By NANETTE LoBIONDO GALLOWAY
LONGPORT – An Absecon Island resident May 17 asked the Board of Commissioners why the borough did not sign a letter supporting a moratorium on offshore windfarm construction that was signed by 12 coastal community mayors, including Mayors Lance Landgraf of Ventnor, Michael Becker of Margate and Vince Sera of Brigantine.
The letter calls for an immediate moratorium on all offshore wind development until federal and state investigators confidently determine the projects are not contributing to whale deaths.
Debbie Dombrowski said she is passionate about animals, particularly the whales that have been dying in record numbers since December 2022.
“Residents here are unaware of what’s going on,” she told the commissioners.
The offshore wind turbines that will be built are 1,000 feet tall and will have an impact on the Jersey shore, she said, yet residents in Longport are not as riled up about it as in other towns where the mayors requested a delay until the cause of the deaths of whales and dolphins can be positively confirmed.
Commissioner Jim Leeds said he understands what’s going on and would like to have a meeting to get the answers many along the coast are seeking.
Mayor Nicholas Russo, who has a more global view of the issue, said he would not sign the letter, but he did not object to other members of the board supporting a moratorium.
“We need alternative energy sources,” he said, citing a recent Associated Press article that said there is a good chance that the world will hit peak warming temperatures in the next five years.
According to the AP story, the World Meteorological Organization forecasts a 66% chance the globe will experience temperatures 1.5-degrees Celsius warmer than in the 19th century by 2027. A United Nations report recently said the world is approaching the point-of-no-return and will be drastically different with more people dying from damage to ecosystems.
“Gleaned from the research and academic data that I have read, there appears to be absolutely no connection,” Russo said in a recent editorial to Downbeach.com. “So, what causes whales to die?”
Russo believes the whale deaths are more likely being caused by “disease, infections from open wounds, ship strikes, entanglements from fishing nets and ingestion of waste products generated by humans.”
On Saturday, May 20, Dombrowski got her wish when Brigantine Mayor Vince Sera announced at a public forum held at the Dominick A. Potena Performing Arts Center in Margate that Longport Deputy Mayor Dan Lawler agreed to sign the letter.
He did so yesterday, Lawler said in a telephone interview this morning.
“I didn’t know about the letter being circulated, and Longport wasn’t at the forefront of the issue at the time,” Lawler said. “We didn’t even know if they would ever be built, so I was non-committal.”
Although residents contacted borough officials about the issue via email, half were for offshore wind energy and the other half were against it, Lawler said.
However, since the whales started washing up on the shoreline, friends and even his own wife have been encouraging him to learn more about the issue and take a stand against offshore wind.
“Some people were saying we took grant money from Orsted and that’s why we didn’t support the moratorium,” Lawler said. But that’s not the case. The borough’s engineer applied for the funding for the much-needed project, and Lawler was unaware of the source of funds.
In December, the Ocean Wind Pro-NJ Grantor Trust awarded $3.9 million of a $15 million trust fund to support coastal infrastructure and resiliency projects in seven South Jersey coastal communities.
Ventnor received $546,003 to replace 500 linear feet of failing bulkhead. Margate received $446,880 to construct a new stormwater pump station at Adams and Amherst avenues. And Longport received $368,750 to replace and upgrade stormwater infrastructure along Winchester Avenue. Avalon, Wildwood, North Wildwood and Little Egg Harbor Township also received funding for resiliency projects. A second round of funding will be awarded by May 2025.
“Looking back, I may have said let’s not go for the grant,” he said Thursday morning.
Lawler said he is all for alternative energy and has seen wind turbines in operation in Colorado and in other countries, and would like to have both sides of hot button topic presented to the public.
“But (the advocates) don’t want to come to a meeting to only get abused,” he said.
Lawler said he even contacted the public liaison for Atlantic Shores Offshore Wind, one of the companies forwarding the projects, asking them to come to a meeting.
He read a May 8 email from Community Liaison Rich Ambrosino that said a meeting could be held in late July or early August, after giving the public a chance to address the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management on a Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the project.
“BOEM may or may not make adjustments to our project as currently proposed based on those public hearings, so we’d like to wait until after those decisions are made so we, and the public, will know exactly what the project should ultimately look like,” Ambrosino wrote in the email.
Oral and written comments on the 904-page environmental impact statement will be accepted until July 3. BOEM plans to hold several public hearings on the matter both in person and virtually.
In person meetings will be held at the Holiday Inn Manahawkin/Long Beach Island, 151 Route 72 West, Manahawkin 5 p.m. Wednesday, June 21; and at the Atlantic City Convention Center, 1 Convention Blvd., Atlantic City, 5 p.m. Thursday, June 22. Virtual meetings will be held 1 p.m. Monday, June 16 and 5 p.m. Wednesday, June 28.
Registration for the virtual public hearings is required and may be completed at https://www.boem.gov/renewable-energy/state-activities/atlantic-shores-south or by calling 702-338-4766.
Read the Environmental Impact Statement at https://www.boem.gov/renewable-energy/state-activities/atlantic-shores-offshore-wind-south-draft-environmental-impact
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