Fishermen Want More Time to Negotiate Over Wind

By TIM FAULKNER/ecoRI News staff

Lanny Dellinger, a Newport, R.I.-based lobsterman and chairman of the Fishermen’s Advisory Board, said fishermen are being rushed to accept a compensation offer for the harm they say will be caused by the Vineyard Wind offshore project.

“It’s like being pushed into the (real estate) closing without seeing the appraisal,” Dellinger said.

There’s no doubt that the project developer is in a hurry. Vineyard Wind needs approval from the Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC) soon so that construction can begin on the 84-turbine project and qualify for a federal tax credit. Any changes to the layout of the project or the compensation offer will add weeks or months to the application process, and delay pending permits from Massachusetts.

Vineyard Wind has received three extensions from the CRMC since its application was submitted last April 6. The latest was granted Jan. 25, when the CRMC postponed its final vote until Feb. 19.

It wasn’t until Jan. 16, however, that Vineyard Wind sent its compensation plan to the Fishermen’s Advisory Board (FAB). At the time, the FAB had no attorney or financial expert to review the $6.2 million compensation offer.

Noting a Jan. 27 opinion letter by Vineyard Wind CEO Lars Pedersen in the Providence Journal, Dellinger said fishermen are being labeled as obstructionist for calling for more time. But Dellinger said safety for fishing in and around the 92-square-mile offshore wind project must be given thorough consideration by the FAB and local fishermen.

“We do not want to become collateral damage,” he said.

In a Jan. 30 letter to the CRMC, FAB’s attorney, Tricia Jedele, said the fishermen need to review the economic analysis used by Vineyard Wind before negotiations can continue. According to the letter, Vineyard Wind rejected a proposed negotiation schedule, prompting the CRMC to seek an extension beyond the Feb. 19 deadline.

“Despite its best intention, the FAB cannot possibly complete its review of the proposal within the next week,” Jadele said.

Environmental groups such as Climate Action Rhode Island and the Conservation Law Foundation are urging support for Vineyard Wind. In an e-mail to likely supporters, Climate Action Rhode Island noted that the wind energy generated will displace emissions equivalent to 325,000 cars. It also highlighted a recent promise by Vineyard Wind to limit pile driving, boat speeds, and construction during the migration of North Atlantic right whales.

The e-mail also notes that the fishermen’s concerns are valid but that the FAB has been negotiating with Vineyard Wind since 2017 and the wind developer has already made compromises, such as reducing the number of turbines.

“The concerns of FAB are valid, but so is the acidification of the ocean which makes it noticeably warmer every year, is changing migration patterns, and threatening the survival of ocean life and therefore the fishing industry,” according to the Climate Action Rhode Island e-mail.

Upcoming meetings
In Massachusetts, the wind project is being reviewed by the state’s Energy Facilities Siting Board and the Environmental Policy Act Office.

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) has extended the online comment period on a draft of the environmental impact statement until Feb. 22. Public meetings hosted by BOEM were postponed because the federal government shutdown, but new meetings have been scheduled now that federal offices have reopened.

Feb. 11
Nantucket Atheneum
1 India St.
Nantucket, Mass.
Open house 5-7:30 p.m.
Presentation and questions at 5:30 p.m.

Feb. 12
Martha’s Vineyard Hebrew Center
130 Center St.
Vineyard Haven, Mass.
Open house 5-8 p.m.
Presentation and questions at 6 p.m.

Feb. 13
Double Tree Hotel
287 Iyannough Road
Hyannis, Mass.
Open house 5-8 p.m.
Presentation and questions at 6 p.m.

Feb. 14
Fairfield Inn Waypoint Event Center
185 MacArthur Drive
New Bedford, Mass.
Open house 5-8 p.m.
Presentation and questions at 6 p.m.

Feb. 15
Narragansett Community Center
53 Mumford Road
Narragansett, R.I.
Open house 5-8 p.m.
Presentation and questions 6 p.m.

Editor’s note: Tricia Jedele is the part-time development director for ecoRI News.