National Park Services raises concerns about Deepwater site

Advises more locations be looked into
Tue, 04/09/2013 - 6:00pm

The National Parks Services (NPS) has weighed in on Deepwater Wind’s proposal to build a 30-megawatt, five-turbine wind farm three miles off Block Island’s southeast coast.

In public comments submitted to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the NPS said that it is concerned about potential adverse impacts to Block Island’s historic South East Lighthouse, the lighthouse’s property and its viewshed. The NPS also suggests that additional locations be considered for the wind farm.

“Potential impacts to the South East Lighthouse from the proposed project are a significant issue that should drive the creation and selection of alternatives for further analysis,” said the NPS in its comments, submitted Feb. 8, 2013.Deepwater CEO Jeff Grybowski said that the company expected the NPS to weigh in on viewshed impacts. He also said that there should be no adverse affects to the structure of the South East Lighthouse if the Block Island Wind Farm were built in the site currently proposed.

Deepwater Wind has submitted documents, including an Environmental Report (ER), for its public permitting process with various state and federal agencies. The Army Corps of Engineers is one of the main federal agencies responsible for permitting the Block Island Wind Farm.

The NPS asked the Army Corps to consider a location further southwest of the lighthouse.

Grybowski said this area had been considered as a potential site of the wind farm, but the company decided against that location.

“The southwest corner is an important foraging habitat for sea ducks, and placing the wind farm in the middle of that habitat would have significant impacts,” Grybowski said. Grybowski also said that the seafloor is more rocky in this area, making the area more difficult to construct the wind farm, and making that area an important habitat for marine life. In addition, Grybowski said that the southwest area is an important area to Narragansett Indian Tribes.

The NPS asked the Army Corps to “fully analyze a no action alternative for this proposal, pursue identification of a full range of reasonable alternatives, and not rely too heavily on the content of the [Deepwater Wind] ER in assessing the impacts of the project.”

In its public comments, the NPS claimed that the ER makes a “number of assumptions about the outcome of ongoing and future consultation efforts, which then influence the description of impacts and their significance.”

The NPS said that the Army Corps should consider the “cumulative impacts” of this project and various other wind farm projects that have been proposed for the northeast. It also noted that ancillary construction projects would have to be implemented.“

Buildings of sufficient size for onshore construction and roads of sufficient width, surface stability and orientation will need to be built or modified to allow transport of wind farm components to port facilities,” said the NPS in its public comment

Grybowski said that other than the Block Island wind farm, there are no projects currently planned for the state waters off Block Island.

All of these other projects are so far into the future and so far from being specific that we don’t believe those cumulative projects need to be analyzed right now,” said Grybowski. However, he said that the Army Corps should keep in contact with the National Park Services about future projects.

The NPS has asked the Army Corps for a public hearing on Deepwater Wind, and also asked to be a consulting party in the review of the Block Island Wind Farm project.