The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) announced a draft Wind Energy Area (WEA) on Thursday identifying over 3.5 million acres in the Gulf of Maine it says are suitable for floating offshore wind leasing and development, but leaving out an area critical to the state’s fishing industry.
The draft WEA ranges from approximately 23-120 miles of the coasts of Maine, Massachusetts and New Hampshire, covering a total area of about 3,519,067 acres.
Development of offshore wind in the drafted area has a combined capacity of over 40 gigawatts, according to the Bureau, which exceeds both Maine’s and Massachusetts’ offshore wind planning goals of 3 GW and 10 GW respectively.
Notably, however, the draft excludes Lobster Management Area 1, federal waters critical to the state’s fishing industry.
In June, Gov. Janet Mills and Maine’s Congressional delegation wrote a letter to the Biden Administration requesting that any offshore wind development avoid the crucial lobstering area to “minimize all potential conflicts” between the two industries.
Following BOEM’s release of the draft WEA for the Gulf of Maine, Gov. Mills and the Maine delegation put out a statement saying they “are encouraged that the Bureau has initially listened to our concerns and those of the fishing community by excluding Lobster Management Area 1 in its draft.”
“We are opposed to any inclusion of Lobster Management Area 1 in the final WEA and we strongly urge the Bureau to continue to engage with Maine’s fishing community, Tribal governments, and other stakeholders during the comment period,” they continued.
“We believe that clean energy can offer economic and environmental benefits for Maine that must be pursued prudently and responsibly with a commitment to minimizing to the greatest extent possible the impact on fishermen, recreation, and other crucial ocean uses that are critical to Maine,” they said.
The Bureau has also released a 153-page report on how it has identified the suitability area in the draft, while taking into consideration possible impacts of offshore wind development to the marine environment and resources.
BOEM will take public comment on the draft WEA for a 30-day period in relation to whether three secondary areas in the Gulf of Maine it has identified as suitable should be included in the final WEA.