NEW BEDFORD — Comments surrounding Vineyard Wind’s offshore wind projects filled the Waypoint Convention Room on Monday night and they came from a diverse group ranging from climate change deniers to environmentalists.
But the main discussion revolved around jobs.
Fishermen strongly criticized the process with one saying he feared Europeans would commandeer all the jobs associated with offshore winds.
Union workers stood in support of those jobs that they want to fill.
“Don’t tell me we’re going to have Europeans overrunning our workers,” one union member said. “It ain’t going to happen. We’ll train our workers.”
Vineyard Wind said it has created a $2 million workforce training fund. It proposed hundreds of jobs would be created from the project. The Port of New Bedford would be one of the homes for construction. Bristol Community College and UMass Dartmouth have also said they plan to invest in offshore wind programs in the future.
Fishermen maintained that the fund wouldn’t make up for the potential job losses associated with the project.
Another issue involved how the turbines would affect the day-to-day routines of fishermen. They feared a concrete mat, on the ocean floor by each turbine, would greatly affect the natural habitat. Four-inch rocks would be placed atop the concrete slab, but Jim Kendall, a fishermen’s representative for Vineyard Wind, said it’s a more complicated problem than the rocks would solve.
Ocean currents also drew concerns of scallopers. They said scallops are sensitive to the currents, which they said turbines would affect.
The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, which helped conduct the meeting, said it would take all the concerns into consideration during analysis.
The question-and-answer session lasted more than an hour after a presentation, which described the project.
The BOEM plans to prepare an environmental impact statement on Vineyard Wind’s construction and operations plan. Vineyard Wind, a partnership between Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners and Avangrid Renewables, has proposed an 800-megawatt project off the coast of Massachusetts.
The project could include up to 106 wind turbines, beginning about 14 miles southeast of Martha’s Vineyard.
A 30-day comment period runs through Monday, April 30.
Onshore construction would start in late 2019 with overall construction scheduled to complete at the end of 2021.
With the dates so far out, BOEM didn’t have answers to some questions. Instead, many responses were based around future studies and analysis.
Monday’s public meeting acted as the first of a week-long schedule full of public comment meetings around the SouthCoast, Rhode Island and Cape and the Islands.
Vineyard Wind is one of three proposals competing for a contract in a state-led procurement process, and the first to submit a construction and operations plan. BOEM does not yet have construction and operations plans for either of the other two proposals, Bay State Wind and Deepwater Wind.