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Trustees say Ørsted ‘reneging’ on agreement for wind farm lease

The Trustees say that they have demanded that Ørsted delay the cable installation, slated to begin in early 2023, in order to complete a second spring season worth of fish migration surveys. The company has said it will wait to “energize” the cable until after the spring 2023 fishery surveys are conducted, but cannot put off the start of cable installation between the wind farm site south of Block Island and Wainscott. “They were told directly at the time that this would be a deal breaker,” Trustees Clerk Francis Bock said on Monday morning. 

The East Hampton Town Trustees this week said that wind farm developer Ørsted is “reneging” on a critical component of the agreement reached with local officials that allowed the South Fork Wind Farm power cable to be brought ashore in Wainscott.

Members of the Trustees said this Monday that Ørsted has refused to agree to put off the installation of the cable until after the spring of 2023, to allow two full years of surveys of local fish populations before any construction begins along the 50 mile cable route — as was a condition of the Trustees agreeing to support the wind farm application and grant the company a lease of the Trustees-owned beach at Beach Lane.

The Trustees say that they have demanded that Ørsted delay the cable installation, slated to begin in early 2023, in order to complete a second spring season worth of fish migration surveys.

The company has said it will wait to “energize” the cable until after the spring 2023 fishery surveys are conducted, but cannot put off the start of cable installation between the wind farm site south of Block Island and Wainscott.

“They were told directly at the time that this would be a deal breaker,... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

The East Hampton Town Trustees this week said that wind farm developer Ørsted is “reneging” on a critical component of the agreement reached with local officials that allowed the South Fork Wind Farm power cable to be brought ashore in Wainscott.

Members of the Trustees said this Monday that Ørsted has refused to agree to put off the installation of the cable until after the spring of 2023, to allow two full years of surveys of local fish populations before any construction begins along the 50 mile cable route — as was a condition of the Trustees agreeing to support the wind farm application and grant the company a lease of the Trustees-owned beach at Beach Lane.

The Trustees say that they have demanded that Ørsted delay the cable installation, slated to begin in early 2023, in order to complete a second spring season worth of fish migration surveys.

The company has said it will wait to “energize” the cable until after the spring 2023 fishery surveys are conducted, but cannot put off the start of cable installation between the wind farm site south of Block Island and Wainscott.

“They were told directly at the time that this would be a deal breaker,” Trustees Clerk Francis Bock said on Monday morning. “We’re not asking them to kill the project, we’re asking them to hold off on running the cable until they do that study and establish the baseline.”

The fishery surveys are supposed to be conducted over five years in total: the two years before the construction began, the one year that construction will take and the two years following the wind farm going online — the intention being to track whether the construction and energizing of the cable have an appreciable impact on historic fish migrations.

The surveys will entail trawls by commercial fishing boats — measuring the abundance of fish in a given area — and the acoustic tracking of individual fish from a variety of species that have been caught and fitted with an acoustic signal emitter before being released.

Delays in the permitting to begin the surveys meant the study did not get underway by the time the spring migration had begun off the coast. In April, the Trustees issued an urgent call for Ørsted to start the surveys even before the permitting was completed because of their concerns about conflicts with the construction timeline.

In its original proposal, Ørsted’s engineers proposed that the acoustic tracking component, which is to use fish already tagged as part of a separate fishery analysis project by Stony Brook University, be used as a supplement to the wind farm study. But now, Mr. Bock said, the company has proposed relying solely on the acoustic tracking to represent the spring 2021 migration baseline.

On Monday, the last day that official comments could be added to the wind farm application file, the Trustees asked the New York State Public Service Commission to force the company to wait to begin construction.

“While the Trustees have no objection with ongoing work at the shore for the project, construction along the … cable route should not commence until [Ørsted] performs two full years of pre-construction monitoring,” the Trustees comments to the PSC say. “This includes the addition of Spring 2023 monitoring to ensure that sufficient data is gathered to accurately assess the project impacts to the fish communities and abide by the agreed upon certificate conditions. If an additional spring season is not included, the pre-construction data will only contain one spring migration season and supplemental data, such as from other studies conducted by Stony Brook, will not make up for this missing season at the impacted project area.”

The Trustees agreed in January to grant Ørsted a lease of the beach at the end of Beach Lane in Wainscott. The lease allows the 2-foot-thick cable conduit to be bored beneath the sand about 30 feet underground. The East Hampton Town Board also granted the company an easement to run the power cable beneath about 2 miles of town roads in Wainscott. Both boards were roundly criticized by Wainscott residents, who said the cable should have been brought ashore elsewhere — an argument that was rejected by the Public Service Commission and now could be the subject of a court challenge by Wainscott residents.

At the time, the board’s attorneys said that the years of negotiations had secured a number of environmental safeguards, the fishery study among them, that were added by Ørsted as conditions to the application to the Public Service Commission.

The application includes more than 195 conditions ranging from dates and times the onshore installation work can be conducted to compensating fishermen for lost revenues. But nearly all the conditions are qualified with caveats allowing for unforeseeable hiccups that give the developers wiggle room within the mandatory spirit of the conditions.

“The certificate says they have to make their ‘best effort’ and we don’t believe this is their best effort,” Mr. Bock said. “They are reneging on a condition of the certificate and it’s disappointing.”

In a brief statement on Tuesday, a spokesperson for the project said only that the company will meet “the objectives” of the fisheries study and seemed to blame logistics for the failure of the study to get underway on time.

“South Fork Wind is confident that we will meet the fisheries study commitments in the Article VII Certificate and will collect data that meets the objectives of the fisheries studies being undertaken,” the statement reads. “We have been working with our partners to overcome commercial, supply chain and health, safety and environmental requirements and challenges this year.”

At Monday night’s meeting of the Trustees, the board acknowledged that the reasons for the study not getting underway this spring were somewhat beyond Ørsted’s control, but said the understanding of the negotiated conditions should not be set aside simply for the expediency of keeping the completion of the project — which is already more than a year behind schedule — from being delayed.

“All of this was negotiated as a consideration to the … fishing community's interest in the impacts this project will have,” Trustee James Grimes said on Monday evening. “We don’t think it’s appropriate that they’d be doing their spring study in 2023, at approximately the same time, early to mid-March, that they are going to be pulling the cable from offshore to onshore. That’s compromising the study.

“So we’re hoping,” he added, “the Public Service Commission … puts it upon [Ørsted] to live up to their commitment to this board and the community.


Source: https://www.27east.com/east...

AUG 24 2021
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