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Clean Ocean Action argues for pilot project first

OCEAN CITY —  It wasn’t “until the whales and the dolphins started washing up that people’s attention was able to focus” on the offshore wind farms, according to Cindy Zipf, and when people looked beyond the whales, they realized what is happening is “staggering.”

“I don’t think ever in the history of mankind have we proposed to industrialize an ecosystem this fast and at this magnitude,” she said.

Zipf is executive director of Clean Ocean Action, a coalition of groups dedicated to protecting the ocean.

She said the group is not against offshore wind farms but ardently believes there should be a pilot project to determine their impact on the ocean, marine species and industries that thrive on the ocean rather than a headlong rush to place turbines up and down the coast not just off New Jersey, but from South Carolina to Massachusetts.

The project closest to fruition here is Ocean Wind 1 by the Danish company Ørsted. Ocean Wind 1 plans 98 massive wind turbines 15 miles off the coast of Atlantic and Cape May counties with transmission cables that would run through Ocean City to Beesleys Point in Upper Township, where they would connect to the power grid.

Land-based work on that project could begin as early as this fall, according to company officials, if the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) gives its approval this summer and a Construction and Operation Plan (COP) and other permits follow quickly.

Ørsted already has proposed Ocean Wind 2 adjacent to Ocean Wind 1 and another project in the works is Atlantic Shores just to the north. Those are just a few of the multiple wind-energy projects planned along the coastal U.S.

Zipf acknowledges the pace at which the plans are moving forward is making efforts to slow or stop them difficult.

“It’s challenging considering how fast-tracked everything is and how limited the permitting process is. It’s kind of under the jurisdiction of two people to make it happen, President Biden and Gov. Murphy,” she said. “Hopefully as more is understood there will be some more caution but as it is right now the (state and federal) agencies are very enthusiastic.”