New Measures to Minimize Impacts of OWF Construction on North Atlantic Right Whales

A coalition of leading environmental and conservation organizations — Conservation Law Foundation (CLF), Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and National Wildlife Federation (NWF) — and Deepwater Wind announced an agreement to implement additional protections for endangered North Atlantic right whales during pre-construction activities for the Deepwater ONE offshore wind farm, which will be developed off the Rhode Island and Massachusetts coasts.

Photo courtesy of NOAA

CLF, NRDC and NWF have developed a set of protective measures with Deepwater Wind that will minimize potential impacts on North Atlantic right whales and other marine mammals from underwater noise and construction vessels during the developer’s site characterization and assessment activities.

“We take our responsibility to be a national leader in responsible offshore wind development very seriously, and ensuring marine mammals are protected is just one way we’re fulfilling our commitment,” said Jeffrey Grybowski, CEO of Deepwater Wind.

Deepwater Wind in July 2013 acquired a 30-year lease to develop the Deepwater ONE project in the Rhode Island-Massachusetts Wind Energy Area, located in Rhode Island Sound, after winning the first-ever competitive lease auction for offshore wind energy development in America. The lease area covers approximately 256 square miles in the Atlantic Ocean, roughly 30 miles east of Montauk, N.Y. and roughly 17 miles south of Rhode Island, between Block Island, R.I., and Martha’s Vineyard, Mass.

“By working with CLF and our partners to protect North Atlantic right whales and other marine mammals, Deepwater Wind shows that offshore wind can achieve its potential to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels while maintaining great sensitivity to our important natural resources,” said Tricia K. Jedele, Vice President and Director of Conservation Law Foundation’s Rhode Island Advocacy Center. “We are proud to partner with Deepwater Wind, NWF and NRDC to come to this significant agreement, and hope our collective work will be replicated nationally to help bring the economic and environmental benefits of clean, renewable offshore wind power to communities throughout the U.S. without compromising vulnerable marine animals.”

The measures outlined in the agreement provide further protections for the North Atlantic right whales, including a commitment by Deepwater Wind to avoid all noise-producing activities during specific periods in the spring when North Atlantic right whales have been known to frequent Rhode Island Sound, as well as reduced speed limits for all vessels involved in site characterization and assessment activities for the Deepwater ONE project during these periods.

“This industry leader is demonstrating that smart from the start development can help American offshore wind get off the ground faster—so it can start delivering clean, climate change-fighting energy that benefits all creatures on this planet,” said Kit Kennedy, Director of the Energy and Transportation program at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “Many of these endangered whales have been spotted in this area of Rhode Island Sound, making these additional protections particularly important for their conservation.”

“Offshore wind power benefits wildlife by cutting the industrial carbon pollution that’s fueling climate change, the single biggest threat to wildlife today,” said Catherine Bowes, Senior Manager for Climate and Energy at the National Wildlife Federation. “With this agreement, Deepwater Wind is leading the way to provide additional protections for vulnerable marine mammals as America pursues this new energy frontier that is critically needed to make our power supply cleaner, more wildlife-friendly, and more secure.”

Construction at the Deepwater ONE site could begin as early as 2017, with commercial operations by 2018. Deepwater ONE will produce enough energy to power approximately 120,000 homes annually and displace significant greenhouse gas emissions annually.

Press Release, May 08, 2014; Image: NOAA

 

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