In a bid to ease tensions with the state's fishing industry, Maine Gov. Janet Mills has promised to ask the state legislature to approve a 10-year moratorium on new offshore wind development in state waters.
The proposal, announced Jan. 25, comes after the state in November 2020 backed development of a floating offshore wind research array, called New England Aqua Ventus I Offshore Project (Maine Aqua Ventus I), to be sited in federal waters in the Gulf of Maine. The Maine Coast Fishermen's Association, in a statement earlier in January, said it was "unprepared" for the state's support of the research array.
The proposed moratorium would keep wind turbines out of state-controlled waters within three miles of the coast. The research array, with up to 12 turbines, would be at least 20 miles offshore. A single-turbine demonstration site for the Aqua Ventus technology is to be located in state waters, and would not be subject to the proposed moratorium, Mills said.
In a letter to the state's fishing industry dated Jan. 22, Mills said that "new, commercial-scale offshore wind projects do not belong in state waters that support the majority of the state's lobster fishing activity, that provide important habitat for coastal marine and wildlife species and that support a tourist industry based in part on Maine's iconic coastal views."
However, she cautioned, if Maine "doesn't take the lead," both the state and the fishing industry will be disadvantaged if they do not work together to find ways for the traditional fishing industry to coexist with a burgeoning offshore wind sector.
"It would be irresponsible for me to ignore both the potential benefit of offshore wind as part of Maine's clean energy portfolio, and the possible impacts it may have on Maine's natural resources and heritage industries such as fishing, which are a vital part of our economy and our cultural identity," she wrote. Maine wants to get all of its energy supply from renewable resources by 2050.
To that end, Mills said she wants a state working group formed with the fishing industry to discuss the issues, as well as have state agencies review their leasing and permitting authorities for energy projects in state waters.
The governor said she has pushed back by a few months the timeline of the pre-application phase of the research array, which must be permitted by the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, to allow for more input from the fishing industry.
In December 2020, Mills signed a memorandum of understanding with U.K. Energy Minister Kwasi Kwarteng to cooperate on offshore wind and green hydrogen advancements, as well as to evaluate the environmental, infrastructure and workforce development impacts the industries may have.