Two women, friends and colleagues for many years, have joined together to fight the offshore wind farms that threaten Atlantic Ocean fisheries—and our nation’s food supplies. TPPF represents them in a lawsuit against the federal government. Bonnie Brady tells her story.
What they have promised does not—and cannot—exist
The first time offshore wind turbines appeared on our radar, the promise was that it would be cleaner energy that would get us off expensive foreign oil. We were in the throes of the Iraq war, and for many Americans, the promise of “cheaper” was enticing. The Long Island Power Authority’s (LIPA) plan was for 200 mw of offshore wind turbines (40 @5MW each) three miles from shore south of Jones Beach in prime squid grounds. In local papers, I was referred to as an “Arab lover,” or a “turban-loving shill,” and presented as somehow being un-American because I was fighting to protect the ocean and our fishing industry. I knew that the fishing industry would lose extremely productive fishing grounds for an untried project—with very little substantive science to alleviate ecological fears.
We—the Long Island Commercial Fishing Association (LIFCA), which formed in 2001—began to reach out to our congressional representatives, with whom we had established good relationships. I appealed to any and all who played any part of the offshore wind plan. At the time, they were cautious. Some even agreed that it was a bad idea in the area it was planned.
That was in 2003. In 2007, Newsday exposed the ballooning costs of the project, tarnishing the glory of the project in the eyes of the public.
Two days before Thanksgiving in 2017, Vineyard Wind fisheries liaison Rachel Pachter in Montauk introduced me to the Vineyard Wind Project. She promised that there would be plenty of time to discuss the area and conflicts that might exist for New York fishermen. I gave her some very simple information regarding four or five fisheries that would be impacted and asked for her to send me maps so I could pass them around. She told me she would be in touch, and it was the last time I heard from her. Vineyard Wind submitted its plans just one month later.
In that moment, we were left in a sort of vacuum without a way to stop it. New York did not have a representative on the Rhode Island/Massachusetts (RI/MA) Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) task force, and the liaison had waited so late to tell us anything, that it was too late procedurally for New York State to have federal consistency review over the project. None of our congressional representatives were willing to come out and fight for the same industry that they had championed years before at Jones Beach. We were alone in our own fight for the ocean, and for our families.
The fact that they excluded New York in any of the RI/MA BOEM task force plans from the very beginning—an area that was a huge, traditional and historic summer squid fishery—was astonishing. In addition to squid, millions of pounds of whiting, ling, fluke and butterfish were caught in that area by New York fishermen. The same BOEM staff knew me from other WEA leases, since 2014, and yet not a word.
But commercial fishermen cannot just pick up their gear and go anywhere; they are highly regulated based on the fish they have permits to catch and their type of gear. The project’s pile driving and jet plowing for hundreds of miles will destroy an area that is not only highly productive for commercial fishermen feeding the nation the bounty of our ocean, but could destroy the area for the fish, and the other mammals (not us!) that feed on them.
Turning the ocean into a dumping ground above and below the water line for thousands of tons of soon to be salt-rusted steel, leaking gear boxes, non recyclable fiberglass blades and thousands of miles of copper cables, is not the way to save us from climate change. It will only make it worse.
I am thankful that we, because of TPPF, will have the chance to represent our state’s fishermen and have our day in court to rectify this injustice. The American people are being lied to and they deserve the truth about offshore wind, not the slick PR, or webinars, or promises of thwarting climate change, brought to you courtesy of the Emperor’s New Wind Clothes Salesmen.
The fact is the promises are empty. U.S. commercial fishermen have been cast aside by our own federal government for no reason other than they are in the way of a contingent of our federal and foreign governments’ agendas. Our own government will put American family businesses out of work, all for a lie—a lie which could cost commercial fishermen their jobs, their livelihoods, and their very lives if it isn’t stopped before it’s too late.
Yet, there is hope even in this. Almost 20 years ago, I was by myself, playing whack-a-mole with wind developers. Now, I can honestly say I’ve had way more laughs since Meghan and I started working together on the subject of offshore wind. We work well together in how we process information and it benefits the tasks at hand, whether it’s fisheries issues or offshore wind.
I wake up every day believing we will stop this project, for the ocean and its life above and below the water line, and for the men and women that leave in darkness and often come home in darkness, in a workplace that many will never see. It’s because of them that we must always have hope, and be the light that keeps them coming home.