Deepwater receives first major permits

Fri, 05/09/2014 - 2:30pm

Deepwater Wind announced on Thursday, May 8, that it has received the first major environmental permit approvals needed to begin deployment of the five-turbine Block Island Wind Farm project.

According to a press release issued Thursday, The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) has issued Deepwater Wind its Water Quality Certificates, deeming the Block Island Wind Farm and Transmission System in compliance with state water quality regulations and the Clean Water Act. These regulations ensure the protection of fish and wildlife, as well as the recreational use and navigation of Rhode Island inland and coastal waters. RIDEM also issued the project a Freshwater Wetland permit for certain onshore construction activities.

“The approval of RIDEM is a major step forward for the Block Island Wind Farm. Momentum for the project is strong and we are moving closer to having ‘steel in the water,’” said Deepwater Wind CEO Jeffrey Grybowski. “We appreciate RIDEM’s thoughtful consideration of this project, and we’re confident that we’ll soon secure the remaining state and federal permits. We are proud to be leading the growth of this new American industry here in Rhode Island.”

Deepwater Wind must next secure an assent from the Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC), as well as approvals from the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Each permit application has undergone extensive review and public comment. Deepwater Wind expects to secure all remaining permits this spring, according to the release.

The RIDEM issued Water Quality Certificates for the Block Island Wind Farm and the Block Island Transmission System. The approval comes as part of the requirements of Section 401 of the Federal Clean Water Act, which requires the State of Rhode Island to certify projects such as dredging, filling, water withdrawals, and site disturbances. While reviewing projects, the RIDEM often coordinates with federal and state agencies and other RIDEM programs, the press release said.

The RIDEM held extensive public comment on Deepwater Wind’s application, first submitted in September 2012: public comment notices were issued on Dec. 3, 2012, April 10, 2013, and Nov. 7, 2013. Public hearings were conducted on April 24, 2013 in Narragansett, R.I., on May 8, 2013 on Block Island, R.I., and again on Dec. 11, 2013 in Narragansett.

The RIDEM certificate includes a number of stipulations, including provisions to protect important marine species, ensure compliance with environmental and safety standards, and to require appropriate installation methods for the buried submarine cable.

Deepwater Wind has begun the initial stages of construction on the 30-megawatt Block Island Wind Farm, located about three miles off the coast of Block Island. The project expects to be in operation in 2016.