OCEAN CITY — Congressman Andy Harris (R-Md.) this week continued to go to battle on behalf of the Town of Ocean City over the proposed offshore wind farms with language attached to a federal appropriations bill urging Coast Guard intervention.
Harris, who represents Maryland’s first congressional district including Ocean City and the entire Eastern Shore, has pushed back against the proposed offshore wind farms at nearly every opportunity. On Tuesday, as the House Committee on Appropriations was considering the fiscal year 2019 Department of Homeland Security appropriations bill, Harris introduced, and ultimately got approved, language urging the Coast Guard to intercede in the future regulatory process for the two windfarms proposed off Ocean City’s coast with regards to maritime safety.
The language added to the appropriations bill urges the Coast Guard to “take any and all steps to ensure the navigational safety for maritime traffic off the coast of Maryland.” Tuesday’s efforts during the House committee meeting marked the congressman’s latest in a growing list of hurdles he has attempted to throw in front of the two offshore wind farm projects currently going through the latter stages of the regulatory process.
“The 86 wind turbines planned off the coast of Ocean City pose serious risks to maritime navigational safety, commercial fishing and tourism,” he said. “Federal bureaucrats within the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management snubbed the Coast Guard’s concerns about this proposal in the past, but legitimate safety risks cannot be ignored.”
It’s important to note the town of Ocean City’s opposition to the wind farms off the resort coast is largely based on the proposed location of the first line of turbines in the designated Wind Energy Area (WEA). From the beginning, Ocean City officials have pushed the developers to move the first line of turbines 26 miles off the coast, or the distance they perceive will guarantee them out of sight from the shoreline. While Ocean City has supported the concept of offshore wind energy, it has openly opposed any wind turbines less than 26 miles off the coast, fearing the sightlines will negatively affect tourism and property values.
However, Harris has taken his opposition a step further on multiple occasions, the latest coming during Tuesday’s House committee meeting and the language attached to the appropriations bill urging the Coast Guard to intercede.
“The Coast Guard has cooperated and sought safety first in all discussions of these proposed wind turbines and I am confident the Coast Guard will ensure that these turbines will not be constructed in a region that jeopardizes safe maritime travel,” he said.
For its part, the Coast Guard has been involved at the various steps in the approval process and ostensibly will continue to do so. Last year, the Coast Guard released an updated Atlantic Coast Port Access Route Study, which recommended keeping offshore wind projects at least two nautical miles from shipping lanes and five nautical miles from port access areas, which presumably would cut off vast areas of open ocean from any renewable energy projects.
Last week, the Mayor and Council heard a lengthy presentation from a fisheries expert about the possible impact of the proposed offshore wind turbines on the commercial and recreational fishing industries and, perhaps more importantly the siting of the hundreds of turbines in relation to the offshore shipping lanes. The expert warned the proposed location of the wind turbines is in close proximity to the shipping lanes for massive oil tankers and other large cargo ships coming out of the Delaware Bay and moving up and down the mid-Atlantic coast and that there was little room for error.