After two month-long extensions, the state closed public comment Jan. 15 on Ørsted’s controversial proposal to connect the company’s offshore wind farm to the electrical grid by passing through Fenwick Island State Park.
The connection project was revealed in late September. In return for being allowed to connect the wind farm, Ørsted has proposed $18 million of improvements at the state park.
State Parks Director Ray Bivens said the second extension for comments was added because local officials and legislators wanted constituents to have more time to review the project. He said the extra time resulted in good public participation, with 2,319 responses.
Bivens said the next steps will be for parks staff to separate responses into similar categories, and prepare and submit a report to Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control Secretary Shawn Garvin, posting the report online for the public to see. Examples of groupings, he said, include viewshed, the two-story parking structure, other uses for the proposed $18 million and worries about building on wetlands.
Bivens said if responses have questions needing technical assistance, authority figures on subject matter will be contacted. He could not provide a timeline for completing the report or a decision by Garvin, but Bivens said there’s no deadline cited in the memorandum of understanding between the state and Ørsted. The MOU was signed in July and is a framework for the state and Ørsted to work through the state’s approval or denial process.
Bivens said the state received a number of form emails from groups for and against the proposal. He said staff has been responding to those emails asking for the sender to fill out the state’s survey on the proposal.
Public hearing on size of turbines set Jan. 18
The Maryland Public Service Commission is hosting a public hearing at noon, Saturday, Jan. 18, on the impact of a proposal to install taller offshore wind turbines than originally planned at two proposed offshore wind farms including Skipjack LLC wind farm, a project of the Danish company Ørsted, due east of the Delaware coast.
The commission has scheduled the hearing in rooms 215, 216 and 217 of the Ocean City Convention Center, 4001 Coastal Highway, Ocean City, Md.
While the commission will accept comment on the size of the turbines, it denied a request to reopen the case or reconsider the granting of offshore wind renewable energy certificates.
Written comments on this subject may be filed with the commission by Friday, Jan. 31, by first-class mail or hand delivery. Comments should be addressed to Andrew S. Johnston, Executive Secretary, Maryland Public Service Commission, William Donald Schaefer Tower, 6 St. Paul St., 16th Floor, Baltimore, MD 21202.
Comment period on proposed anchorages ends Jan. 28
The U.S. Coast Guard is still taking public comment on proposed anchorage grounds to accommodate current and future vessel traffic.
Three anchorage areas are being considered: one in Delaware Bay, approximately 2.5 miles north of Cape Henlopen; and two in the Atlantic Ocean, one about 9.4 miles east of the coastline stretching from Dewey to the Indian River Inlet bridge,l and one about 6 miles east of the coastline stretching from Bethany to Fenwick. The ocean anchorage grounds are anticipated to be used by vessels for anchoring once offshore wind energy areas are developed.
According to the federal government website, as of Jan. 15, three comments had been submitted related to the proposed anchorages. Two of the three – Pilots’ Association for the Bay and River Delaware and Mariners' Advisory Committee for the Bay and River Delaware – are in favor of all three anchorages, while the third – anonymous – said they opposed the idea of an anchorage inside the bay because of the potential negative environmental effects.
Comments and related material must reach the Coast Guard on or before Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2020. Comments, identified by docket number USCG– 2019–0822, can be submitted at regulations.gov.
Offshore Wind Jobs and Opportunity Act released
At the federal level, a bill called the Offshore Wind Jobs Opportunity Act was reported out of the House committee on natural resources Jan. 15. The legislation was introduced in June and creates a grant program for offshore wind energy job training.
U.S. Sen. Tom Carper, who sits on the environment and public works committee, is one of the prime sponsors and introduced a companion bill in the Senate. In a prepared statement at the time of introduction, Carper said the act ensures American workers can take advantage of the economic opportunity being presented with wind energy.