the viability of any level of coexistence with the fishing industry, as well as potential impacts on the environment,” all of which were sources of great concern to attendees.

Lobstermen remain vehemently opposed to any wind lease tracts within LMA1. MLA graphic.

BOEM sought feedback on potential conflict to determine if coexistence between offshore wind and the fishing industry is possible.

“BOEM stands pretty strong in trying to maintain access as best as possible for fisheries, and navigation safely around those structures, and that will continue to be the mission until further notice,” said Brandon Jensen, a BOEM fisheries biologist, in response to concerns over where offshore wind fits in the Gulf of Maine.

“All of the things that are [in the Gulf of Maine] are currently coexisting with each other, and that’s the way it’s been for hundreds of years,” said Dustin Delano, MLA board member and New England Fishermen’s Stewardship Association chief operating officer. Throughout Maine’s maritime history, “different fisheries have coexisted with each other. We’ve made things work. We’re able to work it out.

We’re able to utilize the same areas. That’s just not the case with offshore wind.”

November’s virtual public meetings were the fourth time BOEM has engaged with the public during the wind energy development process. BOEM emphasized the importance of continued input relevant to the Final WEA and whether the Secondary Areas are included moving forward.

BOEM estimates the Final WEA may encompass approximately 1 million acres and is expected to be published in early 2024.

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