Will wind energy hurt fish populations? In New York, advocates say yes

Plaintiff? The fish. Defendant? The fish. Federal officials have been looking for years to establish a wind farm off the waters of New York. They have finally delineated a 127-square-mile area in which 194 turbines can be built. And, according to the Associated Press, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) is putting it out to lease this Thursday.

“The reality is wind farms are part of the solution to protect fish populations.”

Among the bidders lining up is one public entity, the Energy Research Development Agency of New York State, which will invest its own time and resources in development and marketing studies, all in the name of enhancing the viability of the project when it is eventually handed over to a commercial operator. Furthermore, the proximity to such a large population base could make this site particularly lucrative for any energy provider. What’s not to like?

The Fisheries Survival Fund, and several similar organizations, are demanding that the auction be delayed, because of what they perceive as a harmful loss of “historical fishing grounds” and “protected species habitat.” The complaint states that the BOEM failed to consider all the impacts, evaluate alternative sites, or consider the question “in an open, collaborative, public forum.” In the document, squid fisherman provided logbooks demonstrating that BOEM grossly underestimated the amount of fishing effort occurring in the area. They also state that the project will impair the areas where endangered leatherback turtles and endangered North Atlantic Right whales do their foraging.

Environmentalists are excited at the prospect of harvesting wind there and defend the project in the name of species survival. In response to the complaint, Adrienne Esposito of the Citizen’s Campaign for the Environment tells the AP: “The greatest threat to fish and marine life is warming seas…. The reality is wind farms are part of the solution to protect fish populations.”

Jeffrey Kittay is the founder and publisher of The Counter. He previously was the founder and editor-in-chief of the legendary Lingua Franca magazine, a winner of the National Magazine Award for General Excellence.