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The New Jersey Board of Public Utilities will hold three Public Stakeholder Meetings in December focused on the state’s offshore wind development, even if state fishing “stakeholders” didn’t all get the invite
By Jim Hutchinson, Jr.  |  November 29, 2018
The nonprofit Business Network for Offshore Wind says offshore wind deployment could support $440M in annual lease payments to the US Treasury and $680M in annual property tax payments, meaning fisherman access and potential impacts on coastal fish migrations will ultimately be up against big business.

While it appears that actual invitations weren’t sent to many stakeholders in the fishing community – certainly not by way of public email blast or general notification - the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (BPU) is expected to meet with local “stakeholders” starting December 4 regarding wind farm development off the Jersey Shore.

Despite a noticeable lack of outreach and often restrictive holiday season planning, BPU will hold three Public Stakeholder Meetings in early December focused on Governor Murphy's offshore wind goals and the BPU's solicitation for 1,100 MW of offshore wind capacity.

A tip by Garden State Seafood Association (GSSA) executive director Greg DiDomenico (who said he “stumbled across the announcement by accident”) reveals how BPU staff, members of the NJ Offshore Wind Interagency Taskforce, offshore wind developers, and environmental non-government organizations (NGO’s) are expected to meet three times in December to review the State's process for developing offshore wind.

Also being discussed among “stakeholders” at these quickly approaching public meetings will be the Offshore Wind Strategic Plan, allowing organizers to provide an opportunity for the public to participate in the process.

December 4 (1 p.m. to 3 p.m.)
Bergen Community College
(Lyndhurst 5th Floor Conference Center)
1280 Wall Street West
Lyndhurst, NJ 07071

December 5 (6 p.m. to 8 p.m.)
Mercer Community College Conference Center
1200 Old Trenton Road
West Windsor, NJ 08550

December 13 (6 p.m. to 8 p.m.)
Atlantic County Government Building Auditorium
1333 Atlantic Avenue
Atlantic City, NJ 08401

In January 2018, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed Executive Order No. 8 which directed the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (BPU) to fully implement the Offshore Wind Economic Development Act (OWEDA). In September, the Board unanimously approved a 1,100 MW solicitation, the nation's largest single-state solicitation of offshore wind to date.

The solicitation opened September 20 and is what BPU has called a “significant step towards meeting the state's goal of 3,500 MW by 2030.” Governor Murphy called on the BPU to open a 1,200 MW solicitation in 2020 and another 1,200 MW solicitation in 2022 in order to reach the 3,500 MW total offshore wind capacity goal. Governor Murphy's vision is to transform New Jersey into a 100-percent clean energy state by 2050, with offshore wind being a major component of the overall goal.

During a trade mission to the European Union in October, Governor Murphy called for German industry to deepen ties with his state, especially in the energy sector. "New Jersey is poised to be the premier offshore wind center in America," he said while mentioning that the Garden State was poised to considerably boost its wind energy capacity over the next years.

"The welcome mats are out. Our arms are wide open," Murphy told nearly two-dozen representatives from energy companies at an offshore wind roundtable in Hamburg, while adding "My plea is: come see us. Come visit. If you like it, plant a flag."

While not exactly flags, offshore wind farms will require large, concrete columns to be planted into the ocean floor. NGO groups like National Wildlife Federation (NWF) and their Anglers For Offshore Wind Power project have been actively promoting the benefits of wind farms for coastal fishing. However, a recent study authored by staff at the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries cited research showing that much of the offshore structure is slated for construction around critical fish spawning habitat.

The offshore wind farms would also need to be connected to the national power grid by way underwater cables carrying the energy; one particular 2012 study compiled by the U.S. Department of Interior showed that flounder species in particular showed correlations between the strength of electromagnetic fields from cables and increasing avoidance behaviors around cables. Citing a study around wind farms in Denmark, researchers found that catches of flounder species decreased around charged cables.

In terms of fishing access and the overall effects to the fish, commercial and recreational fishermen are justifiably worried about the ongoing effort to develop offshore wind farms off the Jersey Shore.

“There are numerous and significant questions about the impacts of offshore wind development as it relates to commercial and recreational fishing, marine fish and essential fish habitat,” said Jim Donofrio, executive director of the Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA). “While the Governor of New Jersey is racing to stake his green flag in our traditional fishing grounds to fulfill a campaign promise, he and his agencies are side stepping important analysis and deliberation on the true impacts of this development.”

“These issues need to be resolved now, not after these turbines are built and the habitat is permanently altered,” Donofrio said.

“The years of sacrifice required to rebuild and maintain sustainable fisheries are jeopardized for commercial and recreational fishing communities,” added GSSA's DiDomenico. “The Mid-Atlantic bight is a unique and dynamic ecological example that will be altered forever.”

The application window for New Jersey’s plan will close on December 28, 2018, at which time the BPU will begin evaluating the applications. Applications must demonstrate net economic benefits, and BPU staff will submit their recommendations to the Board based on what will provide the overall best value for New Jersey ratepayers. The Board expects to act on the applications by July 2019 in order to allow developers to qualify for federal investment tax credits that expire at the end of 2019 which will save companies approximately 12% of the total project cost.

If you are unable to attend, please feel free to submit public comment to the BPU at offshore.wind@bpu.nj.gov.

More information regarding offshore wind.

From a scientific perspective, the next seminar as a part of the Marine Extension Program Seminar Series with Rutgers Cooperative Extension, which will be on Monday, December 10 at 7 p.m. featuring Dr. Joe Brodie, Director of Atmospheric Research, Department of Marine and Coastal Sciences, Rutgers University. Dr. Brodie will be giving a presentation entitled "Offshore Wind Energy off New Jersey: Where We Are Today," which will discuss offshore wind development while touching on the need to balance interests among stakeholders. If you are interested in participating, either in-class in Toms River, NJ or remotely via webinar, then please register by contacting Kelly Jurgensen (kjurgensen@co.ocean.nj.us, 732-349-1152).