May 1, 2024 | By:

To launch, or not to launch…

humpback fluke

Photo © Robin Silver

Lost in the narrative of offshore industrial electrical wind production is the overall impact they have from sourced materials to consumer consumption. The use of Sears Island in Maine as the staging area for building offshore power plants offers us a good example of this point. Here we’ll use this coastal island as our nexus for what comes before and after and go from there, and, if it’s like what’s being currently proposed in the New York Bight, the following is what you can expect.

On the landward side let’s start with the sourced materials, like raw copper that’s needed for these projects. One such site for this copper is Oak Flat, Arizona, in the Tonto National Forest. It’s a biological and cultural treasure that is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. For many traditional Western Apache, this land is a holy site that has provided them with food and medicines since time immemorial, just like the sea still does for many of us.

On December 12, 2014, a last-minute midnight rider was attached to a defense bill. The US Government says Oak Flat will provide the USA with a good deal of the copper needed for ‘renewable’ devices, like offshore wind turbines. This action circumvented the public review processes and transferred these lands of the American people over to Resolution Copper, a foreign multi-national mining company. This company and our federal government are now actively opposing the Apache in the federal courts

If our government and this mining giant get their way, the copper will be shipped out for refinement before being transported to the manufacturing facilities. From there these finished products will go to the launching sites like Sears Island before making the final journey for placement somewhere in the ocean.

On the seaward side of this launch pad for the Gulf of Maine that’s now up for industrialization, the Federal Register Notice cites the potential for approximately 2 million acres to be leased out; but I’m uncertain if that is just the seabed surface or if it includes the water column and the aerial acreage of the towers and blades along the Atlantic Flyway inside of this footprint. For a land comparison, Yellowstone National Park is 2.2’ish million acres. This makes me wonder if the federal government will be deducting the potential loss of these oceanic wildlands when they tally up their 30X30 total?

The public comment period for this Gulf of Maine lease just closed. The American public’s next opportunity to formally comment will come when the Bureau of Offshore Energy Management issues a call in our Federal Register for comments when they release the next phase of this process.

To give you an idea of the gear they may well launch in the Gulf of Maine let’s go back to what’s being planned at the NY Bight. From the NYB launching sites out will go dredging equipment, explosives, jet plows, pile drivers, underwater high-voltage cables, and offshore sub-stations. These facilities will need industrial intake pipes in the water column to draw massive amounts of seawater to cool the equipment before discharging this water back into the sea. At sea, the workers will begin blasting the hard surfaces, dredging channels, and jet plowing the benthic community to lay miles upon miles of high voltage cables, before bringing this electricity back to land to connect to the ‘smart’ grid as the dead whales and dolphins continue to pile up along the mid-Atlantic beaches on their journey to the dumpster.

Did offshore wind exploration kill some of the wildlife in these marine waters? Maybe. Did oceanic ship strikes kill some of them? Seems so. Did the overall impacts of industrialization kill many, if not all, of them? Most definitely, and there’s the rub.

Will it be a similar scenario in the Gulf of Maine? Most likely it will. The eelgrass beds, the baby and juvenile fish now making their way into the estuarine and riverine systems, the bottom dwellers, the fish in the water column, and the native and migrating bats and birds—many of whom pollinate our foods—that get in the way of these industrial assaults are chum. Who keeps these body counts?

These are just two of the numerous offshore proposals along our coastlines that cumulatively, and it is no stretch of the imagination, will have hemispheric and oceanic ramifications. The bottom line here is the only things renewable in these offshore industrial wind power plants are the sea winds, the tides, and our neighbors who live in, on, and above this dynamic environment; and anymore industrial anything for power will continue to diminish our biological and cultural diversity and put our wild food and medicinal security at great risk.

So, what’s the alternative? I encourage everyone to make their voices heard. One avenue is monitoring and acting on the administrative processes. Maine’s legislature’s recent decision to sacrifice Sears Island on the industrial altar does not make it a done deal. It still has another permitting hurdle to clear before moving it on to the federal level. Here the call is on the good citizens of Maine as to whether this goes forward or not. If you don’t like the outcome, seek judicial relief. On the federal level monitor the Federal Register Notices as well as the permitting notices from the federal agencies that handle your region.

As for the politicians, call on them to quit throwing those bazillions of our tax dollars into these unsustainable enterprises and instead give it to the local communities and keep those jobs local. This money is to be used for making our communities self-sustaining, our air breathable, and our waters swimmable, fishable, and drinkable. That’s democracy in action.

And please never forget that every day we all make economic decisions on the health of the planet. As adults, we owe this much to our children and the voiceless finned, feathered, and furry ones as well.

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