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By Dana Reilly
PBN Staff Writer
WASHINGTON – Secretary of the Interior Kenneth L. Salazar announced the completion of a critical environmental assessment today, advancing plans for offshore wind development in the Ocean State.
The Interior Department’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management will use the environmental assessment to determine how development in the Wind Energy Area of mutual interest to Rhode Island and Massachusetts should proceed. The assessment proposes banning certain portions of the WEA from leasing based on impacts to North Atlantic Right Whales, “visual resources” and telecommunications cables.
The area of interest to Rhode Island and Massachusetts is approximately 164,750 acres, located roughly halfway between Block Island and Martha’s Vineyard.
Now that the environmental assessment is available online, the BOEM is accepting public comments until Aug. 2. The bureau’s leadership also will host public information sessions on July 16 in Narragansett and on July 17 in New Bedford.
If there is a finding of no significant impact to issue a lease, BOEM will conduct an auction, followed by a comprehensive National Environmental Policy Act review for the construction of any proposed wind power facility.
Last August, Salazar called for developers to identify locations within the WEA and present project proposals to the bureau. Providence-based Deepwater Wind proposed a farm with 200 turbines, separate from a smaller proposed farm off Block Island in state waters.