Maine’s Congressional Delegation and Governor Mills Continue Push to Prohibit Offshore Wind Development in Maine Fishing Grounds
U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-ME), Angus King (I-ME), Representatives Jared Golden (ME-02), Chellie Pingree (ME-01), and Governor Janet Mills sent a letter today to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) urging them to completely exclude Lobster Management Area 1 (LMA 1) from the Wind Energy Area (WEA) for potential wind power development in the Gulf of Maine. The letter was sent following last month’s release of the draft WEA which excluded much of LMA 1, but identified two Secondary Areas within LMA 1 for further input and possible inclusion in the final WEA.
“We appreciate that BOEM has listened to our requests, and those of Maine’s fishing community, and removed Lobster Management Area (LMA) 1 from the Draft,” wrote the lawmakers. “... Given these past communications with BOEM, we are concerned that the Draft WEA identifies Secondary Areas A and B– encompassing more than 200,000 acres in LMA 1 – as areas for offshore wind that BOEM may incorporate in a final WEA following additional input on their suitability and potential conditions for inclusion. Given the importance of these fishing grounds to Maine’s fishing industry, the significant feedback that your agency has already received, and the recently passed Maine law that disincentivizes development in LMA 1, it is clear these areas are inappropriate for inclusion in the final Wind Energy Area.”
The Congressional Delegation and Governor believe that clean energy can offer economic and environmental benefits for Maine that must be pursued prudently and responsibly with a commitment to minimizing to the greatest extent possible the impact on fishermen, recreation, and other crucial ocean uses that are critical to Maine. LMA 1 is a critical and highly productive fishing ground for a variety of sea life, including lobster. In a recent report, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Development (BOEM) identified more than 9.8 million acres in the Gulf of Maine, including LMA 1 and areas closed seasonally or permanently to protect the North Atlantic right whale, as potential commercial offshore wind sites. Prohibiting offshore wind development in LMA 1 would help to avoid conflict with the New England commercial and recreational fishing industries.
“As BOEM moves forward with the identification of the Final WEAs, we strongly encourage you to work closely with Maine’s fishing industry to understand existing uses and reduce impacts to the heavily regulated offshore groundfish fleet. We want to ensure that any areas leased in the Gulf of Maine avoid and at the very least minimize impacts to the fishing industry whenever possible,” the lawmakers continued.
“The Maine Lobstermen’s Association (MLA) appreciates that BOEM’s draft Wind Energy Area (WEA) avoids much of Lobster Management Area 1, but we remain strongly concerned that two large swaths of critical fishing grounds within LMA1 are still under consideration for offshore wind development. Maine lobstermen are proud stewards of the Gulf of Maine and are troubled by the potential impact of offshore wind development, particularly within LMA1, on the environment and our fishing communities. MLA is tremendously grateful for the steadfast effort of Governor Mills and Maine’s congressional delegation in urging BOEM to exclude all of LMA1 in the final WEA,” said Patrice McCarron, Policy Director of the Maine Lobstermen's Association.
“As fishermen we continue to raise the concerns we have regarding offshore wind. The exclusion of LMA1 including the secondary areas gives Maine fisheries the best chance of surviving,” said Virginia Olsen, commercial lobsterman and Director of the Maine Lobstering Union.
This letter, and the draft WEA announcement, follows a June letter in which Governor Mills and the Maine Congressional Delegation urged BOEM to remove Lobster Management Area 1 and other areas from any further consideration for commercial offshore wind leasing and to fully consider the views and concerns of Maine fishing communities while it continues to weigh leasing areas.
A map of the draft WEA can be found on BOEM’s Gulf of Maine webpage. BOEM has opened a 30-day public review and comment period on the proposal. To comment on the draft WEA please go to regulations.gov and search for docket number BOEM-2023-0054. BOEM will accept comments through November 20.
The text of the letter can be found here.