AUGUSTA—Hundreds of fishermen gathered in Augusta on April 28 to protest offshore wind development in Maine.
Several local lobstermen who attended the rally said they have felt left out of a rushed process to get wind turbines in the Gulf of Maine, particularly when it comes to a research array proposed by the Governor in federal waters.
“We are in favor of renewable technologies, but we don’t feel this is the answer,” said Virginia Olsen, a Stonington lobsterman who organized the rally at the Augusta Civic Center.
As the rally was getting underway, Gov. Janet Mills unveiled a bill that would enact a 10-year offshore wind development moratorium in state waters while the state officials create a “roadmap” on how and if offshore wind will work in Maine.
But for many local fishermen who went to the rally, that wasn’t good enough.
State Rep. Billy Bob Faulkingham (R-Winter Harbor) was one of the rally speakers and he wasn’t surprised by the timing of the bill. To him, it felt like a purely political move while his more stringent proposal for offshore wind had support from the event’s attendees.
“Her bill isn’t sufficient,” he said. “It kicks it down the road.”
Faulkingham, a fisherman himself, has filed legislation to stop the state from permitting any offshore wind projects. He had numerous issues with turbines, including their effects on the ocean, the potential cost of their electricity and how they’d be installed and dismantled.
“They’re basically litter as far as I’m concerned,” he said.
Chris Moore, a lobsterman out of Northeast Harbor who attended the rally, said he was for alternative energy, but not to the possible detriment of the seafloor, birds, marine life and the fishery.
“We all need to do our part to help the environment and reduce our carbon usage, but this is not it,” he said.
The state has proposed to put a research array of no more than 12 floating turbines over 16 square miles in federal waters in order to help study the technology, with an eye toward its electrical generation and potential effects on marine life.
The research array would have to go through the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy
Management for approval, a process that could take three to four years. Mills maintains that fishing and offshore wind can co-exist, and the array will show what the potential is.
State Rep. Genevieve McDonald (D-Stonington) was on board with the Governor’s moratorium on new wind projects in state waters.
“This bill is part of a thoughtful and balanced approach that recognizes the concerns of the fishing industry while also building a new clean energy future for Maine,” said the representative, who is also a commercial fisherman.
But like Moore, Hildie Bunker, who’s married to a fisherman on Mount Desert Island, was not so sure.
Bunker attended the rally and said her husband Brandon Bunker fishes offshore out of Southwest Harbor. She worried that if wind farms started to go up, they would start pushing the offshore lobstermen farther in, making it tougher on everyone.
“Everybody will have to move if you can’t fish around the wind farm area,” she said.
While the concerns about the potential harm and what would happen if the turbines needed to be dismantled weighed on her, Bunker’s spirits were raised seeing the fishermen come together.
“A lot of people came to support, not just the lobstermen, but everyone in the fishing community,” she said. “I’m really glad we’re coming all together because it’s going to be a lot to overcome.”