Ocean Currents » Sandra Whitehouse http://blog.oceanconservancy.org News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy Wed, 22 Mar 2017 19:13:26 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.4.2 Celebrating the Nation’s First Offshore Wind Farm: Deepwater Wind http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/07/28/celebrating-the-nations-first-offshore-wind-farm-deepwater-wind/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/07/28/celebrating-the-nations-first-offshore-wind-farm-deepwater-wind/#comments Tue, 28 Jul 2015 16:30:32 +0000 Sandra Whitehouse http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=10576

Despite the pouring rain, the mood was bright onboard the Rhode Island Fast Ferry en route to view the first steel in the water for a wind farm built by Deepwater Wind.

Within the hour it took to get from the Port of Quonset where Deepwater Wind does the land-based construction work to the site, the rain had stopped and the 150 people on board went out on deck to see the enormous crane and the top of the piling that was recently placed on the seafloor. Everyone there, as well as many others, had contributed to this moment in some way and they were proud to see Rhode Island erecting the first offshore wind farm in the nation.

While the visual stars of the show were the actual pilings and the members of the construction crew who lined the deck of the barge carrying the crane, the unseen but widely acknowledged headliner was Rhode Island’s Ocean Special Area Management Plan (SAMP), without which the project would in all likelihood still be in the permitting phase. Jeff Grybowski, CEO of Deepwater Wind stated succinctly, “the SAMP was critical to our success.” Governor Raimondo spoke about how the project’s success was based on collaborative planning that saved years of permitting time. The foundation of the wind farm is not only cement and steel; it’s also the science-based, stakeholder-driven ocean plan.

Some of the people on the ferry were stakeholders who had engaged in the planning process such as Bill McElroy, a lobsterman and chair of the Fisheries Advisory Board, and Tricia Jedele, from the Conservation Law Foundation. There were also representatives from many of the state and federal agencies that had worked together to create the SAMP including Sally Jewell (Secretary of the US Department of the Interior), Curt Spalding (Administrator for EPA Region 1), Janet Coit (Director, RI Department of Environmental Management), and Grover Fugate (Executive Director, RI Coastal Resources Management Council and leader of the SAMP process).

Representative Jim Langevin (RI-2) congratulated everyone who had a role in the SAMP and its vital role in getting turbines in the water while protecting the natural resources.

The lesson of the day was summed up by Grover Fugate who touted the SAMP as a planning process that involved stakeholders, used the best science, and enabled offshore wind, one of the nation’s newest industries, to coexist with commercial fishing, one of the oldest.

It was a great day to celebrate an ocean planning success by the Rhode Island SAMP and Deepwater Wind.

Deepwater Wind Construction crews line the deck of the barge carrying the crane that is installing the first offshore wind farm in the US. (L-R) Secretary of the US Department of the Interior Sally Jewell, Rhode Island Representative Jim Langevin, and Dr. Sandra Whitehouse onboard the Rhode Island Fast Ferry en route to view the Deepwater Wind Block Island project. Deepwater Wind CEO Jeff Grybowski and Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo cut the ribbon in celebration of the steel in the water offshore of Block Island. A view of the newly installed steel foundation that once fully constructed will house Deepwater Wind’s first offshore wind turbine. Dr. Sandra Whitehouse (L-R) Dr. Sandra Whitehouse with Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo onboard the Rhode Island Fast Ferry en route to view the Deepwater Wind Block Island project.

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New Industry Technologies Speak to the Need for Smart Ocean Planning http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/04/21/new-industry-technologies-speak-to-the-need-for-smart-ocean-planning/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/04/21/new-industry-technologies-speak-to-the-need-for-smart-ocean-planning/#comments Tue, 21 Apr 2015 12:00:02 +0000 Sandra Whitehouse http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=10108

Photo: Brian Kusko

Throughout America’s history, the majority of products we import have arrived by ship. For much of the last two centuries these ships have been powered by coal and diesel.  This past Saturday in San Diego, California, TOTE Maritime launched the first cargo ship to use liquid natural gas (LNG) as the primary fuel, which will meaningfully reduce shipping emissions relative to other traditional fuels.  This is just one of many rapid and significant changes we are seeing in the operations of the age-old shipping industry.

Another new technology that has the potential to significantly change the footprint of human uses in the ocean is being developed by offshore wind companies. For example, Principle Power, based in Seattle, Washington, is designing a floating wind turbine foundation that will allow for the siting of offshore wind installations regardless of water depth.  Until now, offshore wind has been constrained to areas closer to shore because of the need for foundations connected to the ocean floor.

As companies like these develop new technologies, they are helping to drive changes in the ocean footprint of their industries.  Shipping routes and port access demands may change thanks to LNG-powered ships needing to use ports where they can refuel.  Floating wind platforms will allow for areas that are too deep for traditional fixed turbines to be accessed for development. These are just two of many ocean-based industries where rapidly changing needs and technologies are resulting in an increasingly busy and crowded ocean.

Not only are ocean-dependent industries experiencing change, the ocean itself is changing. For example, as waters are getting warmer, impacts such as ocean acidification and species shifts are altering the traditional map of areas important for biodiversity and conservation.

All of this begs the question: how do we address these rapidly changing conditions and find a way to successfully balance the many competing demands we put on our oceans?  Our answer: Only by using an ecosystem-based approach that utilizes the best available data, involves ocean stakeholders, and coordinates the many state and federal agencies with responsibility for managing ocean resources, can we adjust to these changes and promote both sustainable ocean development and a healthy ocean.  To learn more about smart ocean planning, click here.

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How Rhode Island Wind Can Help Take Us Far, Quickly http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/06/13/how-rhode-island-wind-can-take-us-far-quickly/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/06/13/how-rhode-island-wind-can-take-us-far-quickly/#comments Thu, 13 Jun 2013 15:04:37 +0000 Sandra Whitehouse http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=6079

I had the opportunity to meet with former Vice President Al Gore to discuss the impacts of climate change on Rhode Island. This included the marine impacts, such as warming bay waters, and increased intensity of storms.

The winds on Rhode Island’s waters made them the location of choice for the America’s Cup sailing races for over a century. While harnessing that wind for energy may be only a small piece of the global picture, it can contribute to broader efforts to mitigate climate change.

We discussed the proactive planning process that Rhode Island completed in 2010, which resulted in the designation of a renewable energy area in state waters. Deepwater Wind has already applied to build a 30 megawatt demonstration-scale offshore wind farm in this area, which might become the first offshore wind to be harnessed in the US.

As the keynote speaker for Rhode Island Energy and Environmental Leaders Day, Gore commended Rhode Island’s smart ocean planning and its robust engagement of stakeholders.

“Congratulations to Rhode Island; one of the things this little engine that can has done is to bring all the stakeholders together in a very intelligent way, and move quickly,” he said. “You know, there’s an old Native American saying: If you want to go quickly, go alone, if you want to go far, go together. We have to go far, quickly. And that’s what you’re doing by getting your act together and figuring out the problems and the points of opposition in advance, and getting people to work together.”

Many of the people in the audience came away feeling inspired that maybe we can address climate change before it’s too late. I know I did.

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“It’s Good to be Here and Get it Started”: Ocean-Use Planning Moves Forward in New England http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2012/11/28/its-good-to-be-here-and-get-it-started-ocean-use-planning-moves-forward-in-new-england/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2012/11/28/its-good-to-be-here-and-get-it-started-ocean-use-planning-moves-forward-in-new-england/#comments Wed, 28 Nov 2012 15:54:55 +0000 Sandra Whitehouse http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=3653 As stakeholders and state, federal and tribal officials from across the Northeast gathered in Portland, Maine, last week for the first meeting of the New England Regional Planning Body (NERPB), I sensed optimism (mixed in with a bit of skepticism) in the room.

The concept of managing our coasts and ocean in a more coordinated way to support a sustainable economy and a healthy ocean was well articulated by the U.S. Ocean Commission concluded under President Bush in 2004 and President Obama’s 2010 Executive Order. Yet, this was the first meeting where a group gathered to fulfill these directives and start creating an ocean atlas – ultimately making recommendations for balancing the multiple uses of New England’s waters.

Presenters shared their past planning experiences to help the NERPB members better understand the range of efforts that they might pursue and highlighted the benefits of the process. John Bullard, former mayor of New Bedford and current Northeast Regional Administrator for the National Marine Fisheries Service, said, “Healthy oceans and healthy economies are inseparable.” The two-day meeting (November 19th and 20th) also included discussions about the most useful and inclusive structure and process for the NERPB.

The meeting was well attended by a variety of stakeholders, many of whom spoke during the public comment period. Richard Nelson, a lobster fisherman from Maine and captain of the fishing vessel Pescadero, told me, “It seems to be a worthwhile process. I’d like to see more fishermen here and more opportunities for them to be engaged.”

I agree with Mr. Nelson. The majority of the people in attendance were there as part of their job description. Most fishermen who were there, however, were taking a day away from their paying job. Those of us who want to see a healthy ocean that supports healthy fisheries should be appreciative of their participation in this planning process. We should also advocate for alternative means of stakeholder engagement moving forward to facilitate meaningful input into the process.

The Mid-Atlantic region is also poised to initiate their process but has understandably had to deal with the more immediate needs of coping with the aftermath of superstorm Sandy.

It was promising to see this regional process get underway in New England. As Ron Beck, chief of the U.S. Coast Guard Energy and Facilities Branch, said, “It’s good to be here and get it started.”

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