Utility vessel to clear submarine cable route
Construction of the 30-megawatt Deepwater Wind Block Island Wind Farm and National Grid’s sea2shore submarine cable will involve clearing the ocean of fishing gear and other impediments. To that end, a utility vessel called the Megan T. Miller has been employed to conduct clearance of obstacles from the cable route utilizing a grapnel hook. The vessel is on a ‘waiting-on-weather’ status to conduct what’s called grapnel runs.
A grapnel hook is a small anchor with flukes (small hooks) that is dragged behind a boat, and is frequently employed by the Navy to dredge and clear ocean paths from submerged ordnance and other debris.
The Megan T. Miller, the vessel charged with performing the grapnel runs, owned and operated by Miller Marine Services out of New York and Connecticut, is a 100-foot long, 800 horsepower, diesel powered propeller driven boat that resembles a tugboat, and is capable of cruising at 10-knots.
According to its spec sheet, the utility vessel contains a knuckle-crane, survey and data collection equipment, and has the ability to stay at sea for extended periods, while providing accommodations for 16-crew members.
“The first step in the submarine cable installation is to run a grapnel hook along the route (using the Megan T. Miller) to ensure that the centerline is clear of obstructions. This effort is called the ‘pre-lay grapnel run,’” said Elizabeth Marchetti, Rhode Island Fisheries Liaison, who is an independent contractor working for the Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC), Deepwater Wind, National Grid and the fishing industry.
“It is extremely important that gear is removed from the work area to ensure no financial loss to fishermen,” said Marchetti. “There is no specific type of fishing gear that is exempted from being removed from the work area.”
Marchetti said: “The construction area for the Block Island Wind Farm and sea2shore submarine cables is a 200-foot corridor from the centerline (of the route). It was asked that all fishing gear must be removed from the 200-foot corridor by Tuesday, April 5, 2016.”
“If gear were to be found I would ask the fisherman to move the gear outside of the 200 foot corridor. If there is an encounter with gear during the pre-lay grapnel run or cable laying installation, the offshore contractor will drag the gear outside of the construction area,” said Marchetti. “Location coordinates for gear that's been removed will be provided to me so I can report to the owner of the gear for future retrieval. Deepwater Wind, nor its contractors, have any liability for gear that may be damaged during cable installation.”
Marchetti noted that the removal of fishing gear was initially requested before construction activity began on the wind farm in 2015. "Last year there was a request for gear to be removed from the wind farm installation work area before 2015 construction began,” she said.
The Rhode Island Fisheries Advisory Board (FAB), for which Marchetti works as an independent contractor, has been involved with the CRMC’s Ocean Special Area Management Plan (OSAMP) part of the wind farm project since its inception. The Rhode Island Ocean SAMP, which enforces comprehensive regulations outlining the state’s process for ensuring the management and protection of its ocean resources and activities, was adopted by the state in 2010.
“The Fisheries Advisory Board was involved with the entire process of the Ocean Special Area Management Plan,” said Marchetti. “The Ocean SAMP was a resource for the FAB to discuss their concerns regarding the project and to work together for the best solution” for overseeing ocean related activities during installation of the wind farm.