Videos and text by TIM FAULKNER/ecoRI News staff
NARRAGANSETT, R.I. — After much delay and some verbal tussling with fishermen, Vineyard Wind has released its plan to compensate fishermen for revenue lost as a result of its 84-turbine offshore wind facility.
The $6.2 million offer to the Fishermen’s Advisory Board (FAB), a subcommittee of the Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC), would pay $140,464 annually, plus inflation, into an escrow account. That money would reimburse fishermen who lose money during construction, operation, and decommissioning of the 800-megawatt wind facility over its 30-year life expectancy.
Vineyard Wind’s compensation package also includes $23 million for studies and projects that make it safer to fish in and around the wind facility. The Ocean SAMP Fisheries and Wind Fund, to be managed by CRMC, would receive payments of $544,536 annually for 30 years, plus inflation.
Vineyard Wind also promised to bury transmission cables deep enough to allow fishing above them and to align future wind turbines on an east-west direction to better accommodate boat traffic.
The FAB has yet to publicly respond to Vineyard Wind’s offer. But it’s value is less than the $35,611,702 assessment tabulated by the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM). Vineyard Wind said the DEM report, issued Jan. 14, failed to include revenue from fishing in and around the 100-square-mile wind facility. DEM also didn’t account for a 20 percent reduction in the footprint of the wind facility, a recent concession Vineyard Wind made to fishermen.
The FAB received Vineyard Wind’s compensation plan the night of Jan. 16. FAB chairman Lanny Dellinger told ecoRI News he would comment after the board reviews the offer and receives legal advice.
At the FAB’s Jan. 15 meeting, Vineyard Wind failed to deliver its plan for the second time in two weeks. It was an odd meeting from the start, because FAB knew beforehand that Vineyard Wind CEO Lars Thaaning Pedersen was showing up empty-handed and thus the meeting was unnecessary.
Vineyard Wind agreed to send its compensation proposal to the FAB the following day. A vote on the offer was pushed off until Jan. 28, the day before CRMC votes on the full $2 billion offshore wind project.
FAB members and some of the fishermen at the meeting criticized Pedersen for not meeting with them since the meeting two weeks earlier or for at least making a sincere effort to work on a proposal.
Lobsterman Bill McElroy worried that the DEM report would be used by Vineyard Wind to set an artificially low compensation offer.
“Where’s the mechanism in that?” McElroy asked. “Say the DEM offer looks to the (fishing) industry to be ridiculously low and you’ve tried to establish these preset sideboard before you’ve even entered into the first negotiation with the FAB, how does the FAB get out of that bind?”
Pedersen for his part seemed agitated and said he wanted to discuss his compensation offer with the FAB only and not in an open forum.
Dan Pronk, a fisherman from Nantucket, Mass., wanted to be part of any discussion.
“You are cramming this thing in my backyard where I’ve been fishing for god, how many years, right where your wind farm is going,” he said. “Why can’t I be in on this meeting because this is in my backyard?”
There also were more accusations that Vineyard Wind is coordinating a path to approval with Gov. Gina Raimondo instead of the FAB.
Raimondo spokesman Josh Block confirmed discussions with DEM and Vineyard Wind and said the intent is “regarding an economic development package for Rhode Island if the project is approved.”
In an e-mail to ecoRI News, DEM called its report “a point of discussion.” And according to a spokesperson, the agency “hopes that it will inform the negotiations between fishing industry leaders and Vineyard Wind.”
Pedersen also agreed to pay for the FAB’s attorney’s fees.
Dellinger was thankful, but as a show of resolve, FAB member Chris Brown sent a warning to Vineyard Wind by making a motion to deny the wind project for failing to meet federal consistency requirements. The motion was seconded, but after discussion among FAB members, the vote was tabled.
Pedersen and FAB are expected to meet in private before the Jan. 28 public meeting. A special meeting of the full CRMC board was moved from Jan. 22 to Jan. 29. Both meetings will be held at the University of Rhode Island, Bay Campus in the Corliss Auditorium.
Dellinger said no decisions will be made by the FAB until the public and fishermen have a chance to speak at the Jan. 28 meeting.