Research campaign of geological and marine habitats off Massachusetts coast continues to gather important ecological information as part of permitting review
Vineyard Wind will begin the third in an ongoing series of undersea marine surveys in early April to gather geological and ecological information that will inform ongoing permitting reviews. Information collected includes water depths, geology of sea floor, benthic habitat types as well as the presence of shellfish, eelgrass, and other species.
Areas to be surveyed by way of video surveys, seafloor sampling, sonar, and boring samples include routes under consideration for submarine cables, including Lewis Bay, as well as the wind turbine area 14 miles south of Martha’s Vineyard. Surveying is planned through guidance and consultation with local, state, federal regulators, including Yarmouth and Barnstable shellfish constables, the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries, as well as environmental groups.
Survey operations will begin after April 2nd and will continue into the summer. This will be the third survey campaign undertaken by Vineyard Wind and the most extensive offshore study to date for the project. Earlier campaigns were conducted in 2016 and 2017. Additional follow-on studies will be conducted after completion of this campaign, including pre-, during-, and post-construction fisheries and benthic studies.
Surveys will involve at least six different vessels operated by at least three different companies and will include a shellfish survey in Lewis Bay. Vessels will work offshore continuously, with port operations planned out of New Bedford, Hyannis, and Vineyard Haven. Formal “Notices to Mariners” for survey work will be communicated through all appropriate official channels, including the Coast Guard and Department of Defense. Vineyard Wind also will continue to conduct extensive outreach to the fishing industry to ensure coordination. Vessels using towed gear or boring equipment will be crewed by observers who watch for marine mammals and other protected species. Survey operations may be halted at times in an abundance of caution to protect certain marine animals.
In December, Vineyard Wind became the first of several competing projects to apply for federal and state construction permits by submitting applications with the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, and the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities’ Energy Facilities Siting Board.
Following the passage of An Act to Promote Energy Diversity in 2016, Massachusetts required the state’s electric distribution companies to procure 1,600 megawatts (MW) of clean, offshore wind energy within the next decade, resulting in robust interest by developers to participate in the procurement process for long-term offshore wind contracts. The addition of 1,600 MW of low-carbon wind generation capacity will provide enough clean, homegrown energy to power the equivalent of more than 750,000 Massachusetts homes every year.