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Maine Fishermen Unite In Rally Against Offshore Wind Turbines

A crowd of nearly 500 lobstermen, fishing families, business people, and other supporters gathered outside the Augusta Civic Center on April 28 to oppose the industrialization of the Gulf of Maine with massive offshore wind turbines. The rally was organized by the Maine Lobstering Union (MLU), with support from Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association (MCFA) and in partnership with the Maine Lobstermen’s Association (MLA) and Downeast Lobstermen’s Association (DELA). “It’s such a rarity to see all of our organizations come together. Everyone is pushing this fight together,” rally organizer Ginny Olson of the MLU told the crowd.

Whether young or old, the message in Augusta was clear: no wind farms in the Gulf of Maine. Pictured, Pierce Achorn of Friendship. MLA photo.

Protesters expressed fear that Maine’s rush to be the first to deploy floating offshore wind technology could harm the Gulf of Maine’s fragile ocean ecosystem, trade Maine’s family-owned and operated fishing businesses for jobs with foreign energy companies, and risk eroding Maine’s fishing heritage, which has sustained the state’s rural coastal communities for generations. “The Gulf of Maine is the last place to conduct a grand experiment to learn if massive floating wind turbines will work and how much they will damage the environment,” said Patrice McCarron, executive director of the MLA.

Governor Mills attempted to preempt the rally by introducing a bill earlier in the day proposing a ten-year moratorium on offshore wind in state waters. The bill, however, would allow the Monhegan wind project to move forward and would not restrict cables or transmission lines that support offshore wind generation. Maine’s fishing industry said this doesn’t go nearly far enough. They stated thatthe same caution must be given to offshore development outside of state waters. “Maine fishermen plan to leave a healthy fishery and ocean for many generations down the road, not just a mere 10 years,” commented Jason Joyce, an 8th generation lobsterman from Swans Island.

The state of Maine received a $2 million federal grant last October to conduct a comprehensive offshore wind planning process, called Maine’s Offshore Wind Roadmap, intended to “focus on planning and data-gathering to support siting decisions, with the goal of minimizing potential effects on the environment and fisheries.” Rather than conduct this planning process, the Mills administration instead is championing immediate development of two offshore floating wind projects, both to be developed by New England Aqua Ventus (NEAV). NEAV is a joint venture between two large international energy companies, Diamond Offshore Wind (a subsidiary of the Mitsubishi Corporation) and RWE Renewables, a division of a large German multinational energy company.

Fishermen, and their trucks, made their thoughts plain to the Maine Legislature. MLA photo.

As soon as next year, NEAV plans to build the first U.S. floating offshore wind turbine off of Monhegan Island, consisting of a 750-foot-tall turbine (to the top of the blade) built on a 300-foot concrete floating platform in 300 feet of water, secured to the bottom by chains on a 30-foot anchor, with an underwater cable running to the mainland. A second larger wind farm, being developed in partnership with the Mills Administration, is proposed in an area around Platts Bank, one of the Gulf of Maine’s most productive ecosystems. This proposed commercial wind farm would comprise up to 12 large turbines placed across an area the size of 7,600 football fields. The electricity produced would be sent by cable to shore for 20 to 30 years. The Mills Administration touts this as a “research array.”

“The state calls this a ‘research array’ under the guise that we can learn from this project but has not allocated a single penny to do this work,” noted McCarron. “Yet the state has no problem gambling the future of Maine’s fragile ocean ecosystem, sustainable fisheries, and the livelihoods of the tens of thousands of families it supports along our coast.”

Governor Mills told the U.S. Climate Alliance on April 21 that the state is “drafting a research project for floating offshore wind that is ready to go to BOEM very soon” while the fishing industry continues to call for completion of Maine’s Offshore Wind Roadmap roadmap before any offshore wind energy sites are selected in the Gulf of Maine.

The April 28 rally was a strong show of unity among Maine’s diverse fishermen and industry associations. “If we speak loud enough and long enough and have lots of people like we do here today, we can win the day,” John Hathaway, CEO of Shucks Maine Lobster, told the crowd. “It’s not how many times you get knocked down, it’s how many times you get up… We’re ready to stand up, to speak up, to rise up, and make our voices heard. And our votes count to those inside those four walls who make our laws. It’s our right, it’s our duty to our communities and our families. If we speak up, politicians will listen. They represent us. It’s their duty and it’s also their political future. If not the big money wins. So it’s all up to us. It’s up to all of us to speak up to speak the truth and if we do the politicians will listen and Maine lobster will win the day.”

“We are all in this together. Our efforts today, I believe, will determine the future of our children and grandchildren who may want to be part of this industry,” stated lobsterman Clinton Collamore of Waldoboro. The rally ended with a motorcade of hundreds of trucks and cars that travelled from the Augusta Civic Center to the Blaine House.

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