Ocean Currents http://blog.oceanconservancy.org News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy Wed, 29 Jul 2015 17:42:00 +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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Inventing an “Easy Button” for Ocean Acidification Measurements http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/07/28/inventing-an-easy-button-for-ocean-acidification-measurements/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/07/28/inventing-an-easy-button-for-ocean-acidification-measurements/#comments Tue, 28 Jul 2015 15:30:10 +0000 Ryan Ono http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=10554

Measuring ocean acidification is tough — we can’t see it, and we have to use specialized instruments to measure it properly. Scientists use specialized laboratories to make the most accurate chemistry measurements of deep ocean waters. Worse, even the most affordable instruments to get this data still costs tens of thousands of dollars. This makes life difficult for shellfish growers, marine resource managers, and decision-makers who are trying to monitor ocean acidification and protect businesses, fisheries and local communities.

But these measurement hurdles are shrinking. Over the past two years, the Wendy Schmidt Ocean Health XPRIZE has hosted a competition for teams to develop devices that could most accurately or affordably detect ocean acidification conditions. In these two categories, 77 very different teams comprised of surfers, teenagers, and the more predictable engineers and scientists from around the world entered the competition. This video chronicles one team’s struggle to meet the competition deadlines and pass the performance tests, as well as how excited engineers get when making complicated gizmos.

Finally on Monday, XPRIZE announced Sunburst Sensors of Missoula, Montana as the 1st place winner for their t-SAMI device in the accuracy category, and their i-SAMI device in the affordability category. Accuracy was judged by how close each device’s pH readings were to tests made with complicated lab equipment, and how consistent readings were over time. Each device was subjected to a battery of tests to measure pH in coastal waters and waters nearly two miles deep. Affordability was more straightforwardly judged: the device with the lowest manufacturing costs and all-around usability and accuracy took the prize (the i-SAMI costs less than $1,000 to make).

These advances in both accurately and affordably measuring pH may seem small, but it’s major progress. By comparison, the gold standard of ocean acidification monitoring requires a full-blown laboratory equipped with sensors that cost between $20,000 and $30,000 each. XPRIZE’s winning devices will really make it easier for scientists, managers, and businesses to better understand our ocean and what threatens it. That will directly help us make more smart decisions about how to protect the ocean and its creatures.

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A Lobsterman’s Thoughts on the Deepwater Wind Block Island Wind Farm Project http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/07/25/a-lobstermans-thoughts-on-the-deepwater-wind-block-island-wind-farm-project/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/07/25/a-lobstermans-thoughts-on-the-deepwater-wind-block-island-wind-farm-project/#comments Sat, 25 Jul 2015 13:30:36 +0000 Guest Blogger http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=10545

Offshore wind energy. Credit: Shutterstock user Dennis van de Water

Next week, the country’s first offshore wind farm will begin construction in Rhode Island. Deepwater Wind is a five turbine, 30-megawatt renewable energy development off the coast of Block Island, Rhode Island. This project has moved forward in record time, thanks to an ocean planning process that took into consideration the views of many ocean users including fishermen to ensure the best possible outcome for Rhode Island, its residents, and businesses.

Below is a Q&A with Bill McElroy, a lobsterman and the Chairman of the Fisheries Advisory Board for Rhode Island’s Coastal Resources Management Council, which is the entity that initiated the Ocean SAMP.

What is the SAMP?

BILL: The SAMP is a Special Area Management Plan for Rhode Island’s waters that tries to bring all the various stakeholders together at the same time so we can all put forward our mutual interests and disagreements in a forum.

Were you initially nervous about Deepwater Wind’s project off of Block Island? Traditionally, fishermen and wind developers have had their disagreements.

BILL: Initially we were scared to death at the idea of a wind project because we were afraid what might happen. We were scared a developer would come in and pick a site in essentially a vacuum and turn around and say here you go- like it or leave it. It was the fear of the unknown; we didn’t know what to expect, and of course, we’ve been as an industry beaten up pretty well in the press over the last decade or so. So we saw this as just another possibility of bad news for the industry, but then when Deepwater Wind assured that they would do everything they could to avoid taking over prime fishing grounds and work with us- it allayed those fears. When they followed through and negotiated with us, how can you go wrong with that?

The Ocean SAMP provided a vehicle and made it possible for us to discuss our concerns. And you have to give the SAMP and Deepwater credit. That doesn’t mean that any side wins, but at least it provides an opportunity to have a seat at the table and have our issues brought forward and it’s worked out great.

How has the project progressed from those initial meetings?

BILL: Deepwater chose a site at Block Island to install a certain number of windmills. They came to the industry at the Ocean SAMP, and we pointed out that if they moved a couple of the turbines one way or the other, it would be much less intrusive to the fishing industry. Deepwater was more than willing to do that, once they checked with their engineers and found out it wasn’t going to triple the price of the project or anything like that. The SAMP allowed for those kinds of things to happen.

So here’s an example where Deepwater said okay we won’t put them here, we’re going to move them over a little bit. And it worked great. So as soon as we saw things like that, it made us realize that we might not get everything we want, but we are getting most of it, and we are getting a seat at the table and have the opportunity to give them our opinion.

So are you happy with this project and how the partnership has progressed?

BILL: Well there’s been things we haven’t agreed on- even to this day. But they’ve been relatively minor and we made progress on almost all the major issues. I have to say its number one operation—

Deepwater Wind — has been a good corporate citizen, the Coastal Resources Management Council of Rhode Island did a fine job of putting together an Ocean SAMP, and I think the fishing industry has done a responsible job in responding and trying to make realistic requests and demands, instead of outlandish ones.

What else is Deepwater Wind doing to support fishermen?

BILL: Well, there is data being collected at the expense to them [Deepwater Wind] in a fashion that makes it identical to the techniques that are used for the data gathering for the fisheries managers up and down the coast, so all of this information that is being generated is in a format that they can plug into their system and make heads or tails of it, because it conforms with the type of system that they’re using and Deepwater didn’t have to do that. All they had to do was study what was given and answer as to whether or not there was a harmful effect or no effect to having the windmills there, but they went beyond that and created it in such a fashion that RI’s Department of Environmental Management now has lobster data and some fin-fish data that’s coming in independent of their studies, but that’s done the same way. That’s enormously valuable, so that’s good for the state of Rhode Island, that’s good for the fisherman, it’s good for Deepwater Wind — it’s a win-win all around.

What would you say is the number one benefit of the ocean planning process?

BILL: Number one- we’ve gotten a seat at the table, which we wouldn’t have had and it would have created a lot of antagonism. This trust we’ve built that we’ve built up would have been very hard to achieve otherwise, so that’s been enormous. So number one — a seat at the table.

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Ocean Planning Spurs Offshore Wind in Rhode Island http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/07/23/ocean-planning-spurs-offshore-wind-in-rhode-island/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/07/23/ocean-planning-spurs-offshore-wind-in-rhode-island/#comments Thu, 23 Jul 2015 14:30:19 +0000 Addie Haughey http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=10527

The first offshore wind farm in the United States will begin construction (“steel in the water”) in late July 2015. The five turbine, 30-megawatt (MW) Deepwater Wind Block Island offshore wind project is a prime example of the great things that happen when we work together to plan for our ocean. Deepwater Wind CEO Jeff Grybowski and commercial lobster fisherman Bill McElroy talk ocean planning and wind development in the video above.

Thanks to a stakeholder-driven planning process, the Block Island offshore wind farm has become a reality in record time, with significant support from Rhode Island residents and businesses. The location of the Block Island project was informed by Rhode Island’s Special Area Management Plan (Ocean SAMP). The Ocean SAMP is a state-led ocean planning process that brought together the people of Rhode Island, from fishermen to sailors to conservationists, and provided a pathway forward for the Block Island project to become a reality.

The Ocean SAMP:

  • Examined existing ocean conditions and then identified an area suitable for renewable energy projects and opportunities for conservation and mitigation.
  • Incorporated extensive stakeholder input, ranging from recreational and commercial fisherman, port operators, recreational users, renewable energy developers, to members of the general public.
  • Created efficiencies in state and federal permitting processes.

The Ocean SAMP benefitted both developers and stakeholders, like Bill, that have an interest in how development moves forward. Deepwater Wind CEO Jeff Grybowski estimates that the Rhode Island Ocean SAMP process saved years of permitting time for the Block Island project.

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The National Ocean Policy Turns Five! http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/07/19/the-national-ocean-policy-turns-five/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/07/19/the-national-ocean-policy-turns-five/#comments Sun, 19 Jul 2015 12:30:25 +0000 Amy Trice http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=10513

Photo: NOAA

Today we are celebrating the fifth anniversary of the National Ocean Policy (NOP), which aims to protect, maintain and restore ocean health while supporting sustainable uses in our oceans.

Healthy, productive oceans and coasts contribute significantly to our quality of life and to our economy. To maintain ecosystems that flourish, we are faced with complex challenges that the NOP is working to address. Across the nation, traditional industries, such as shipping, are expanding and new industries, such as offshore wind energy, are emerging where existing industries, like fishing, have been active for generations. In addition, stressors such as increased development along our coasts, ocean acidification, and sea level rise threaten ocean health.

Traditionally, the way we manage our ocean and address these concerns is through a single species, single sector or single-issue approach. We are often reactive to an individual conflict or development rather than being proactive about where certain ocean uses are appropriate. Making matters more complicated, there are over 140 laws managed by over 20 federal entities with jurisdiction over the ocean. The NOP seeks to address this challenge through ocean planning.

Ocean planning is a science-based process that gathers information on ocean uses and the environment and brings together stakeholders to plan for our future in a holistic manner.  This approach allows us to move away from the species by species and sector by sector management into considering the needs of ecosystems – the biological, chemical and physical needs of our ocean environment. For example, we can now start asking questions such as how do we account for all our ocean uses and their cumulative impacts on the environment? With ocean-related commerce generating $282 billion a year, how do we balance economic industries with the health and needs of our ocean? And, how do we ensure environmental resilience for long-term sustainability?

As you can tell, we have a lot of questions. Ocean planning is the key to answering them.

The NOP calls for better coordination of research and data to achieve our ocean management objectives in federal waters (out to 200 miles off our coasts).  However, each region has the flexibility to coordinate with the states and local citizens on its unique needs.

The regions currently conducting ocean planning are the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, West Coast, Caribbean and Pacific Islands. The Northeast and Mid-Atlantic are leading the pack on planning, and by the end of next year, they will finalize their first-ever ocean plans.

In fact, the Northeast recently released a draft outline for its ocean plan along with groundbreaking scientific data that will characterize the region’s ocean resources and marine life, and how humans interact with them. Additionally, an assessment that characterizes the natural resources, infrastructure, economy, cultural resources and future trends of the Northeast will soon be released and a similar assessment will be mirrored in the Mid-Atlantic. Also of interest to industry and conservation alike is the practical work being conducted to outline best practices for gathering public input to guide development in marine waters, an important concern for many citizens and businesses.

These are new and exciting times for our ocean. We hope you will continue to follow and engage in the ocean planning processes as they progress around the country.

Join Ocean Conservancy in wishing the National Ocean Policy a Happy 5th Birthday!

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Postcards from the Gulf http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/07/15/postcards-from-the-gulf/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/07/15/postcards-from-the-gulf/#comments Wed, 15 Jul 2015 16:24:13 +0000 Rachel Guillory http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=10472

Today marks five years since the oil stopped pouring out of BP’s well in the Gulf of Mexico. Even though the BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster began on April 20, 2010, it took 87 days for BP to cap the well and stop the flow of oil. In honor of the occasion, Ocean Conservancy interviewed Gulf residents about the disaster, its impacts, and what the Gulf means to them. We have been sharing their stories on Twitter and Facebook over the past 87 days.

Here is a collection of all 28 postcards. Click on the postcards to enlarge them. Be sure to check our past blogs for an in-depth look at some of their stories.

AlbertNaquin_Postcard AlexisBaldera_Postcard BernieBurkholder BethanyKraft_Postcard BeverlyMBurkholder_Postcard BobbyNguyen BonnySchumaker_Postcard CalvinLove_Postcard ColeKolasa FrankHernandez_Postcard GregSteyer JamesCowan JimFranks JJGrey LandryBernard LouisSkrmetta MarieGould MattSeese_Postcard PatsyParker_Postcard PaulDavidson RichieBlink RobertaAvila RobertCarney RoxanneOchoa Ryan Tammy_HerringtonPostcard TereseCollins TroyFrady_Postcard ]]>
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Postcards from Mississippi http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/07/14/postcards-from-mississippi/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/07/14/postcards-from-mississippi/#comments Tue, 14 Jul 2015 18:07:07 +0000 Michelle Erenberg http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=10460

In honor of the 5-year anniversary of the BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster, Ocean Conservancy interviewed residents about the spill, its impacts and what the Gulf means to them. Over the 87 days—the length of the spill itself—we are releasing “postcards from the Gulf” to share their stories. This blog is the last of a four-part series featuring some of the full-length interviews from our postcards. Be sure to follow Ocean Conservancy on Facebook and Twitter to see all of the postcards.

The people of Mississippi do not take their environment for granted. Like Captain Louis Skrmetta, whose grandfather founded Ship Island Excursions in 1926 to ferry passengers from the Gulfport Harbor to enjoy Mississippi’s uninhabited barrier islands. For more than a century, the Skrmettas have been working in the seafood, boat building and ferry service industries. Skrmetta and his family make their living off this unique attraction of the Gulf. Mississippi folks aren’t shy about speaking up for their community either. That’s what I find so incredible about Roberta Avila who has been a tireless advocate for more than 25 years and who continues to raise the volume of Biloxi’s voices so they will be heard by restoration decision-makers. These are their stories.

Roberta Avila
Executive Director of the Steps Coalition
Biloxi, MS

What have you learned from the BP oil disaster?

Since the oil disaster, Steps has worked with regional and local groups to ensure residents are informed about decisions that are being made about how to restore the Gulf Coast. There are barriers to participation particularly with the Vietnamese community, many of whom don’t speak English.

I’m still very worried about what we don’t know, like what the effect is of the oil and the dispersant, and when will we know that? It may be 10 years, or 15 years. What we do know is that the oil disaster is having an impact on the sea life and that’s very worrisome. There is a real need to have a better understanding about environmental science and about how everything in the environment is connected.
If we don’t understand how things are impacted we won’t understand what projects to do or why.

What is your hope for restoring the Gulf?

We need to remain vigilant about how this recovery is going to move forward and making sure community members are at the table to talk about what they want to see in their community. Restoration really should be reflecting people’s values. People know what they want– they want a healthy sound so they can fish and clean water so they can swim. They want good seafood.

We need to make sure the funding is there to do the monitoring because we need the data to know how the Gulf is recovering and responding over the long term to the restoration choices we are making, so we are learning from that. We need to create opportunities for residents to be able to be trained and employed to do the work and help them get well-paying jobs restoring the Gulf.

Louis Skrmetta
Ship Island Excursions
Gulfport, MS

What do you love about the Gulf?

I started as a deckhand for my father in the ‘70s and now it’s been 40 years that I’ve been a licensed captain on a ferry boat. My grandfather was a Croatian immigrant that came to southern Mississippi in 1903. I run a business that’s been in my family for almost 85 years and we depend heavily on a clean environment.

What have you learned from the BP oil disaster?

We were having problems before the oil spill with overfishing and poor regulations. Then comes the oil spill and the heavy use of dispersants in the prime areas of these fishes’ prime spawning grounds. I have seen the mullet population around the Mississippi barrier islands literally disappear. In the old days, there used to be hundreds of thousands in the schools. Now when you see a school of mullet, it’s so rare. The same with the dolphins, whose main source of food is these mullet, and they were swimming right where the oil was and where they were spraying the dispersant.

There’s no doubt in my mind that this problem is not over. Yeah, the beaches are cleaner, the oil is out of sight, but we still have a problem of the remnants of oil right off the Mississippi barrier islands. Every time you have a storm or weather event, it’s lifted up and placed on the islands.

What is your hope for restoring the Gulf?

We need to protect and restore the barrier islands, those high quality natural beaches, those wonderful marine forests, the incredible wildlife that depends and lives on those islands, the quality of life the islands provide to the local residents and the visitors, those wonderful sunsets and great water quality coupled with what was once one of the richest seafood producers, the Mississippi Sound. If we do, we could create jobs and sustain our economy and the restoration money could be part of that.

More blogs from this series:
Postcards from Alabama
Postcards from Louisiana
Postcards from Florida

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