News 2021: Marine science key factor in Record of Decision
Marine science key factor in Record of Decision

Research efforts led by SMAST scientists at the forefront of Decision of Record for Vineyard Wind’s commercial offshore wind project–the first in the nation.

Image by Detmold, courtesy Pixabay
Image by Detmold, courtesy of Pixabay.

Last week, Vineyard Wind received the Record of Decision, issued by the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), for the nation’s first commercial-scale offshore wind project. The project will launch the offshore wind industry in the U.S. and bring thousands of jobs, reduce carbon pollution, and lower cost for ratepayers, according to the company’s press release.

In 2018, as part of UMass Dartmouth's emerging Blue Economy Initiative, Vineyard Wind entered into an agreement with the School for Marine Science & Technology (SMAST) to conduct pre- and post-construction assessments of fisheries and associated ecological conditions related to offshore wind. With stakeholder input, surveys were designed and conducted by SMAST scientists using different methods of data collection, including trawl surveys, ventless traps, and drop camera surveys. Professors Steven Cadrin, Pingguo He, and Kevin Stokesbury of SMAST’s Department of Fisheries Oceanography led these efforts.

According to a May 11, 2021 press release issued by the Baker-Polito Administration, the key federal permitting approval allows Vineyard Wind to advance its Construction and Operations Plan to bring 800 megawatts of cost-effective, renewable offshore wind power to Massachusetts ratepayers, enough to power 400,000 homes. This Record of Decision also supports the Biden Administration’s goal of jumpstarting offshore wind projects to create jobs and bring 30 gigawatts online by the year 2030.

Timeline of SMAST’s research contributions

2018-2019: SMAST scientists worked in collaboration with Vineyard Wind and the fishing industry to gather input from fisheries groups, policymakers, and academics. Surveys were designed to integrate with existing data sets in order to expand their contribution to understanding the potential cumulative impacts of offshore wind and changes to the ecosystem from other forces such as climate change.

With stakeholder input, the team created a shared monitoring and process framework to assess the potential impact of offshore wind energy development on fisheries and communities that depend on the resources. The studies were conducted from fishing vessels with the ventless trap surveys supported by the Massachusetts Lobstermen's Association.

2019-2021: The scope of work included trawl, ventless trap and plankton, and drop camera surveys. Data collected through this pre-construction phase will be compared with the construction and post-construction phases of wind farm development to assess the long-term impacts and support regional studies related to offshore wind and fisheries, as well as provide a baseline for future environmental assessment of wind farm development.

2021: A review process was developed and implemented to solicit input from the fishing industry as well as a scientific advisory group to evaluate pre-construction monitoring data and for recommendations to refine future monitoring. The trawl, ventless trap and plankton, and drop camera surveys are continuing into the next year to expand on pre-construction monitoring.

Read about the ongoing surveys and completed reports.