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CZM’s Role in Offshore Wind

Find information on the role of the Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management (CZM) in offshore wind planning, siting, and project review with links to ongoing activities and initiatives.

NOTICE: On April 30, the Department of Interior Department announced its proposal for a first offshore wind energy auction in the Gulf of Maine. See the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) Gulf of Maine page for links to the announcement, information on the May-June Public Meetings, and ways for the public to comment.

As the lead policy, planning, and technical assistance agency on coastal and ocean issues for the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA), CZM works closely with the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF) to represent the Commonwealth’s interests in balancing offshore wind siting and development with the protection of natural resources and coexistence with existing maritime uses. CZM’s offshore wind initiatives and ongoing efforts are summarized below.

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Working Groups on Offshore Wind Energy

On behalf of the EEA Secretary, CZM with the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries and the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center convene two working groups to engage directly with key stakeholders regarding offshore wind development:

  • The Fisheries Working Group is comprised of commercial fishermen and representatives from different ports and sectors, recreational fishermen, scientists, and state and federal agencies.
  • The Habitat Working Group includes scientists and technical experts from environmental organizations, academia, and state and federal agencies.

These working groups provide an important forum for consistent dialogue with key stakeholders, getting their feedback and guidance and identifying issues and concerns. Input from the working groups has directly resulted in accommodations to avoid important marine habitat, fishing grounds, and maritime commerce routes in the designation of the Massachusetts and Rhode Island wind energy areas. The working groups will continue to provide valuable advice as leaseholders proceed through future phases of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) wind energy commercial leasing process, including site assessments, environmental and technical reviews, and development of construction and operations plans.

Intergovernmental Renewable Energy Task Force

The purpose of BOEM Renewable Energy Task Forces is to facilitate coordination, consultation, and information exchange related to renewable energy planning activities on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS). Task Force members include federal officials and elected Tribal, state, and local officials. Task Force meetings are open to the interested public.

CZM was an active member and participant in the Task Forces for Massachusetts and Joint Rhode Island/Massachusetts (see the BOEM Renewable Energy Task Force Meetings page), and continues as an active member for the Gulf of Maine. As a Task Force member, CZM works with other EEA agencies to represent Massachusetts interests as BOEM identifies areas of the OCS for potential offshore wind development. For more information see the Massachusetts and Gulf of Maine pages on the BOEM website.

Offshore Wind Project Review

As a state agency with subject matter expertise in a related environmental issue, CZM is a cooperating agency to BOEM’s National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) review of offshore wind development in the Northeast. In this role, CZM assists BOEM by participating early in the NEPA process, engaging in the scoping process, and developing information to support environmental analysis. CZM is involved in both the federal and state permitting processes and provides comments on aspects of offshore wind development in which CZM has knowledge and expertise, leveraging input from stakeholders and other state agencies. During the federal permitting, CZM comments on Construction and Operations Plans, Environmental Impact Reports, fisheries and seafloor habitat monitoring plans in federal waters, and compensatory mitigation plans. Compensatory mitigation for potential losses to commercial and for-hire fisheries are described in federal consistency concurrence documents for specific projects (see the next section). During the state permitting process, CZM comments on the Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act Office (MEPA) Environmental Notification Forms; Environmental Impact Reports; fisheries, eelgrass, turbidity, and seafloor habitat monitoring plans in state waters; and compensatory mitigation plans. Ocean development mitigation fees as required under the Massachusetts Ocean Management Plan are codified in the Secretary’s MEPA Certificate and listed on the Ocean Resources and Waterways Trust Fund web page.

To support efforts of EEA's Fisheries and Habitat Working Groups to fully consider potential impacts of offshore wind development, CZM has developed an ArcGIS online viewer that depicts the geographical location of the offshore wind leases in the Northeast, size and scope of each project, landfall sites and energy transmission corridors, and the current status of federal environmental reviews. See Status of Offshore Wind Lease Development in the Northeast - Online Viewer.

Federal Consistency

The federal Coastal Zone Management Act gives states with an approved Coastal Zone Management Plan the authority to review federal projects to ensure that they meet state standards articulated in their coastal zone management plans through a process called federal consistency review. Federal consistency review is required for most projects that: 1) are in or can reasonably be expected to affect a use or resource of the Massachusetts coastal zone, and/or 2) require federal licenses or permits, receive certain federal funds, are a direct action of a federal agency, or are part of outer continental shelf plans for exploration, development, and production. For offshore wind development, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Clean Water Act Section 404/Section 10 permit application and lease/easement/right-of way application to BOEM under the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act are the federal actions that trigger CZM’s federal consistency review. Below are links to CZM’s concurrence statements associated with offshore wind projects.

The following projects are currently undergoing CZM’s federal consistency review:

Gulf of Maine Offshore Wind Planning

BOEM is working to identify areas in the Gulf of Maine that can be leased for offshore wind. BOEM is pursuing commercial leasing with an iterative process to identify the areas with the least conflicts with existing uses, and the least impacts on the environment. This began with a Request for Interest (RFI) to identify offshore locations within a 13.7 million-acre area, and continued with a Call of Information and Nominations (Call) to obtain information from stakeholders about a narrowed down 9.8 million-acre area. A 3.5 million-acre draft Wind Energy Area (WEA) was released for public comment and a 2 million-acre final WEA is now under consideration for leasing and development. Lease auctions, site assessments, and environmental reviews and permitting for each individual project are expected to follow.

A smaller 68,320-acre area 35 miles southeast of Portland is undergoing a separate leasing process for an array of 12 floating wind turbines that will support offshore wind research as requested by the State of Maine. This process began with a Request for Competitive Interest (RFCI) in response to Maine’s application, and is currently undergoing an Environmental Assessment for the leasing process. If the lease is granted, projects proposed by the State of Maine would then undergo environmental reviews and permitting.

On behalf of EEA, CZM worked with the Department of Energy Resources, MassCEC, and DMF on joint comments regarding the commercial and research leasing processes.

As a member of BOEM’s Gulf of Maine Intergovernmental Task Force, CZM continues to work with state and federal partners and to consult with members of the Fisheries and Habitat Working Groups to better understand the temporal and geographic distribution of existing marine resources and maritime uses in the Gulf of Maine to inform BOEM’s planning for floating offshore wind in this region.

Regional Wildlife Science Collaborative

The mission of the Regional Wildlife Science Collaborative for Offshore Wind (RWSC) is to facilitate coordination and efficiency of regional monitoring and research related to offshore wind development. The RWSC is composed of state and federal agencies, non-governmental organizations, and offshore wind developers that work together to support research that will advance responsible and efficient wind power development. CZM served on the RWSC steering committee and participates as a member of the state caucus. CZM also participates in several subcommittees that focus on specific taxa or other topics and have contributed to the implementation of the RWSC’s Science Plan.

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