The first offshore wind power lease auction in the Gulf of Mexico will offer a 10 percent credit to developers who contribute of a fisheries compensation fund for commercial and charter fishermen.

The Aug. 29 auction by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management will offer a 102,480-acre area offshore Lake Charles, La., and two areas off Galveston, Texas – one comprising 102,480 acres and the other 96,786 acres.

If developed to full potential, the lease areas could hold turbine arrays with nameplate ratings totaling 3.7 gigawatts of electricity, according to BOEM.

In planning the Gulf wind energy areas, BOEM excluded highly productive fishing areas after consultations with the Southern Shrimp Alliance and other fishing interests. With stipulations that BOEM has set for the bidding process, the “inclusion of a compensatory mitigation fund is a sound strategy,” the Gulf of Mexico Reef Fish Shareholders’ Alliance said Monday.

The true, long-term effects of offshore development on commercial fisheries must be addressed and prioritized, and dedicated funding for these efforts is a common-sense solution,” according to a statement issued by the fishermen’s group. “In offering these bidding credits, the Shareholders’ Alliance believes that BOEM has taken a positive step forward towards addressing potential adverse impacts of the offshore wind lease to the Gulf’s commercial fishing industry.” 

BOEM says it will offer bidding credits for companies and developers who commit to establishing or contributing to a fisheries compensatory mitigation fund, counting toward 10 percent of the cash bid. That means eligible bidders could “put down slightly less upfront for the lease, with the guarantee that they will use an equivalent amount to develop or contribute to a fisheries compensatory mitigation fund for the Gulf commercial and charter/for-hire fishing industries,” according to the alliance.

Mitigstion funds would “offset gear loss, counterbalance reductions in fishing income, and, where possible, reduce the cost of required gear/navigational upgrades and support fishermen's involvement in the wind project,” the alliance said. 

“Offshore wind energy holds promise for the Gulf of Mexico and our planet at large, and the inclusion of a mitigation credit demonstrates that the strong partnership between BOEM and conservation-minded commercial fishermen can be complementary rather than competitive,” the alliance said. “This harmony is predicated on establishing a decision-making process that’s inclusive, stakeholder-driven, meaningful, transparent, accountable, and science-based; and siting locations that avoid or minimize harm to the Gulf seafood industry.

“We are optimistic that this trend will continue and look forward to continued collaboration with BOEM and the offshore wind industry.”

“The Gulf of Mexico is poised to play a key role in our nation’s transition to a clean energy future,” said BOEM Director Elizabeth Klein in the agency’s July 20 auction notice. “Today’s announcement follows years of engagement with government agencies, states, ocean users, and stakeholders in the Gulf of Mexico region. We look forward to continued collaboration in the years to come.”

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