Providence Journal | Alex Kuffner | February 26, 2019
NARRAGANSETT — Vineyard Wind cleared a major hurdle on Tuesday when Rhode Island coastal regulators determined the $2-billion wind farm proposed in offshore waters to be consistent with state policies.
Although the 84-turbine project is planned in Atlantic Ocean waters south of Martha’s Vineyard where the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management holds lead permitting authority, it needs consistency certifications from the Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Council and its counterpart in Massachusetts primarily because it would affect the states’ fishing industries.
With the Massachusetts approval still under consideration, the decision from the Rhode Island coastal council represents a step forward for a project that has divided opinion and would have come as a relief to Vineyard Wind.
“It has a been a long process. It has been a very intense process. It has also been a process when emotions have run high from time to time,” said company CEO Lars Pedersen.
Even though the Rhode Island council ended up voting unanimously in favor of the wind farm, it was far from certain until just a few days ago whether Vineyard Wind would be able to secure the approval at all.
A months-long dispute with Rhode Island fishermen who argue that the wind farm would effectively block them from accessing fishing grounds rich in squid, lobster and other species had snarled the process for the New Bedford-based company.
But a turning point came on Saturday when the Fishermen’s Advisory Board, the group that advises the coastal council on fishing issues related to offshore wind, accepted a compensation package from Vineyard Wind that includes the creation of two funds totaling $16.7 million.
Board members made it clear, however, that they were only approving the deal reluctantly, each of them saying that they felt marginalized by a process that they argue favors offshore wind developers like Vineyard Wind over the fishing industry.
They ended up approving the deal because it front-loads payments to the funds, so the actual value of the package was higher than Vineyard Wind’s original offer last month that spread out the payments more evenly over the projected 30-year life of the wind farm.
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