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Jan 30, 2018 5:55 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Highest Hurdle For Deepwater May Be Winning The Trust Of The Region's Fishing Community

Commercial fisherman Daniel Farnham, left, peppers Deepwater's Clint Plummer with questions at an East Hampton Town Trustees forum held in December. PRESS FILE
Feb 26, 2018 12:20 PM

Deepwater Wind faces two years of review by some 20 state and federal agencies, and millions of dollars in scientific survey work covering hundreds of square miles of the ocean, to answer the questions the agencies will pepper them with about the wind farm’s effect on the ocean around it.

But their biggest hurdle may be a lot more simple: convincing fishermen to join them at the discussion table.

Part of the federal process that the company must follow, in attempting to show that the 15 wind turbines they want to build in the ocean east of Block Island can coexist with those who make a living at sea, requires that they appoint a “fisheries representative” to stand up for the interests of fishermen in discussions about the siting and potential impacts of the wind farm.

But a year into the public outreach effort, the company has still been unable to find a fisherman willing to take the role.

One, charter captain and dragger-owner Chuck Mallinson, had reportedly agreed but backed out—and declined to comment for this story—after word of his “hiring” by Deepwater was met with cries of “traitor” and “sellout” from other fishermen.

Indeed, the role seems destined to come with a badge of mistrust from fishing compatriots, almost no matter who takes it on.

That view seems rooted at least in part in a basic belief among many fishermen that Deepwater is a politically connected corporation peddling half-truths and deception to tap billions in electrical bill profits; the belief that no matter what fishermen say in objection to the company’s plans, it will find a way to dismiss it as inconsequential; and an inherent distrust of anyone who is being paid by the company, for any reason.

“I can see if it wasn’t someone governed by Deepwater, it could be useful, but if they’re being paid they aren’t going to bite the hand that feeds them,” said Hank Lackner, a Montauk dragger captain. “It could be useful if it was someone we could go to and say, ‘Hey, I just tore my net up,’ and he says he’s on it. But this person works for them. Everything is hocus-pocus with them.”

While the company has a “fisheries liaison,” who is an employee of Deepwater and works on behalf of the company, the fisheries representative is supposed to be an independent player representing the fishermen and only paid by the company as compensation for time lost at sea to work on the project. Fishermen, to say the least, don’t seem to believe that will be the case.

Fishermen and their advocates have insisted to the company since the aborted attempt to enlist Mr. Mallinson that the fishing community choose its representative, or representatives, and bring them to Deepwater, not the other way around.

“The representative is supposed to be coming from the industry—it is not Deepwater’s job to decide who is impartial,” said Bonnie Brady, director of the Long Island Commercial Fishing Association. “People were upset with Chuck [Mallinson], thinking he had sold out, which I don’t think was the case, but it just goes to show you how leery guys are in general about Deepwater picking someone.”

And Deepwater’s officials have said that the appointment is, indeed, up to the fishermen—with a few caveats.

“We’ve been working for several months now to engage with the fishing community, and the community has said there is interest, but they have not yet come to a consensus on who the right person should be,” said Clint Plummer, who has been Deepwater’s front man on the project. “It’s a good role, and it results in a better project. It’s critical that, whoever the representative is, has the trust and support of that community.”

The East Hampton Fisheries Advisory Committee, a town-appointed committee, is due to meet this week and will discuss its own possible nominations for more than one industry representative spot.

Ms. Brady, whose husband, Dave Aripotch, is a Montauk commercial fisherman, said that the federal guidelines say there should be at least one industry rep, and that there should be one from each subset of fishermen potentially impacted by the project.

“The reality is, if Deepwater wanted to do this the right way, it would hire someone who represents the people who actually fish in the area where the wind farm is going—someone who fishes in the federal waters, and for the inshore ‘Bubby guys,’ three at least,” she said. “Plummer says he wants someone who is impartial. But he doesn’t want someone impartial at all—they want to be able to pick the person. They’re picking a PR person.”

Mr. Plummer said that the company’s long-term interests are not in glossed-over science and promotional PR, because its sights are set far down the road. “Offshore wind is going to be a big industry in this United States, and the South Fork will be the first,” the Deepwater vice president said confidently. “We want this project to be a case study in how to do this well. We want it to set a very high bar. And we want the fishing industry to see that we take their role in that very seriously.”

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How much??? What is this GREEN energy going to cost???
By knitter (1941), Southampton on Jan 31, 18 11:24 AM
How much??? What is this GREEN energy going to cost???
By knitter (1941), Southampton on Jan 31, 18 11:24 AM

How much??? What is this GREEN energy going to cost???
By Draggerman (955), Southampton on Jan 31, 18 6:11 PM
Market rate or less depending on available subsidies.

By adlkjd923ilifmac.aladfksdurwp (747), southampton on Jan 31, 18 6:16 PM
Not in dollars. In “Mens Lives”.

It’s hard enough to make a living on the water, but to allow grounds destroying towers to be installed is insanity.
By Draggerman (955), Southampton on Feb 27, 18 7:28 AM
There are no particulars either in the article or in the comments describing the deleterious effects of the project on fishermen.

On the other hand, there IS documented harm that these wind farms have done to birds. I refer, for example, to the Altamont Wind Farm in California that kills 4700 birds a year, including 70 golden eagles. How does Deepwater intend to avoid this carnage?
By highhatsize (4217), East Quogue on Feb 27, 18 8:27 AM