NOAA questions Vineyard Wind environmental impact study

Courtesy photo/Mike Pentony, regional administrator for NOAA's Gloucester-based Greater Atlantic Regional Office.

A Gloucester-based division of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has raised concerns that a government environmental impact study about the proposed Vineyard Wind project lacked sufficient detail.

Michael Pentony, the head of NOAA's Greater Atlantic Regional Fisheries Office, warned in a March 15 letter that the report on Vineyard Wind completed by the U.S Bureau of Ocean Energy Management in December included conclusions that were not well supported by data and needed additional analysis of several key angles of impact.

"We determined that many of the conclusory statements relating to the scale of impacts for biological and socioeconomic resources are not well supported in the document," Pentony wrote in his letter to the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management. "Specifically, impacts categorized as major appear under-inclusive, while impacts designated as moderate seem overly inclusive."

The letter, posted online by fishing industry advocacy group Saving Seafood, serves as the office's official response to the federal draft environmental impact statement on the construction and operation plan for Vineyard Wind's proposed offshore wind farm.

Pentony makes several suggestions that he said NOAA experts hope to see in the final impact statement, including greater exploration of socioeconomic effects, a clearer analysis of possible mitigation measures, and an update to the data used.

The Vineyard Wind project planned 15 miles south of Martha's Vineyard is expected to be the first "utility-scale" offshore wind farm in the country.

Officials expect it to generate enough power for hundreds of thousands of homes under the first portion of a procurement outlined by law, and the Baker administration will solicit a second procurement by June.