What does Offshore Wind that Works for Our Communities look like?

The Jersey Shore is unique and special. Some of us call it home, some of us visit it frequently. opens in a new windowAll of us benefit from the tourism and fishing economies.opens PDF file   Over the last 10 years we have seen severe weather become more frequent, our local businesses struggle and many of our communities are already living with water. We know that we need to move to renewable energy like offshore wind AND we know that we need sustainable jobs and businesses. We know that offshore wind can be implemented responsibly BUT only if we are at the table when decisions are being made.

We’re trying to make projections but things will continue to change because that’s how science and community input into political processes work –  we’re doing our best to bring you what we know so far.  As we learn more, we’ll change what we think. 

Concerns about homes, community, and people? 

A group of NJRP members stand at a green space made public to prevent repeat flooding of homes on that street. People stand with signs

We’re an organization that focuses on homes, communities, and people.  And here’s what we know about that.

We hear concerns from our neighbors about tourism and home value – while we understand why people may have those concerns, they are not concerns we share. The biggest question we ask is this: what is the cost of doing nothing? We know sea level rise will continue. We’ve seen not only the increase in the number of storms, but in their severity as well. 

Looking at New Jersey’s future vulnerability through the lens of climate change reveals even more risk than we currently face and as such even more vulnerability for residents. opens in a new window New Jersey is one of the most vulnerable states to future sea level rise with 62,000 homes at risk of chronic inundation by 2045 and 261,000 homes at risk by 2100.  The opens in a new windowcommunities who are most vulnerable are the ones least likely to be positioned to adapt.opens PDF file For example, Monmouth Beach and West Cape May have elderly populations and 15% of homes at risk by 2045; Atlantic City and North Wildwood have lower income populations and 40% of homes at risk by 2045.  Almost all of Atlantic City’s residents live in FEMA-designated flood areas; opens in a new window an extraordinary 80 percent of the city is at risk for flooding in 80 years opens in a new windowRead our report on flooding here.

In study after study and survey after survey up and down the Eastern seaboard and as far away as the coast of the UK in Brighton what we learn is that tourism is not only not affected when turbines are more than 10 miles away, but in some places it actually increases. And similarly – in cases where wind farms were installed negative impacts on property values were so statistically insignificant that the difference was negligible.  We are more concerned about the impact of sea level rise in both these cases.  But we do think there’s a way to do this right.  

We want to make sure construction doesn’t happen during primary tourist season and is planned to take seasonal flooding and storms into effect and confirmation that the turbines will remain at a minimum of 15 miles off-shore.

Concerns about Jobs?

 New Jersey isn’t just implementing offshore wind, we are becoming the manufacturing hub for offshore wind. opens in a new windowThis means jobs right here in our backyards. The Paulsboro port will serve not just New Jersey, but east coast offshore wind needs and beyond.  “If all goes well, the Garden State’s new opens in a new windowmonopile factory will eventually ship its supersized piles from Maine to the Gulf of Mexico, supporting a vast offshore wind buildout in U.S. waters.”

As of now, we anticipate 500 jobs at Paulsboro, and 1000 per year on construction times 3 years=3,000 jobs!  And that’s not even including the uptake at the local hoagie shop as these folks get lunch (we’ve got a report we’re working on about the community level supply chain – more on that later). And yes, people are right when they say that some of these jobs – particularly in construction – are temporary.  But, as any union construction worker will tell you – that’s how it works.  Union halls give out the jobs. Skilled workers go and work the jobs. Then the project is completed and the job ends.  We just want to make sure two things happen – one that all the local businesses can grasp this schedule and have a sense of how to take advantage of opportunities.  We also believe NJ’s Economic Development Corporation and wind companies should make grants available to allow local and small businesses to shift to be ready for the opportunities.  And, as you’ll see in our letter to BOEM we want good jobs for New Jerseyans – we want written confirmation that the job projections we are seeing are going to go to South Jersey and shore communities.

opens in a new windowMore reading here. 

Concerns about Marine Life & Fishing?

Our ecosystem is vital to the life we love. Some of us fish recreationally, some as their livelihood. Our kids grow up learning about all the species that call the Atlantic shores their home. 

If you fish, you may want to check out the organization Anglers for Offshore Wind, and their letter.  They have more specific demands around fishing.  

Suddenly hearing about the cold pool? 

There have been some studies but extrapolating what that means for fish species is unclear. What is clear, is that as the oceans continue to warm, that is impacting currents and the cold pool. There has been species migration north as the waters get too warm. That migration is expected to continue. While at this point we don’t know how wind might impact the cold pool, the cold pool is already being impacted as the oceans warm.  opens in a new windowData is here. 

What about EMF (Electromagnetic fields)?

We’ve heard concerns in the fishing community about EMF and we get those concerns and think we can take a stand to do our best to reduce negative impacts.  The science shows that in fact EMF does impact fish, crustaceans and eels, etc. But what exactly is the impact? What we know so far – because there are actually already lots of cables under water – is that the EMF makes the creatures explore, slow down, sometimes divert, but then they continue on their way.  Hey.  If one day I noticed a cable across my yard I’d do the same thing.  Here’s where things get murky.  When evaluating EMF, you have to account for a number of other factors, such as the already existing local geomagnetic fields that help the fish navigate, as well as…wait for it…storms and climate change which may overshadow any impact of EMF’s. The other unknown is how the actual presence of the Offshore Wind structures themselves will impact the fish – the “reefing” effect. Here’s how we think we can best address this.  We need to advocate for a coordinated efficient grid constructed between turbines and the shore with a minimum of cables that is as safe as possible. And we also want to make sure local communities have a say in where cables come on shore (so we don’t wake up and find a cable across our yards.)  opens in a new windowData is here.

Birds, Whales, and Cats  

opens in a new windowOrganizations that focus on the birds and the whales have figured out how to do this in a way that minimizes disturbances for whales and birds.  That’s why we want best practices followed during construction to spot whales and avoid bird migration season to minimize the number of deaths.  Construction schedules must be arranged in conjunction with migration patterns. (Minimize bird deaths?! You think it’s okay to kill birds?  Well.  No.  Who thinks it’s okay to kill birds?  I’m not a psycho.  Or a cat.  opens in a new windowAs it turns out, cats and skyscrapers kill WAY more birds than wind turbines.opens PDF file )

If you read all the way to the end – excellent.  And we want you.  opens in a new windowPlease sign up for our email list if you’re not already on, and consider coming to a Shorekeeper team virtual meeting.

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