Windmills are coming to Long Beach Island and the surrounding areas in NJ. This should not be ground breaking news.
Hot off the Atlantic Shores Offshore Wind Zoom meeting I figured it was right to share my feelings of the situation. This is not to detail the entire situation, project or debate fine points. There’s lots of information available with some simple searches on Google. I encourage all to do it and read up on things. Might want to start here… AtlanticShoresWind.com
The Jan 28th Recreation Fishing Meeting And Listening Session was the second of its type. It started off bumpy with tech trouble but then took off and was really good. I don’t think it could of went any better. Why? Some great public comments were made and Atlantic Shore (AS) was listening.
The Atlantic Shore Lease is located approximately 9 to 20 miles off the New Jersey coast, between Barnegat Light and Atlantic City, encompassing approximately 183,000 acres.
Offshore Wind Farm Key Concerns:
The reason for the meeting was to list out the concerns and hear public comment/concerns from the recreational fishing community with regards to the Offshore Wind Farm (OWF) and the AS lease site. Here’s the list that was presented…
- Transit Lanes
- Radar Clutter
- Cable Burial
EMF – Electro-Magnetic Fields
This is the hottest and most debatable topic and needs its own individual meeting(s). The quick and dirty… Some species of fish like flounder and sharks are affected by the EMF from the cables. The “Flounder Fence” issue is very concerning and possibly detrimental to NJ’s fisheries.
There will be a large network of cables, more on them below. There’s talk that an EMF study is being finalized but so is the plans of the OWF project. Seems like someone is putting the cart before the horse. Also there is major concern that information from the Block Island Wind Farm (BIWF) will be used to speculate about the AS lease site and project. The five wind turbines at the Block island Wind Farm are totally different than hundreds of turbines off the Central Jersey Coast. It’s like comparing apples to oranges.
Areas were discussed and shown on a chart detailing the lease site and sensitive areas that were brought to the attention of AS by recreational and commercial fishermen. Most of the areas detailed were at the southern area of the site off of Atlantic City.
There was positive discussion about building structure around the base of each foundation to both protect from erosion and also help build a habitat to hold fish. I hope more discussions develops on this topic as it could help anglers. Possibly we could ask (who knows what they will give us) for a few (if not all) special locations which would have extra high rock piles 10-20″ tall, maybe some piling of clean construction materials (concrete) to help build small or large artificial reefs throughout the lease site.
Effect On Existing Artificial Reefs
Good news for anglers, “The Lease Area and export cable routes are planned to avoid artificial reefs and wreck sites. These artificial reefs will also be avoided during construction and maintenance of the project. If new artificial reef locations are established, these will also be included in our project design planning.”
For transiting vessels the offshore wind turbines will be placed in a uniformed grid layout that has transit corridors of no less than 1 nautical mile. The number of wind turbines and their distance between individual ones is still not known. These rows allow for safe transit of all marine traffic and will take into account existing vessel traffic patterns and hopefully will take into account recreational fishing vessels heading offshore to the deep.
A major concern to sport fishing vessels out of Barnegat Inlet would be heading to the Spencer Canyon or any waters to its south. If there isn’t a transit lane offshore sport fishing vessels will be dealing with an excessive route. Unfortunately Beach Haven Inlet vessels they will have a much harder time choosing a route with minimal detours heading to the Baltimore or any waters all the way up to the MudHole. Obviously there will be a way to get through BUT, this is an area that anglers need to speak up and voice their opinions. What are your needs for transit lanes and exactly where! To the best of my knowledge the Beach Haven Charter Fishing Association is in communication with AS representatives but I did not hear a public comment. I’ll be looking for more clarification about this.
AIS – Automatic Identification System
Yes wind turbines will be marked and illuminated to meet the needs of mariners and requirements of the USCG and FAA. However that is not enough. In my opinion each turbine must have an AIS transponder for the utmost in marine navigation safety. This way each and every turbine’s position is listed or overlaid as a point on GPS plotters. At busy times marine traffic could bottle neck as vessels transit through lanes. Especially in bad weather and times of limited visibility AIS will be very helpful to mariners.
How will the wind turbines display and clutter on a radar screen? This is especially important in foul weather situations which is why AIS is crucial. I’d like to see a screen shot or hear from a mariner with experience navigating by the Block Island Wind Farm.
There will be no restrictions once constructed. Fishing will be allowed right up to the piles. However vessels can not tie off. Rhodan GPS Anchors are game changers!
Two types of cables will be used; inter-array cables network the wind turbines and export cables will go to substations. All cables will be buried 6 ft (2m) and some areas will need rocks to protect/support the cable.
The concern about the soft sandy bottom type which is predominantly found in the area was mentioned. Sand shift with currents and especially with storms. As per AS, “All cables will be monitored for burial throughout project operation.”
Details On The Cable Were Shared
The main core of the cables will be made of up of three inner cables, surrounded by insulation and shielding. Then a chain mail armor jacket with a thick plastic outer covering. Obviously designed for the marine environment
Anchoring is a common practice by bottom fishermen. The topic was listed but was not discussed in detail. Will anchoring be allowed? I assume so but maybe this needs clarification.
Public Comment On Windmills Added
I felt strongly and commented that the first and foremost list of concern should be Recreation Fishing Opportunities. This three word phase is broad and wide reaching, but is the utmost importance!
Statewide Contributions By Anglers In NJ
In 2018 the American Sportfishing Association along with data from NOAA published (link here) $1.3 billion in economic output was contributed by New Jersey’s anglers and it supported close to 9000 jobs. As noted in the report from 2018 to 2020 there was a 66% increase in excise tax collected therefore 2020 contributions are significantly higher. The graphic below details some trends on the U.S. Recreational Fishing Economy published in 2016.
With regards to the high risk of the project to the states important fisheries, Bob Rush Charter Captain of the Starfish and NJ Marine Fisheries Council member commented, “If/when the fisheries are ruined as a result of the OWF will there be mitigation? Subsidies?” Not much of a reply back.
What Took Me By Surprise
This was a public meeting for the recreation fishing industry and community to air our their concerns and comment to AS. With only ~70 in attendance I thought it was a poor turn out considering the timing and convenience of Zoom. WTF!?! How was not one other tackle shop on the call!?! Pathetic! Maybe because the Orsted (another separate OWF project taking place off of Northern NJ waters) meetings went so poorly there was a lack of interest? Huge thanks to our Recreational Fisheries Industry Rep Captain Adam Nowalsky (also from Recreation Fishing Alliance) and Fisheries Liaison Officer Captain Kevin Wark (from Barnegat Light). Without these two well respected captains the situation could be a lot different.
Offshore Wind Turbine Foundation Type
The style of foundation was touched on briefly and it sounds like the exact type was not chosen yet but they are leaning towards the monopile style (single column is lowest cost). With that said the jacket style (BIWF) might not be out of the question. The jacket style’s lattice framework offers the best habitat for fishing structure.
I encourage all interested and concerned to read up on the OWF topic. I’m diving in to learn more as I’m new to this new world of wind. Although distinctly different information on the Block Island Wind Farm is a good start. The Dublin Array Offshore Wind Farm is another project in the Irish Sea. Construction will start soon about 10km off the coastline of Dublin Ireland.
Other Links To Read…
The Fisherman Magazine: Myth or Matter: Is Offshore Wind Blowing in Too Fast?