Federal environmental officials are seeking public comment on the environmental impacts of offshore wind farm-related activity proposed for an area of some 480 square miles of Atlantic Ocean off North Carolina’s coast.
The results of the environmental assessment could determine if the U.S. Department of Interior further shrinks the ocean areas deemed suitable for offshore wind farms. The currently proposed area was slashed from 1,900 square miles last August in response to concerns about conflicts with shipping routes, marine ecology and local tourism.
The Department of Interior will hold three public meetings next month in North Carolina, and will also start a 30-day public comment period Friday.
The agency is interested in hearing comments relating to a 295-page study, issued Thursday, that assesses the environmental consequences of activities associated with leasing, surveys and wind measurements to be taken in the proposed 480-square-mile wind farm zone.
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The study concludes that most of the surveying activity would have negligible impact of aquatic life. Some of the activities could expose whales to uncomfortable noise levels as well as to “vessel strikes” from increased shipping traffic. Turtles would be exposed to potential fuel spills and fish could be exposed to “lethal sound pressure levels” from buoy construction noise.
Surveying and related work could require more than 14,000 round trips by sea vessels over a period of nine years, the report says.
The activities are related only to preliminary surveys, not to the actual building of wind farms. If built, the wind farms would feature 460-foot tall spires that are anchored to the ocean bottom, which would require a separate environmental study.
The preliminary environmental assessment study, and related maps and information, are available on the agency’s website at:
The public hearings have been scheduled in the Northern Outer Banks, Wilmington and either Carolina Shores or Sunset Beach. Specifics will be posted on the Interior Department’s link for North Carolina’s offshore wind development.