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Conservation groups call for federal review of offshore wind impact on Gulf of Maine ecosystems

This Friday, Sept. 20, 2013 file photo shows the country's first floating wind turbine works off the coast of Castine, Maine.
Robert F. Bukaty
This Friday, Sept. 20, 2013 file photo shows the country's first floating wind turbine works off the coast of Castine, Maine.

A wide coalition of New England conservation groups is calling on federal regulators for a rigorous review of the potential effects of offshore wind-farms on Gulf of Maine ecosystems and fisheries. And they want that effort made before specific wind sites are proposed - which the feds did not do when planning wind-lease areas in southern New England.

Some 18 groups from Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine signed on to the effort, ranging from the New England Aquarium to the Natural Resources Council of Maine, as well as national organizations like the Audubon Society.

They are calling for a "Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement" — a comprehensive up-front review of the all the Gulf's ecosystems, before any consideration of where the best wind- lease sites might be.

"Yes, we need to act expediently, but that doesn't mean we should act foolishly or rashly or cause harm," says lvy Frignoca, the Casco Baykeeper, the chief advocate at the Friends of Casco Bay. She says the groups signing the letter do support the development of offshore wind to fight climate change.

"Let's really look at the places that should be off the table from the beginning, because they're going to have too much impact on the environment, important nursery grounds for fisheries or places that maybe heavily fished due to climate change, and let's try to site these with the least amount of conflict," she says.

The federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management is convening a Gulf of Maine wind task force in two weeks.

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.