It was standing room only at East Hampton Group for Good Government’s community forum on Deepwater Wind, held Saturday at the East Hampton Library.
It was quickly realized that the venue was not large enough to hold the more than 170 community members who wanted the opportunity to participate in the forum about the off-shore wind farm project proposed by Deepwater Wind.
The EHGGG forum took shape with short presentations from Jennifer Garvey, Deepwater’s Development Manager, Jennifer McCann, Director of US Coastal Programs at University of Rhode Island, and East Hampton Town Trustee, Rick Drew.
“We have assembled a panel of experts to present to the community and have tried to bring varying viewpoints on the project that need to be considered,” said EHGGG vice president and chairman, Arthur Malman.
Many participants questioned why Deepwater wants to bring the transmission cable on shore via Beach Lane in Wainscott rather than through the Hither Hills area. Many argued that Hither Hills would have less impact on the community, though concerns over the environmental impact of either site are still being voiced.
Garvey indicated that the path from Beach Lane presented the shortest distance to the substation and pointed out that if Deepwater decided to use the Hither Hills area instead, the community would not have as much say in the process as it is state owned land.
Gordian Raacke, Executive Director of Renewable Energy Long Island, added, “Governor Andrew Cuomo’s directives have already put monies towards renewable energy initiatives in place. The offshore wind project would receive full support.”
Environmental analyst Bob DeLuca, who is also President and CEO of the Group for the East End interjected, “If they go through state land, East Hampton would have no say. It needs to be under the greatest environmental scrutiny.”
Audience members expressed concern over having a power line of such magnitude running under their homes and across the beach. “How do we know it’s safe for our children to be playing anywhere nearby?” asked Julie Jensen.
“We need to keep looking for a way to obtain alternative energy,” said panelist Andrew Bosan, Chairman of the Eastern Long Island Surfrider Chapter. “We are trying to gather as much information as possible. We are concerned about the environment. We are concerned about the livelihood of the people who live here and make their living on the water. We have been studying ocean acidification and its effects on fin fish, oysters, scallops, and clams. We’ve reached a tipping point and we need to do something about it.”
Panel members also addressed issues such as the possibility of a loss of revenue for local fishermen, damage to equipment that may become entangled with wind farm structures, and the dangers in navigation around the wind farms.
Members also asked what energy cost savings the Deepwater project would offer East End residents. Si Kinsella, a Wainscott resident who has been an active participant in many of the public meetings, addressed the audience with a chart that depicts the estimated charges to rate payers. Bloomberg forecasts indicate that market rates will begin to drop in the next few years.
“Will we see our rates drop as time goes on?” Kinsella asked Deepwater’s development manager. According to Garvey, the rate savings are “front loaded.”
“We need transparency. We need to know the price. How can we be expected to make a decision when we don’t know what it is going to cost us?” Kinsella asked.
Concerns were raised over the pile driving and construction phase of the wind farm project. The decibel level of the pile driving portion of the tower installation is rated at 200dB. Information about comparative sound levels shared with the audience showed that 200dB is comparable to a Saturn rocket launch. Garvey reiterated that the noise levels would only be present during the construction phase.
Daniel Farnham, panelist and second-generation Montauk fisherman said, “That level of noise will kill the fish in the vicinity. It will disrupt the ocean bed where bottom feeders live in the substrate. What about the issue with EMF?” he asked Jennifer McCann, Director of U.S. Coastal Programs at the University of Rhode Island.
“More studies and research on the effects of electromagnetic fields on mammals have to be done,” she said.
“This meeting shows the number of different voices we have and the multitude of concerns that really have to be understood,” stated Malman. “We need some type of energy resiliency on the East End. None of the solutions are simple and each are going to affect our traditional east end industries.”
The panel consisted of: Rodney Avila, Deepwater Wind’s Fisheries Liaison, Thomas Bjurlof, expert on transmission grid alternatives; Andrew Brosnan, Chairman of the Eastern Long Island Surfrider Chapter; Gary Cobb, member of the East Hampton Town Fishery Advisory Committee; Bob DeLuca, President and CEO of the Group for the East End; Rick Drew Deputy Clerk of the East Hampton Trustees; Daniel Farnham, second generation Montauk fisherman; Jennifer Garvey, Deepwater Development Manager for Long Island; Jennifer McCann, Director of U.S. Coastal Programs at the University of Rhode Island; and Gordian Raacke, Executive Director of Renewable Energy Long Island.
The community forum was recorded by LTV and is expected to be available for viewing midweek. Please check the LTV website for availability at https://www.ltveh.org/schedules.