After seven months of contention over Governor Janet Mills’ efforts to ramp up wind-energy development off Maine’s coast, some compromises are emerging — including a permanent ban on wind projects within state waters.
Maine’s lobster industry expressed great concerns last year, when the Governor proposed a 16-square mile “research array” of up to 12 turbines to be floated in federal waters 20 miles or more off the coast — in a partnership with the University of Maine and international wind developers.
This year, she proposed a 10-year moratorium on wind projects closer to shore, in state waters. Roughly speaking, that area extends about three miles off the coast — and it’s where the majority of Maine’s lobster fleet operates. Some fishermen supported the moratorium, but most said it did not go far enough.
In addition to the ban on wind development in state waters, the amended bill would establish an advisory board to set scientific priorities at the “research array” wind farm. That panel would include at least three representatives of lobster and fishing industries.
Before a power line across state waters or related onshore infrastructure could be constructed, she said, the state first would have to complete a strategic plan to minimize conflicts with maritime industries, particularly fishing, as well as potential ecosystem effects.
A comprehensive review of whether state laws are strong enough to protect coastal resources and users would be required as well. And a fund to pay for preliminary research questions identified by the advisory board must be established, with an initial $1 million allotment.
The compromise measure does include a carve-out from the ban on near-shore projects to allow an experimental, single-turbine platform near Monhegan Island to move ahead.
The Mills administration indicated they were reviewing the committee work to make sure it is consistent with her “careful and measured approach” to offshore wind energy development.