Sen. Somers seeks to protect CT fishing industry

December 10, 2021

Vineyard Wind turbine farm draws CT fishing industry concern 

The massive 804 megawatt Vineyard Wind turbine farm proposed for waters off Martha’s Vineyard is triggering concern about the impact on the state’s fishing industry.

During a meeting Thursday of the Connecticut Commission on Environmental Standards, a collection of regulators, fisherman and politicians, some members suggested that pledged research funding be directed toward protecting fishermen.

State Sen. Heather Somers, R-Groton and a commission member, said she was particularly concerned about fisherman based in New London and Stonington.

“One of my biggest concerns is the impact on local fishing fleets,” Somers said.
“We don’t need a university studying something that does not help our local fishing communities,” Somers noted, referencing the University of Connecticut’s role in the project. “I ask that you consider that going forward.”

The Connecticut side of the massive electric project, dubbed Park City Wind, a joint venture between a subsidiary of Orange-based Avangrid and Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners, plans to use Bridgeport’s port to stage and transport construction material to ocean leases off Martha’s Vineyard.
Eventually, the Bridgeport facility will be used for ongoing maintenance of the wind farm.

Park City Wind has allocated $2.5 million to UConn’s Department of Marine Sciences to study the impact of the wind farm on surrounding fisheries and $2.5 million to the Mystic Aquarium to better understand the impact on marine mammals and their habitat. Part of that work will focus on underwater noise generated by wind farms.

Atma Khalsa, environmental manager for Avangrid Renewables, said he will bring Somers’ suggestion to UConn researchers.
“I will try to get in contact with fisherman,” Khalsa promised. “The topics chosen did involve fisheries input. We can never engage enough with fishing communities.”

State Sen. Paul Formica, R-East Lyme and a commission member, noted that 70 percent of insurance claims being paid in Europe because of damage attributed to offshore wind is related to underwater transmission cables.
“I understand we have issues when you have an emerging industry,” Formica said. “I just have not heard a conversation about what those solutions are.”

Christina Hoffman, a senior project manager for Avangrid Renewables, said the technology for underwater cable systems is evolving.
“There have been a lot of lessons learned in Europe and they are keying into aspects of the design, including cable burying,” Hoffman said. “There is a lot of effort going into cable design that will run north to Massachusetts and Cape Cod.”

The equipment necessary to build the wind farm will be staged and transported from a 15-acre port facility off Seaview Avenue in Bridgeport. A lease for an office is in place and Park City officials said progress is being made converting the site for its new use.

“Bridgeport is a big piece of the project,” Hoffman said. “We are committed to a strong Connecticut presence. The office opened this summer and we signed a lease for using Barnum Landing for construction staging for turbines that will be in the ocean. Discussions are underway to use the port for maintenance operations for the life of the project.”

Park City Wind officials explained a change in ownership structure in which one of the offshore leases will now be owned by Avangrid Renewables, Park City Wind and Commonwealth Wind. A second underwater lease will be owned by Copenhagan Infrastructure Partners.

An environmental impact statement for the project, a key component of upcoming permits needed to begin construction, are well underway, Park City Wind officials said.
Hoffman said the statement is expected to be published in August 2022 and a decision by a variety of federal regulators is due by July 2023.

The project is projected to generate $890 million in direct economic benefits and thousands of jobs.

The developers have proposed investing hundreds of millions of dollars in Connecticut representing a range of infrastructure improvements and community programs.