BOSTON — House lawmakers unanimously backed the idea of creating a new office within the Department of Fish and Game to specifically study the impacts of offshore wind infrastructure on marine fisheries and ocean life.
In a consolidated amendment adopted Tuesday as part of its economic development bill, the House proposes an Office of Renewable Energy Fishery Impacts that would "conduct and foster research concerning the impacts of offshore wind energy infrastructure on marine fisheries including effects of such installations and connections on the health and behavior of marine mammals; (ii) accept and review commentary from representatives of impacted fishing fleets and renewable energy operators or providers; and (iii) educate and inform citizens on matters related to offshore wind energy and associated impacts on marine life."
The office would also function as a liaison to federal agencies and academic institutions.
The text in the consolidated amendment mirrors an amendment originally filed by Rep. William Straus of Mattapoisett.
Tension between the commercial fishing industry and offshore wind developers has been a constant thread as the new industry looks to establish its roots in Massachusetts and the U.S. The Bay State is anticipating that it will receive clean energy generated by two roughly 800-megawatt offshore wind developments, Vineyard Wind I and Mayflower Wind.
Last month, an update on the Vineyard Wind I project planned for waters 15 miles south of Martha's Vineyard from the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management concluded that "major cumulative effects could occur on commercial fisheries" under the proposed development plan and all alternatives "due to the presence of structures [impact-producing factors] when combined with ongoing and future impacts as a result of climate change and reduced stock levels as a result of fishing mortality."
BOEM has said that it "recognizes that fishing is an important use of federal waters that will be considered in its decision-making."
A decision on a final permit for Vineyard Wind I —which is poised to be the first utility-scale offshore wind farm in the country — is expected by the end of the year.