By Fred Bever | Maine Public | March 22, 2021 | www.mainepublic.org ~~
Protests over wind energy development off the coast of Maine changed course today. Several fishing boats reportedly circled a survey vessel off Monhegan Island, and federal and state law enforcement responded.
Lobsterman Larry Reed posted video on Facebook Monday morning of the Go Liberty, a 150-foot survey vessel, as it appeared to draw near lobster buoys in the water.
“He’s gonna tow right though that lobster gear with no concern. He’s got gear out towing, no concern whatsoever for our livelihoods,” Reed said in the video.
The U.S. Coast Guard says it sent boats from its Boothbay Harbor station to assist the state Marine Patrol on the scene, which is in state-administered waters. Company officials say the survey vessel was forced to stop operations to ensure safety. Fishermen say that Coast Guard and Marine Patrol boats monitored the situation, and by afternoon the vessel continued its work.
The flashpoint is a single-turbine, floating platform wind project under development by New England Aqua Ventus, in a collaboration between private industry and the University of Maine. The Go Liberty was contracted to survey potential routes for an electricity cable between the turbine and the coast.
On Sunday, several dozen fishing boats formed a protest flotilla off Monhegan, when the survey vessel was not active nearby.
“The peaceful protest that occurred yesterday is very different from the event that occurred today. Today is a risk to public safety, and really has crossed the line,” says state Rep. Genevieve McDonald, a Stonington lobsterman who works as a liaison between the New England Aqua Ventus ocean wind project and area fishermen.
McDonald says that between their concerns about pending gear rules that will aim to protect endangered North Atlantic right whales, the Monhegan wind project and a more recent state initiative to develop a 12-turbine wind array farther offshore, fishermen are scared for their future.
“So when you combine them, it’s sort of adding fuel to a fire that was already raging because of the issues with whale rules, and so people are very upset about this and we’re seeing that play out on the water,” she says.
An emerging bone of contention may be the placement of lobster traps and buoys within the survey area. For weeks, state marine regulators and company officials have been working to inform area fishermen about the pending survey and asking that gear be cleared temporarily from the ship’s track.
Aqua Ventus spokesman David Wilby says the Go Liberty documented some 220 buoys in the zone in mid-March, and found twice that number there a week later.
“The facts seem to suggest that may not be an accident,” he says.
Hampering the effort, Wilby says, will only make it harder to gather data that can be used to reduce potential harms by the growing offshore wind industry.
Lobstermen are skeptical of that argument. And they are seeking ways to halt the industry’s growth off Maine. But they say they have been reducing gear in the survey area.
“It’s a lot of money to put gear in the way of a vessel that’s just going to end up destroying it. No one wants to lose it; we cant afford to do that,” says Friendship lobsterman Dustin Delano, vice president of the Maine Lobstermen’s Association.
Another area lobsterman, Chad Burns, says the survey boat could easily have undercounted the buoys present during its first assessment due to rough weather and tides. He says he and other fishermen tended traps about 100 yards away from the Go Liberty on Monday and – as far as he could tell – it was continuing its work while federal and state patrol boats monitored the situation.
“We tried to move what we could but they’re not staying in the survey area. They’re going everywhere and anywhere. And it’s like a guessing game,” Burns says.
Wilby says as of late afternoon, the survey work was still on hold, with several fishing boats nearby and one deploying gear.
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100 fishing boats gather off Monhegan in protest of offshore wind development
By Laurie Schreiber
Fishermen in nearly 100 boats from the midcoast gathered in waters near Monhegan Island on Sunday to protest the development of offshore wind energy infrastructure, including an array of wind turbines proposed by the state.
Boats came from towns including South Bristol, Boothbay, Port Clyde, Tenants Harbor, Vinalhaven, Friendship, Spruce Head, Monhegan and Owls Head, Ben Martens, executive director of the Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association, told Mainebiz in a subsequent email.
The Brunswick association is an industry-based nonprofit that supports and advocates for Maine’s
community-based fishermen. The protest was organized by the fishermen themselves, not by an industry association, he noted.
“We fully support their efforts,” he added.
Martens continued, “Fishermen and waterfront communities throughout Maine are increasingly concerned at the speed at which offshore wind development is taking place in Maine. Maine has funding to create a full roadmap to better ensure that our fisheries and fishing communities are respected and protected, yet we seem to be full steam ahead on putting 700-foot industrial structures out on the ocean.
"We need clean energy, but just because wind is renewable, doesn't mean it's green and it doesn't mean it is the right choice for Maine.”
The protest was held in response to plans by the Governor’s Energy Office to install an array of up to 12 wind-energy turbines, to be used for research demonstration and to cover up to 16 square miles off Maine’s southern coast.
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Dozens of lobster boats gather off Monhegan to protest floating wind turbine
Don Carrigan | News Center Maine | March 21, 2021 | www.newscentermaine.com ~~
MONHEGAN, Maine – Scores of Maine lobstermen left the docks this morning to protest plans to build a floating offshore wind turbine near Monhegan Island.
The protest rally included about 80 boats, according to several of the fishermen, and was held a dozen miles offshore, close to the spot where New England Aqua Ventus plans to build the huge wind turbine.
It’s designed as a test project to prove University of Maine technology for a floating platform, but it would be in place for 20 years.
Gov. Janet Mills is proposing to build more of the floating wind turbines farther offshore in the Gulf of Maine.
Fishermen say the turbines pose a threat to lobsters and other marine life, and that the underwater cable and other aspects are also a threat to the fishermen.
“It’s a threat to our livelihood its going to mess with the ocean and our way of life, no doubt about it,” lobsterman Andy House said. “And you say this one off Monhegan will still cause problems? Like I say, this one off Monhegan I truly believe is the foot in the door to get more than one out there.”
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The protest didn’t disrupt survey boats, which weren’t on the route Sunday, said Dave Wilby, a spokesman for New England Aqua Ventus.
“The bigger issue,” he said in an interview, “is the amount of gear in the path of the survey route.”
Wilby said the company believed that the buoys and lines that Delano mentioned were “deliberate” attempts to block the survey. Before the project began, surveyors counted 221 buoys in the area, and on Saturday the figure was 453, he said.
“The only conclusion is that there’s a deliberate blocking of the survey path going on,” Wilby said.
Delano strongly denied that claim. Tides and the relative calmness or roughness of water can bring buoys in and out of view, he said, and may have skewed those counts.
“It’s a complete lie,” Delano said of the accusation of deliberate buoy blockage. “We ran that same route today and there was practically nothing there.”........................................
Wilby, the Aqua Ventus spokesman, noted that the Maine Legislature has already blessed initial plans for a survey. Company officials have reached out numerous times to fishermen and held joint meetings with state agencies to keep locals apprised of what’s planned, he said. After the survey results come in, there will be further opportunity for public review of the potential impact on area fisheries.
“The concern that we need to harmoniously conduct the survey with maritime uses has been known for some time,” he said, “and unfortunately some have chosen not to cooperate.”
Jeffrey Evangelos, a state representative from Friendship, said he is supporting a bill in the Maine Legislature, L.D. 101, that would prohibit state approval of wind projects off the coast.
Pressure is already mounting on lobstermen from pending federal regulations to protect right whales, an endangered species that ecologists fear can get entangled in fishing lines. An influx of wind turbines alongside that could spell trouble for the industry and the regional economy, Evangelos said.
“We’ve got the whales and now we’ve got the wind power,” he said in an interview. “This is the backbone of our local economy. If you continue to break the lobster industry, you’re going to have a depressed economy around here.”...................................
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