A heavily disputed plan to build a wind farm off the coast of the Hamptons is no longer under consideration, federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) officials said on Wednesday.
Two weeks after the agency first announced the plan to create five new offshore wind farm development zones in the Atlantic Ocean between New York and New Jersey, officials pulled the plug on two of the zones closest to Long Island — Fairways North, off the coast of the Shinnecock Inlet, and Fairways South, off Fire Island.
The two zones “will not be considered for leasing at this stage,” Luke Feinberg, project manager for BOEM, said during an online task force meeting on the proposed zones, citing issues with commercial fisheries.
Commercial fishing groups had opposed the wind farms on the grounds that it will interfere with their ability to make a living. New York State Energy Research and Development Authority officials also opposed the Fairways zones.
“I think we have some challenges that we have identified in the Fairway sites both in the relative size and distance from the shore,” Gregory Lampman, program manager for environmental research at NYSERDA, said during the meeting. “We’ve been pretty clear, and we want to make sure the projects are more than 18 miles from shore. And they fall at 15.”
BOEM Program Analyst Arianna Baker added that issues with Fairways included a major maritime traffic separation scheme going into New York Harbor, marine life feeding areas, and concerns over visibility from South Shore beaches. But Baker later clarified that in the future, the two zones may be introduced as areas available for lease to wind farm developers.
“Designating them as part of the final wind energy areas does not preclude us from, in the future, leasing them,” she said. “It just means they are not included as part of the discussion of this draft of areas we are considering today.”
George Detweiler of the U.S. Coast Guard discouraged reconsidering Fairways, saying that they “should probably never be considered for development, and we will reiterate that probably again in the future.”
The exclusion of the Fairways zones places emphasis on three others closer to New Jersey called Hudson North, Hudson South and Central Bight.
The decision does not impact three other offshore wind farms planned for Long Island. New York State’s first offshore wind farm, South Fork Wind, planned for 30 miles off the coast of Montauk, is pending federal approval and subject of litigation from Wainscott residents opposed to the cable coming ashore there.
The state also is planning two more wind farms. One would be located more than 20 miles off Jones Beach and connect to Oceanside while the other would be more than 60 miles off Montauk Point and hook up to Queens.
-With Timothy Bolger