Gov. Janet Mills on Monday proposed a 10-year moratorium on new offshore wind projects in state-managed waters and other actions aimed at calming concerns among the fishing industry about her plan to create the nation’s first floating offshore wind research farm in the Gulf of Maine.
In a letter Friday to licensed commercial fishermen, the Democratic governor said she would propose the moratorium to the Legislature. It would protect fishing and recreational areas within three miles of coastal waters managed by the state, which she said are more heavily fished than federal waters. She also has directed her energy office to review offshore wind regulations, asking for input from fishermen about the site of the proposed array.
The research array, announced in November, is part of an ongoing offshore wind initiative announced in 2019 by Mills, who has made climate one of her main issues since being elected more than two years ago. A report from her office last November touted offshore wind as a significant opportunity for economic recovery from the coronavirus-induced recession. Mills did not provide a timeline for the project, but the state’s climate goals are to move to 80 percent renewable energy by 2030 and 100 percent by 2050.
“This moratorium is an important step that will allow us to continue to alleviate concerns expressed by fishermen,” Maine Department of Marine Resources Commissioner Patrick Keliher said.
In her letter, Mills asked fishermen to “remain at the table for what I know are hard conversations.” She said offshore wind projects will create jobs and boost the economy, but she also is aware of the possible impacts it may have on Maine’s natural resources and heritage industries such as fishing.
The research array is being proposed for a location where it could connect to the energy grid in southern Maine. The most likely locations for the connection are near Wyman Station, an oil-fired generator station in Yarmouth, or the closed Maine Yankee nuclear plant in Wiscasset.
In late December, the Governor’s Energy Office and Department of Marine Resources started discussions with Maine’s fishing industry and others to determine a site for the research array, which is expected to cover about 16 square miles.
The proposed moratorium will not affect the University of Maine’s New England Aqua Ventus project, which aims to establish a single-turbine demonstration site in state-managed waters near Monhegan. There are no current applications for offshore wind projects in state-managed waters, where a majority of Maine’s commercial fishing occurs.