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RI Commercial Fishing Industry Opposes Latest Compensation Offer From Offshore Wind

Rhode Island fishermen are angry about a proposed compensation package from Vineyard Wind, an offshore wind developer that plans to build more than 80 turbines south of Martha's Vineyard.

A fishermen’s advisory board, which advises the state's coastal management agency on behalf of the commercial fishing industry, has been negotiating compensation with the developer since Feb. 11. 

Initially, Vineyard Wind offered to pay fishermen $6.2 million over 30 years in direct compensation to cover lost revenue. There would have been an additional $23.8 million available over the same time period that could be used to help improve fishing vessels and develop new gear types or fishing methods.

Now, Vineyard Wind is offering to put $4.2 million over 29 years into an escrow account "to compensate for any claims of direct impacts to Rhode island vessels or Rhode Island fisheries in the project area." The company also is proposing to put $12.5 million over five years into a fishermen's trust fund.

"The (Fishermen's Advisory Board) advised Vineyard Wind that larger annual payments over a shorter period would be of greater value and more useful to Rhode Island's fishermen than smaller payments over a longer period, as we had first proposed," Vineyard Wind said in a statement.

The Fishermen's Advisory Board met with fishermen and seafood processors Thursday during a private meeting in Galilee to fill them in on what was negotiated. 

"People in that room had no hope," Meghan Lapp, spokeswoman for Seafreeze Ltd., one of Rhode Island’s largest seafood processors, said. "(Fishermen are) seeing their lives’ investments crumble before their eyes. It was like a funeral."

Fisherman Dean Pesante said the offer isn't a lot of money, and he's worried how the project could affect the future of Rhode Island's commercial fishing industry.

"This is generations and generations of people that have made a living from the ocean here and continue to, and now there’s a big threat that it’s all going to be taken away," Pesante said. 

Lapp agreed that the offer is too small. She said a study by Cornell University showed the state's commercial fishing industry is worth more than $1 billion.  

Also, Lapp is worried accepting the offer could set a bad precedent for future offshore wind projects.

"If wind companies can see, hey you know what, we can get off cheaper doing it the wrong way, they may not want to move forward the right way, and that’s a real concern," she said. 

The Fishermen’s Advisory Board is expected to accept or reject Vineyard Wind’s offer Saturday afternoon during a public meeting at a Holiday Inn in South Kingstown.

This post has been updated twice to accurately reflect Vineyard Wind's compensation offer.

Boats docked at a pier near the Block Island Ferry.
Boats docked at a pier near the Block Island Ferry.