CREST HAVEN - Commercial fishermen will have an opportunity to air sentiments concerning the offshore wind project before the Cape May County Board of County Commissioners later this month.
At its April 13 caucus, Board Director Gerald Thornton told peers at the internet meeting that he wants that segment of the county's nontourist economy to be heard before turbines are placed within sight of the county and cables cross a local beach.
"They (commercial fishermen) have a lot of reservations about what's going on," said Thornton.
"I would like the board to take a position to oppose this, but that's up to you (the board)," he continued.
"I am going to personally oppose it," he added.
Thornton asked about windmills that froze in Texas late this winter and was told since the turbines will be at sea, they won't freeze.
"Well, I'm going to tell you, it freezes," he added. "We've seen the bay frozen."
There are many permits needed, and studies must be done, as well as concerns about the connection to the electric grid.
Thornton cited figures provided by Rutgers University, reporting the commercial fishing industry in the county produces $192 million of product. The industry, in and out of the county, is estimated to be associated with between 12,000 and 13,000 businesses, he said.
"It is very significant," he added.
The port of Wildwood/Cape May is the state’s largest commercial port. The county is ranked 10th in value of all ports in the nation.
In the Northeast, from Maine to Virginia, the county is ranked second in value and total pounds harvested, he said, adding it is "standard practice" in Europe and Asia to compensate commercial fishing businesses for lost income from offshore wind projects.
"We're not hearing any of that here. Not at all," said Thornton.
In the U.S., there is no legal process for that to take place, he said. Certain states negotiated payments of their own with commercial fishermen, he continued.
Further, Thornton said a federal government energy information agency reported in February that offshore wind is one of the most expensive forms of electricity.
Additionally, he expressed concern for the onshore impact of the wind project coming to shore in Ocean City and down Roosevelt Boulevard.
"What impact is that going to have on Cape May County? What impact will that have on our tourist business?" Thornton asked.
The federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management is seeking public input on the project, Thornton said.
The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management announced a Notice of Intent to start an environmental impact statement for the construction of Ocean Wind's 160,480-acre turbine farm off South Jersey’s coast. A public comment period exists until April 29, at 11:59 p.m. Comments may be submitted electronically, at https://www.regulations.gov/.
"I think it's imperative to support our fishing industry," said Thornton.
"There is no discussion about Atlantic City Electric and the backup that's going to be needed for these windmills if they fail," he said.
"It's time for the discussion to get started," said Commissioner E. Marie Hayes, of Ocean City.
"The issue is, the feds are pushing this, and the state is also pushing this," said Thornton. "I think we really have an uphill battle. I want us to make sure our fishermen and the industry are protected."
Hayes said she spoke to an official at Lund's Fisheries, based in Lower Township. He told her the amount of disruption that would occur on the ocean floor because of the wind turbine project would be great.
On Lund's Fisheries' Facebook page is a post regarding an ABC-TV and Associated Press (AP) story on the turbine project.
Above the link to the story is a comment: "An 18ft deep by 10ft wide trench will be cut along the ocean floor for up to12 miles?? Imagine the long term damage this will cause??"
The next county commissioners meeting when the fishing industry may be represented is April 27.
The AP story reported that one of three possible Ocean City beaches are being proposed where the power lines would go ashore: Fifth, 13th, or 35th streets.
The proposal has power lines placed along Roosevelt Boulevard to Route 9, and from there to the former B.L. England generating plant that closed in 2019.
According to Orsted's website, the firm sold 25% of its stake in the Ocean Wind project to Public Service Enterprise Group. It stated the wind farm is expected to produce 1,100 MW of electricity, sufficient to power 500,000 homes.
It is expected to be in production by 2024 but is subject to federal permitting timelines.