OCEAN CITY – Officials say the public will have 45 days to comment on an environmental impact statement regarding US Wind’s offshore wind energy project.
Late last week, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) announced that a draft environmental impact statement on US Wind’s Construction and Operations Plan would be published on Oct. 6, setting in motion a 45-day public comment period. The public will have opportunities to submit written comments, attend virtual meetings, or attend in-person meetings in both Ocean City and Sussex County, Del.
“The Notice of Availability for the Maryland Offshore Wind draft EIS will publish in the Federal Register on October 6, 2023, opening a 45-day public comment period ending at 11:59 p.m. ET on November 20, 2023,” BOEM’s website reads. “The input received via this process informs preparation of the final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).”
US Wind is one of two companies pursuing offshore wind energy projects off the coast of Maryland. The company’s first project is called MarWin, which will generate roughly 300 megawatts of electricity utilizing 22 wind turbines approximately 20 miles from shore. It’s second project, Momentum Wind, will generate 808 megawatts of electricity utilizing up to 55 wind turbines roughly 15 miles from shore.
As part of the approval process, BOEM is currently reviewing US Wind’s Construction and Operations Plan, or COP. The EIS essentially assesses the potential biological, socioeconomic, physical and cultural impacts from the construction, operation and maintenance of US Wind’s offshore wind projects.
“This is the most significant step forward in the history of Maryland offshore wind,” Jeff Grybowski, US Wind CEO, said in a statement last week. “BOEM’s draft environmental impact statement sets us on a path toward starting construction on our offshore wind projects in 2025, putting Maryland’s goals that much closer to reality. We are proud to be the first to deliver this clean energy to Delmarva and look forward to the day we can get steel in the water.”
Knowing that the public would have an opportunity to comment on proposed offshore wind projects, the Ocean City Mayor and Council voted unanimously in July to hire SLR International, an England-based consulting firm, to review US Wind’s COP and prepare comments for the draft EIS.
In an update Monday, City Manager Terry McGean told resort officials that the town’s consultant had begun review of the company’s COP in July, but that their services were suspended when it was learned that the company had amended its plans.
“I immediately suspended the consultant’s work on the old COP because we don’t want to pay the consultant to work on and review something that now has been changed,” he explained. “And I formally requested BOEM restart the full COP review process and immediately release the amended COP for public review. BOEM denied that request.”
McGean added that the town was notified in September that BOEM would release its draft EIS on US Wind’s project on Oct. 6. He said that marks the start of public comments.
“I immediately requested a copy of the amended COP and requested an extension of the 45-day review period based on the fact that the amended COP was not available for review,” he told the council this week. “BOEM has responded that the amended COP will now be released at the same time as the draft Environmental Impact Statement and that there will be no extension to the 45-day review period.”
He continued, “After meeting with our consultant, we are redirecting all their efforts towards review of the draft Environmental Impact Statement instead of the COP, so that we can make well informed and technically sound comments within the 45-day period.”
McGean added that the town had also notified its representatives at the federal level.
“I copied our full federal congressional delegation on these developments so that they are aware of BOEM and US Wind’s, what I call, tactics,” he said. “Theoretically, BOEM could potentially approve the US Wind project as early as July of 2024.”
McGean on Monday also provided the Mayor and Council with an update on Ørsted’s offshore wind energy project, as well as plans for two new wind energy lease areas off the coast of Ocean City. He said the town has requested that turbine sizes be restricted in those areas, that the western boundary of the closest wind energy area be relocated further southwest, and that US Wind’s lease area be relocated to either of those proposed locations.
“The first area known as A2 is north of us off the Delaware coast. The closest point of that lease area to Ocean City is 33 miles,” he explained. “The second area, which is labeled as B1, is south of us off the coast of Assateague Island and the closest point to Ocean City is approximately 25 miles.”
After further discussion on the US Wind project, McGean agreed to provide the Mayor and Council with a quarterly report on offshore wind developments.
“You know, people think we’re overreacting,” Mayor Rick Meehan said. “Yet those same people are going to say at some point in time, ‘how did you ever let that happen?’”
In-person public meetings on the draft EIS have been scheduled for Oct. 24 at 5 p.m. at Ocean City Elementary School and Oct. 26 at 5 p.m. at Indian River High School.