A draft environmental impact statement on from Ørsted The Ocean Wind 1 project shows how potential fisheries effects could figure into the Federal Office of Ocean Energy Management’s planning for the first commercial wind development off New Jersey.
So are the visuals of the construction of a 1,100 megawatt turbine array 13 miles offshore from Atlantic City, NJ, and other southern Jersey Shore resorts. The Ocean Wind 1 project — and the planned Atlantic Shores project on a neighboring federal lease to the north — have met fierce resistance in beach communities.
Up to 98 wind turbines and three offshore substations would generate electricity and send power through export cables to two outdated power plant sites onshore: the BL England site, a former coal-fired plant, and Oyster Creek, the nation’s first commercial nuclear power plant. power plant, now disused.
The draft 1,408-page environmental impact statement discusses BOEM’s preferred plan and its potential effects on wealthy and low-income coastal communities; marine mammals and other wild animals; fishing and maritime industries; tourism and recreation.
It offers alternatives to address objections and suggestions the agency heard during its scoping process. Some of these options include excluding potential wind turbine sites to reduce the visual effect of seeing the 900-foot-tall machines from the beach.
Other changes could move turbine locations away from underwater sand ridges and troughs — important seabed features that attract fish and are prime grounds for the region’s fishing fleet and charter boats.
The public review and 45-day comment period for the draft document officially opens on Friday, June 24. BOEM will host three virtual town hall meetings online:
– July 14 at 1 p.m. EST
– July 20 at 5 p.m.
– July 26 at 5 p.m.
The turbine array would be built in a grid pattern, with turbine towers spaced 1 nautical mile by 0.8 nautical mile apart, in a southeast-northwest orientation.
An alternative considers calls for a buffer zone between Ocean Wind and Atlantic Shores between 0.8 and 1.08 nautical miles wide. This is based on discussions with the Coast Guard, the Responsible Offshore Development Alliance on behalf of the commercial fishing industry and individual fishers, the draft document says.
“A buffer would provide a clear visual distinction between the separate projects and would provide sufficient maneuvering space” for surface ships and helicopters, planes that will be used for turbine maintenance, according to the document.
But a concession sought by the commercial surfclam fleet – 2 nautical mile spacing between turbine towers – was denied by BOEM analysis.
Reducing the number of turbine locations so much would make the project unworkable, the draft document says. According to the analysis, the 2-mile spacing would reduce the turbine layout plan by two-thirds and fall well short of New Jersey’s 2019 1,100 MW solicitation award for the project.
According to National Marine Fisheries Service data cited in the draft EIS, drag fisheries for scallops and surf clams account for most commercial landings in Ocean Wind Lease Area 1.
The document acknowledges that the surf clam fishery is most likely to be impacted by Ocean Wind 1. Ocean Wind 1 is off Absecon Inlet, where Gardner’s Basin and Clam Creek at the north end of Atlantic City are a historic home port for the clam fleet.
“While Ocean Wind’s navigational safety risk assessment shows that it is technically possible to navigate and maneuver fishing vessels and mobile gear in the wind farm area, BOEM is aware that the maneuverability in the wind farm area may vary depending on many factors including vessel size, fishing gear or method used and environmental conditions such as wind, sea state, current and visibility,” the agency’s analysts wrote.
“Further, BOEM recognizes that even where it is possible to fish in the wind farm area, some anglers may still consider it unsafe to do so. Additionally, operating in the wind farm area with other vessels and gear types present may restrict the vessels maneuverability.”
The fishing industry has also requested a minimum burial depth for cables of 8-10ft to avoid interactions with fishing gear – or if lesser depth is permitted, using or, remote monitoring to ensure that the cables remain sufficiently deep in the seabed. The plan calls for a total of 384 miles of submarine cables.
Ocean Wind’s developers offer target burial depths of 4 to 6 feet, with final depths to be coordinated with regulators. According to BOEM, burial depths and remote monitoring can be addressed among the mitigation measures in the final environmental impact statement without adding it as an alternative measure in the draft document.
An alternative under consideration is to reroute the export cable north from Ocean Wind to the Oyster Creek site. According to the plan, the cable would make landfall at Island Beach State Park north of Barnegat Inlet, be buried through the barrier island, then under Barnegat Bay to the old nuclear power plant.
The exact route could be modified to minimize disturbance to submerged aquatic vegetation in the shallow bay, such as eelgrass which is critical habitat for juvenile fish and blue crabs. Barnegat Bay is plagued by nutrient overload from stormwater runoff and resulting water quality issues that have reduced seagrass beds.
The draft document includes some details on how the construction and operation phases of Ocean Wind 1 would unfold.
Atlantic City will serve as the construction management base. Ørsted will rehabilitate a former marina area with 500 feet of waterfront off Absecon Inlet at the north end of town, and use the location as an ongoing operations and maintenance facility.
Foundation fabrication and delivery can be sourced from Paulsboro, NJ on the Delaware River or direct from Europe.
The turbines would be pre-assembled ashore and sent for installation from Norfolk, Virginia, or New Jersey’s new wind port at Hope Creek in the upper Delaware Bay. Both ports are vying to be major hubs for offshore wind projects in the mid-Atlantic.
The construction phase will be busy off the beaches of New Jersey. When installing the cables connecting the turbines and the three substations, up to 20 workboats can operate in a typical working day, according to the draft document.
As export cables are laid to BL England and Oyster Creek, up to 26 vessels could be at work.
After an expected lifespan of 35 years, all Ocean Wind structures and cables are expected to be decommissioned and removed, with the seabed cleared to a depth of 15 feet, according to the draft statement.