Opponents of an offshore wind project slated for development off Monhegan Island will take their fight to a new level Tuesday, when they plan to file a petition designed to prevent cables delivering electricity from the project to the mainland from passing through St. George.
The group Preserve Our Remarkable Town, or PORT, says it has collected more than 300 signatures from residents of St. George, which includes the villages of Tenants Harbor and Port Clyde, who fear the the project will harm the local fishing industry and undermine the quality of life and property values in their communities.
Through the project, Maine Aqua Ventus, a pair of 6-megawatt floating wind turbines will be placed about 3 miles off Monhegan Island, which is located about 12 miles from the St. George peninsula.
Aqua Ventus is proposing that the power from the project be brought to shore at a transition point site in Port Clyde. According to the project website, “several [cable] routes to the mainland are currently being evaluated.”
Locals are concerned not only about how fishing restrictions near the turbines could harm their livelihoods, but how the proposed infrastructure on the mainland in Port Clyde would change village life. PORT is pushing for changes in the town’s shoreland zoning ordinance to prevent the possibility of electrical infrastructure being established on public or private land.
Jeff Thaler, project counsel for Aqua Ventus, said the project will not harm fishing grounds, citing data collected from the some of the first offshore wind farms that were put in place more than two decades ago.
Additionally, Thaler said in an email that the the offshore cable for the test project is proposed in an existing cable right of way where fishing is already prohibited.
“We look forward to continued dialogue with residents and fishermen of St. George as to what the actual facts of the proposed [Maine Aqua Ventus] demonstration project are. Information being distributed does not accurately reflect project plans,” Thaler said.
The petition urges St. George town leaders to “take all the steps necessary to prevent the landing of high voltage cables on public or private property in the town of St. George,” according to a news release from PORT.
Evy Blum, a co-founder of PORT, said the proposal for the power lines to come into Port Clyde would have a devastating impact on the village’s two biggest sources of income: fishing and tourism.
“Fishing, both ground fishing and lobster fishing is the concern over and over,” Blum said, who also raised concerns about negative impacts on tourism. “That is the only other way we make a living here … and I mean unless I’m missing something, I don’t think tourists come to look at electrical infrastructure and substations.”
PORT said that if town officials don’t take steps to prevent the project from coming ashore in St. George, they will strive to force a public vote to bar the cables from coming ashore in their communities.
Project participants in the Aqua Ventus project include the University of Maine, Cianbro, UMaine’s Advanced Structures and Composites Center ad Naval Energies. The Monhegan project is intended to be a pilot project for a much larger wind farm that would be developed in a different location more than 20 miles offshore.
“This project is an important step in moving away from energy sources that are warming and acidifying the Gulf of Maine,” Thaler said. “There is an international competition to develop floating turbine technologies and Maine is leading the U.S. in this important new energy resources.”
According to the project timeline, over the next year Aqua Ventus will conduct ecological studies and seek all necessary permits. Construction of the floating platforms and turbines will occur in 2019, when the onsite anchors and transmission cable are also slated to be set. Under this timeline the turbines are expected to start producing power by 2020.
PORT plans to present its petition at the St. George town office at 11 a.m. Tuesday.