I’ve been to far too many pro wind propaganda meetings put on by the developers and feds. I’ve asked lots of great questions based around the risks to the ocean and fisheries, but most are ignored or deflected with a green washed smile. For this reason and this reason only I became more involved and do my best to share. I’m not asking anyone to be in favor or against these wind projects. I just want everyone to know what’s happening and the speed at which it’s happening. Hopefully after reading, you too will be concerned and yearning for deeper information on the threats offshore wind blows in.
First and foremast I do not deny; climate change, shifting ocean currents, ocean acidification, warming sea surface temps and the northern shift in fish patterns. All of these issues are critical and contributing to major challenges and even crisis in fisheries. But!
Hundreds (possibly thousands) of offshore wind turbines do not solve the problem. In fact industrializing one million acres of the ocean adds a whole new unknown invasive dimension. Scientists are working on many of the hot topics listed below. Their work must be completed and explicitly considered; however the offshore wind developments are outpacing the speed of science and the needs of the sea.
Comment period ends today 8/23/22 on
Ocean Wind’s draft environmental impact statement
Comments are made through the regulations.gov web portal:
Fisheries & Oceanographic Concerns
1,000,000 Acres Of Turbines Off NJ
Yes 1 million acres of ocean is slated to be exploited by wind developers. What is massively overlooked and absent is the comprehensive assessment of the CUMULATIVE EFFECTS! The industrialization of the ocean could lead to the destruction of the ocean radically faster than what the plan is set forth to solve, Climate Change.
Offshore wind farms can negatively impact ocean dynamics which has major implications for fish. All phases of offshore wind development pressure and stress the marine environment.
- Surveying – Right now (and in the past year) surveying activity has had detrimental effects on fish aggregations in the areas where seismic blasting is taking place. Cone Penetration Testing (CPT) is taking place to test the sea floor and 100’s of feet through the sea floor.
- Construction – Harmful sound and turbidity during the turbine base installation will be two major problems. Will it be localized to the areas of activity? There’s documentation (Appendix R & Cowrie Noise 03-2003) showing noise even with mitigation (bubble curtains) still travels many miles. How long will it go on for? How large and wide spread will the sediment plumes be and what effect will they have on fishing. Usually dirty turbid water is bad for fishing.
- Operation – By extracting energy and leaving a wake downwind, reduced windspeed, air turbulence and changes in pressure. Wind farms very well may disturb the natural stratification of ocean waters. This mixing can affect what is known as the Cold Pool, plankton and the food web. This disturbance will also effect larval transport which is dependent on the winds and currents to move and distribute naturally. This is a vital part of the fisheries and can’t be a testing ground to experiment!
- Decommissioning – Once things finally settle in to the radical change, after 20-30 years it is the new normal. But at that time the useful life has been reached and as per the Ocean Wind 1’s COP 6.3 Decommissioning Plan “At the end of the operational lifetime of the Project, it is anticipated that all structures above the seabed level or aboveground will be completely removed. The decommissioning sequence will generally be the reverse of the construction sequence.” Basically everything is ripped out.What effects will this new radical change in habitat have?
Most pro-wind boast of the benefits turbine structures could create. But, Wind turbines and their low lying scour protection is not a net benefit to the ecosystem. The reef effect from offshore wind turbines is a potential detrimental risk not advantage. Here is why.
First and foremost NJ has a shallow, soft sand/mud/clay bottom. Drawling conclusions from Block Island’s Wind Farm and comparing to NJ is apples and oranges. Block Island has deep water and rocky hard bottom. Not all species benefit from the addition of hard substrate in an area where little hard substrate occurs naturally. Also the five turbine bases (jacketed lattice style) there are also a different style structure compared to the monopiles proposed here. A cave like structure (wrecks) or poles close to one another, think bridge or dock can offer refuge. A steel monopile does nothing more than break the current and foul. This will attract but debatable if it only attracts existing fish to this new area or if this new area produces new fish adding to the biomass.
- Permanent changes to benthic habitat will occur with the installation of wind turbine generators.
- Developments will also alter the food web and the benthic ecosystem. The of attraction vs production arrises. Essentially turbine bases are fish attracting device that will aggregate and ecologically trap fish in a suboptimal habitat. *This will assist anglers in possibly over fishing which could actually lead to hurting fish stocks.
- Another concern is the support of colonization of non-indigenous species and at times invasive species to these new area.
- The altering of migratory patterns is another huge risk!
- When gamefish take an offshore migration or congregate in an offshore wind development due to the reef effect how will the recreational fishing economy be compensated for the loss of opportunity? Not all anglers have the ability to fish 5-15-30 miles offshore. More over federally protected species like striped bass could be (and more than likely will be) pulled out of state waters due to the reef effect in essence reducing recreational access to the resource. We’ve yet to hear from state and federal agencies on this topic.
Sand Eels aka Sand Lance
Turbine and inter array cabling poses huge risk to these very import forage.
The critically important sand lance are forage fish in the NW Atlantic that were grossly overlooked in Orsted’s COP Appendix P. There are 45 species of fish both coastal and pelagic, 16 sea birds and 9 marine mammals that depend on sand lance making the species a quintessential link in the food web. Table 4.9 of the NJ Offshore Wind Energy: Feasibility Study (pg77) the American Sand Lance is one of the only species not to have their spawning location mentioned? Seems odd! Their role and strong association with sandy sediment must be explicitly considered.
Sand lance are a very important forage fish, the back bone of the ecosystem with everything from cod, tuna, whales and bird feeding on them. If sand lance decline there will be a ripple effect to all of the higher trophic animals. These little eel like fish have a huge impact!
Cold Pool Disruption
The Mid-Atlantic Bight (MAB) is home to the world’s widest ocean water temperature swings with the winter’s cold in the low 30’s and the summer’s highs at times reaching 80ºF. The waters begin to stratify in the spring as the sea surface temperature warms and this special cold dense blanket of water settles in on the bottom over the summer. This phenomenon is called the MAB Cold Pool supports the area’s diverse and vibrant fisheries. It also acts as a natural defense when hurricanes move into the area.
In the summer NJ anglers can head offshore and at one location catch mahi (warm water fish) near floating debris and then drop a bait to the bottom and catch a ling or cod (cold water fish). Did you ever experience ice cold ocean temps after a hard south blow? This is the cold pool upwelling.
The Cold Pool is seasonal and naturally breaks down in the late fall when winds and storm activity increases. Could the addition of 100-1000’s of fixed turbine bases act like a whisk and disturb/mix the waters? Prevent the cold pool from seasonally forming? It’s possible. The cumulative affect of wind turbines in the MAB have never been studied to fully understand the lasting impact on the area and everyone that depends on its natural resources. Further research is required and currently underway by a team at Rutgers however the offshore wind development deadlines are not set up to responsibly wait for the scientific findings.
Electro Magnetic Field (EMF) & Sea Life
There are serious concerns with regards to cabling. More specifically I have a huge problem believing there will be little impact from ripping a jet plow through the heart of Barnegat Bay. This area is not only a nursery (EFH – essential fish habitat) for many species, it’s also home to endangered SAV (submerge aquatic vegetation) such as eel grass and widgeon grass among others. A high voltage export cabling will be in very shallow water (less than 15′) and the EMF (electromagnetic field) very much CAN have effects based on URI’s Dr. King’s papers. More studies need to be done on the effects on the crustaceans of Barnegat Bay (blue claws, horseshoe crabs, calico crabs, mantis shrimp, grass shrimp and others) as well as the fin fish, sharks and rays.
Sharks & Offshore Wind Turbines
Sharks are very important and there are critically endangered shark species (brown, dusky, sand tiger, thresher, mako and white) which call the wind lease areas home. Appendix P Table 3 lists these species which will not only be affected during construction but also during operation since sharks are known to be sensitive to EMF. Altering their patterns raises huge concerns. Sharks are slow to reproduce. Some sharks born today will not be sexually mature until the decommission (which is very much vague and left open ended) of these projects in 20 years.
Flounder & Offshore Wind Turbines
Orsted’s Ocean Wind Construction & Operations Plan V3 Appendix P 18.104.22.168 Lists Winter & Summer Flounder as economically important flatfish and it happens to be species that need A LOT OF HELP! Yet developments put them at risk. The project area contains designated EFH for flounder egg, larval, juvenile and adult life stage. Appendix E Photo 7 the survey documents a juvenile summer flounder clearly showing the site is a nursery.
Surf Clam & Offshore Wind Turbines
Relatively little is known about surf clams which have 500 year lifespans. Yet 100-1000’s of turbines are slated to be slammed in their sandy home. Let’s slow down and learn about what calls these waters home before destroying it! Fortunately Atlantic Shores Offshore Wind funded a $500,000 study with Rutgers University to study NJ’s surf clam industry and the potential impacts of wind farms on the shellfish.
Environmentally Sensitive Areas
The 2010 at 3rd NJ Renewable Task Force Meeting Dr. Buchanan (NJDEP) presents “NJ’s Area Of Interest – Wind Power On The OCS” and delineates areas off the coast of NJ for possible development to meet the state’s goals of 1,100MW of offshore wind. Ecologically sensitive areas as well as areas of potential conflict were shown in addition to several avoidance zones. Now NJ’s mandates (Murphy’s numerous Executive Orders) tripled at 3,500MW by 2030 and 7,500MW by 2035 and what do you know… The lease sites now cover much of these sensitive areas.
Shoals and ridges function as feeding grounds and nurseries for various pelagic and bottom dwelling species as well as serve as fishing hot spots for recreational and commercial fisherman, birds sea turtle and marine mammals.
Hazardous Chemicals Don’t Belong In The Ocean
1 gallon of oil containment 100 million gallons of sea water
As per the Ocean Wind COP & Atlantic Shore Cop one turbine will have 1000’s of gallons of hazardous chemical and wind turbines are well documented leaking around the world. Oil Pollution Act of 1990 established that those responsible are responsible for the cleanup and restoration. So is this another risk that gets tossed into the taxpayers and ratepayer wallet?
Once the hazardous section is review the green hue of offshore wind projects begins to burn.
Some might think that the ocean is an open vast area with nothing but water. However there’s vessels of all sizes everywhere all going in every which direction. It’s not an organized highway. AIS transceivers must be federally required on each and every turbine and substation. In foul weather and times of limited visibility avoiding turbine structures, other vessels making course changes as mariners attempt to zig zag through the sites will be challenging. Add to the hellacious problems, turbine blades interfere with radar and display clutter/interference. For this reason I feel that every ocean going vessel must have AIS systems onboard to both send and receive data. It is the only way for safe navigation through these massive wind farm areas.
Wind turbine generators have significant electromagnetic reflectivity, and therefore can interfere with radar systems operating nearby. The rotating blades can also create reflections in Doppler radar systems. In particular, these forms of interference could obfuscate smaller vessels and stationary objects such as buoys on radar, complicating navigation decisions and increasing the risk of collision with larger vessels. Maritime search and rescue teams also rely on radar to find smaller boats.
Here’s a real world example (and current event) that puts the hazards into perspective. Mechanical failures can get very dangers on the high seas and then add in a forest of huge ocean turbines. Case and point… Article one details a recent event in the North Sea. Article two documents the cargo ship hitting a ocean wind turbine base.
To help ensure safe navigation, there must be a couple 5NM Transit Lanes properly laid out for both commercial and recreational traffic. There must be no less than 1NM Turbine Spacing to allow safe navigation within the ocean wind farm. The array layout must be done logically and in collaboration and correlation with neighboring wind development areas so there is consistency. As of August ’22 it sounds like the USCS asked for 1.5NM but 1NM, possibly 0.8NM was settled on and NO transit lanes!
As detailed in the URI News article “Offshore wind farm reduce value of recreational boating experience”.
Offshore Wind Noise Concerns
Acoustics are very important in the marine environment. Fish detect sounds with their very sensitive inner ear bones (otoliths) and some detect sound pressures in organs. Most fish use sounds for communication, navigation, spawning and to detect prey and predators. Noises can physically injure fish and also spook which reduces schooling altering behavior.
Construction & Operation Noise & Vibration
Noise both during construction and long term operation is a major risk to sea life that must be taken into account. Pile driving hammer 164′ into the seabed and seafloor disturbance during construction will last many years. It’s documented that noise from pile driving can cause major injuries to fish. Then during the planned 20-30 year (they will be happy if they get 10-15 years) operational lifespan low frequency sounds will be detrimental; whales, fish and forage (squid).
CPT Surveying Activities
CPT (Cone Penetration Testing) is used for survey purposes to analyze the ocean floor. It’s unknown to me how this activity relates (or not) to seismic blasting. I would really like to know because I believe it isn’t good. Case and point.
Marine seismic surveys emit high intensity, low frequency sound waves from airgun arryas downward into the water column. Thede waves penetrate the seafloo to provide imagery of underlying geology. This noise is very bad for marine mammals and fish.
Mid May to Mid June 2021 I had phenomenal black sea bass fishing east of Barnegat Light. On June 18th the Commander showed up and then the next four days June 19th to June 22 (last day of the season) offered very poor fishing? It was like a flipped the switch and the area was void of life.
I knew something was up but I didn’t really come to the conclusion until I saw my friend Jimmy Hahn’s (from Ocean City, MD) post on Facebook just a few das ago. He’s has a similar story from just last week and another from 2018.
He shared on December 12, 2021, “The north end of a 75 pot (welk traps) string near Indian River Inlet was void of life. This area is where Orsted was surveying for the last three month. But the south end where no surveying took place has life. This is what’s happening to our fishing grounds. The bottom is dead!” Jimmy has a similar event documented on his page from Dec 31, 2018 too. It sure doesn’t seem like a coincidence!
I hope this sparked your interest in the topic of offshore wind. Please do your own research and learn more about these rapidly developing issues. Thank you for reading. Please share!
Part 3 will posted soon (hopefully) and will touch on topics that should concern everyone; energy policy, economics and feasibility.
Who I am?
I am not an expert; however I am very informed recreational fisheries stakeholder. I’ve done extensive research over the years reading many peer reviewed journal on the many facets of offshore wind. I’ve attended as many (state/local/federal) meetings as possible. I’ve read many (if not all) of the Construction and Operations Proposals as well as the Notice Of Intent from developers. I also recently completed the Rutgers Cooperative Extension “IFISSH” Introductory Fisheries Science For Stakeholders Certificate Course, a 10 week program on the trending hot topics in fisheries, oceanography, climate and offshore wind. Since no one else is sharing the many concerning topic about offshore wind… I’ve done my best.
As a recreational fisheries stake holder, I have a myriad of concerns. You can hear all of my public comments, concerns and red flags at the numerous BOEM federal meetings. Here’s some good topics to consider.
If you would like to hear my public comments which listed many concerns and red flags at the numerous BOEM federal meetings… they are on record on BOEM’s YouTube page.
For the record, I’m a SMR (advanced small modular reactor, nuclear) believer since it is the ONLY clean, affordable and dependable energy that can serve our energy demands, base load and peaks.