Note: This is a conversation between The Public's Radio host Dave Fallon and South Coast Reporter Nadine Sebai.

Manuela Barrett, a listener, wants to know more about how Vineyard Wind's compensation plan to Rhode Island and Massachusetts fisherman is actually going to work?

First off, the compensation package assumes that the presence of wind farms will have an economic impact to commercial fishermen. That's the basis of this entire compensation plan offered to both Rhode Island and Massachusetts fishermen. Both plans include an annual direct payout to fishermen for potential lost income because of the wind farms and also a supplemental trust fund dedicated to paying fishermen for unforeseen situations including damaged gear.

Let's say, for example, a fisherman gets his net destroyed in the wind farm's transmission cables. Vineyard Wind will use the money from the trust fund in order to pay for that damage. 

The Rhode Island compensation plan for commercial fishermen has been finalized. That's a $16.7 million plan. But the Massachusetts plan is still currently being reviewed by state regulators. Right now Vineyard Wind has proposed a $10 million compensation plan.

I'm hearing millions of dollars. It certainly sounds like a lot of money.

It is a lot of money...but fishermen say it's not enough. The Rhode Island compensation package was heavily criticized and, even now, if you talk to fishermen they'll say they were pushed into a corner to agree with that final package. And the compensation package doesn't include a lot of things that some fishermen think should be in there. For example, increased transit costs. Maybe fishermen have to start moving around the wind farm area because they can't transit through much does that impact them in terms of gas prices? Also safety losses are a concern. If a boat collides with a wind turbine it's going to severely impact and damage that boat and so it could cost anywhere from $700,000 to $2 million to be able to replace the vessel.

Fishermen say that trust fund doesn't have enough to cover it. 

And, of course, for lost time. If a boat is damaged well then you're not out fishing and you're not making money. 

Exactly. There are all those additional costs that come with being out of work for many months at a time.

What's going to happen next with the Vineyard Wind project?

The Vineyard Wind project is still being reviewed by federal regulators. There are concerns that the design layout of Vineyard Wind's project will have a severe impact on commercial fishermen -- not only their safety but also their ability to do their jobs. So that is currently under review. And the Rhode Island congressional delegation has sent a letter to federal officials essentially urging them to review the concerns that fishermen are making in regards to these offshore wind farms. They don't name Vineyard Wind in specific but they are speaking to, it seems, the Vineyard Wind project and future offshore wind projects in the region. They're trying to get them to ensure that commercial fishermen's concerns are being addressed.

So the Vineyard Wind project in a sense could set precedents for development of other wind farms across the Mid-Atlantic?

Yes. Right now the project is almost behind schedule and it is because of commercial fishermen's concerns. So what does that say about what is going on at the federal level? They are listening to commercial fishermen's concerns but let's say at the end of the day BOEM [Bureau of Ocean Energy Management] decides to keep the Vineyard Wind project exactly as it is and approve everything as is. Well what does that mean for commercial fishermen? Does that mean that their concerns haven't been heard? Will the next offshore wind project coming down the pipeline mean that federal officials are more on the side of the developers? That's all something we don't know. This is our first large scale offshore wind project and so only time will tell where the compromise is going to be.


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