The Block Island Times
http://block-island.villagesoup.com/p/927367

CRMC opens comment period for Deepwater Wind

Save the Bay says windfarm plans environmentally sound
By Pippa Jack | Nov 19, 2012

A public hearing on Deepwater Wind’s application to build a windfarm 3 miles off the coast of Block Island is drawing nearer. This week, the R. I. Coastal Resources Management Council opened a 60-day public comment period on the project, which is on track to be the state’s, and the country’s, first offshore windfarm.

The coastal council is the lead state agency for offshore windfarm permitting. The comment period will run from November 15 to January 15. A public hearing will be scheduled later in the new year.

The other major opportunity for public input on the farm, the comment period at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, is also open. The Corps is the lead federal agency for the project’s permitting and last week, it announced that it was extending its comment period until the end of the year because of the volume of public feedback.

Some of that feedback comes from environmental group Save The Bay, which weighed in to the Corps today, submitting comments that say the windfarm’s construction and operation has been designed to minimize threats to the marine environment.

The 30-megawatt Block Island Wind Farm would consist of five 6-megawatt turbines and two submarine transmission cables, one to connect the farm to a substation at the Block Island Power Company, and the second to connect the substation to National Grid on the Rhode Island mainland. The turbines would rise almost 660 feet above the ocean.

“Construction activities would result in up to 1.2 acres of seafloor disturbance associated with jack-up and/or anchored derrick barges used to install the foundations and WTGs,” says the CRMC notice. “The submarine cables will be installed using a jet plow to minimize sediment resuspension and seafloor disturbance during cable laying. Installation… would result in up to 14.91 acres of seafloor disturbance.”

The notice adds that the two cables “will be brought ashore on Block Island at Crescent Beach using either a short-distance or long-distance horizontal directional drill (HDD) that would temporarily disturb up to 2.3 acres of beach and parking areas onshore.” The cable will also “require one crossing of a navigable water attached to the existing bridge that spans Trims Pond and Harbor Pond on Beach Avenue.

In Narragansett, the cable “will make landfall on Rhode Island mainland at the Narragansett Town Beach parking lot and will follow an onshore route to a new switchyard located on municipally owned land in the Town of Narragansett. Installation activities would result in a maximum of 39.64 acres of seafloor disturbance.”

Plans are available on the coastal council website, crmc.ri.gov, and at the agency's office in Wakefield. An environmental report prepared by Deepwater is available at dwwind.com, at the Block Island Town Hall and at the Maury Loontjens Memorial Library in Narragansett.

Comments may be sent to the Oliver H. Stedman Government Center, 4808 Tower Hill Road, Wakefield, RI 02879.

Save The Bay, a Rhode Island non-profit dedicated to protecting Narragansett Bay, participated in CRMC’s Ocean Special Area Management Plan, which set guidelines for offshore projects in state waters. It has also conducted its own research into the project, and found it minimized both environmental impacts and public use conflicts.

“Renewable energy, including wind power generation, must be part of our nation’s energy portfolio,” said Jonathan Stone, executive director of Save The Bay. “We believe this pilot project in Rhode Island waters may prove to be an important step forward in advancing the development of clean, sustainable wind energy resources along the Eastern Seaboard.”

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