MassCEC Selects Orgs To Conduct Marine Wildlife Surveys To Inform Offshore Wind Leasing

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Craig Gilvarg
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Jul 18, 2011 –

The Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (MassCEC), in partnership with the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA), announced today that it is awarding contracts to the New England Aquarium and the College of Staten Island to collect migratory and habitat usage data on marine wildlife to help the Commonwealth and federal agencies evaluate sites for future wind energy development on the Outer Continental Shelf off the coast of Massachusetts.
“This research advances our parallel goals of developing Massachusetts’ tremendous offshore clean energy potential while protecting our environmental resources,” said EEA Secretary Richard K. Sullivan Jr., who chairs the MassCEC Board of Directors.  
“These studies will assure the Commonwealth and the federal government that offshore wind sites that move forward in these waters are in the best locations and configurations with respect to marine wildlife species,” said MassCEC Executive Director Patrick Cloney.   
MassCEC issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) to conduct the field survey work for a full year. Data will be collected for birds, North Atlantic right whales and other large whales, and sea turtles in federal waters off the coasts of Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard.  MassCEC has awarded $570,000 to The New England Aquarium Corporation for field survey of large whales and sea turtles, and $330,000 to the College of Staten Island for field survey of birds. 
“The Aquarium’s research staff is excited to do marine wildlife surveys of the waters south of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket for large whales and sea turtles,” said New England Aquarium President and CEO Bud Ris. “This will be an important step in providing systematic scientific data that can be used to minimize conflicts between marine life and offshore energy development.” 
“As a senior college of The City University of New York, the College of Staten Island is deeply committed to supporting the advancement of faculty research with partner organizations dedicated to our mutual goals of preserving and protecting the environment while advancing the pursuit of renewable energy,” said College of Staten Island President Dr. Tomás D. Morales.  “Dr. Richard Veit is uniquely qualified to conduct these surveys based upon his proven track record of developing detailed and temporally intensive datasets on marine bird abundance, and his long-term experience in the area.”
This RFP follows the recent announcement of a federal leasing process for development of offshore wind energy in federal waters off the Massachusetts coast.  In December 2010 the US Department of Interior’s Bureau of Offshore Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE) issued a Request for Interest (RFI) to measure the offshore wind industry’s interest in developing projects within a 3,000 (2,224 nautical) square mile expanse of federal waters off the Massachusetts coast, beginning approximately 13.8 (12 nautical) miles south of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket. The Massachusetts Renewable Energy Task Force – an interagency group of federal, state, tribal, and local elected officials – partnered with BOEMRE to draw the boundaries of the RFI area, which has excellent wind resources and water depths able to accommodate current and near-term wind power technologies.  Based upon consultations with commercial fishermen, fisheries scientists, and other maritime users and interests, the Patrick-Murray Administration recommended removing the eastern portion of the RFI because of its importance to the Commonwealth’s fishing industry and to marine fauna.  BOEMRE subsequently accepted the state’s recommendation.  MassCEC and EEA will continue to collaborate with the Task Force, as well as federal and state fisheries and wildlife agencies, as the field survey work is developed and conducted.