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Before Fishermen's Scheduled Vote On Compensation Offer From Offshore Wind, Signed Agreement Surfaces

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A Rhode Island fishermen’s advisory board is expected to vote Saturday afternoon in South Kingstown on a compensation offer from an offshore wind company, but the spokeswoman for one of Rhode Island’s largest seafood processors is worried the offer has already been finalized.

Vineyard Wind is proposing to pay fishermen $16.7 million dollars in direct compensation and trust funds to make up for the industry’s lost revenue.

However, a document that surfaced Friday signed by Vineyard Wind and the state’s Coastal Resources Management Council (CMRC), an agency with regulatory functions that will consider the Fishermen Advisory Board's input to determine whether Vineyard Wind's project is consistent with state standards on coastal management, makes it appear as if the offer has already been finalized.

Meghan Lapp with Seafreeze Ltd. said the document is odd because it's dated Thursday, which is when fishermen were called to meet and discuss the offer.

"They set up a meeting yesterday to throw the whole industry off the scent of the fact that they already signed something," Lapp said. "That’s an abuse of public process, that is an abuse of public trust."

Vineyard Wind directed comment to the CRMC.

Grover Fugate, executive director of the CRMC, said he insisted on having a side agreement in place before the council's vote Tuesday night.

"Once the council votes...there's no way for us to pull (the compensation package) back and enforce the provisions of that except through the signed agreement," Fugate said.

CRMC said now, they can take Vineyard Wind to court if they break the terms of their proposed compensation.

The side agreement is contingent on the Fishermen's Advisory Board accepting Vineyard Wind's offer and the CRMC determining that the project is consistent with the state's coastal policies.

This post has been updated with CRMC's comments, and Vineyard Wind's offer was corrected from $18.7 million to $16.7 million.

Commercial fishing boats docked at a pier in Galilee.
Commercial fishing boats docked at a pier in Galilee.