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Marine Patrol Directed To Remove Gear From Path Of Wind Power Survey If Fishermen Won’t

Sherrie Tucker
Maine Public
A lobster boat at an offshore wind project protest off Boothbay Harbor on Sunday.

The state is telling Monhegan Island-area lobstermen to remove fishing gear from the path of a survey vessel — or the Marine Patrol will. That’s after the Department of Marine Resources determined that there is enough gear in that area to prevent the vessel from doing its work.

The 150-foot Go Liberty is surveying possible routes for an electricity cable that would stretch from a planned floating wind turbine developed by New England Aqua Ventus to the mainland. Earlier this week, lobstermen protested the effort at sea, and in some cases sailed near the survey ship.

In text and email messages sent to lobstermen Wednesday morning, DMR Commissioner Patrick Keliher says he has been directed to ask the state Marine Patrol to move gear away from the route if the vessel is unable to continue its work. He also says DMR is working with the vessel to make sure it keeps its operations within a defined pathway.

Keliher and other officials in Gov. Janet Mills’ administration did not immediately return requests for comment.

The message comes a day after state marine regulators kicked off a series of online outreach meetings on Tuesday evening with lobster zone councils that represent fishing grounds where the administration of Gov. Janet Mills could site a 12-turbine wind-energy project.

And the recent protests show, the gap between Mills and fishing communities is only growing.

Harpswell lobsterman Chris McIntire asked Keliher how the bigger array could be stopped altogether.

“Do we need to start a petition? I mean, how do we stop it from happening?” McIntire said.

“That’s a tough question to ask me,” Keliher said. “Obviously my boss wants to see offshore wind. It’s a very high priority for her. I think the (fishing) industry’s voice, if you have these concerns, needs to be heard through the regulatory process.”

Keliher and project backers say it will allow the state to collect data needed to minimize or even avert the growing industry’s effects on local fisheries. But McIntire calculates that by 2030, state policy could lead to wind projects covering some 850 square miles of ocean acreage. And that, he says, is obviously incompatible with a viable lobster industry.

Keliher meets Wednesday evening with lobstermen from the midcoast area.

A Columbia University graduate, Fred began his journalism career as a print reporter in Vermont, then came to Maine Public in 2001 as its political reporter, as well as serving as a host for a variety of Maine Public Radio and Maine Public Television programs. Fred later went on to become news director for New England Public Radio in Western Massachusetts and worked as a freelancer for National Public Radio and a number of regional public radio stations, including WBUR in Boston and NHPR in New Hampshire.