A Blow to Big Wind

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Boating groups around the Great Lakes are cheering New York State Sen. George Borrello (R-57) for his introduction of a bill to amend the state’s environmental conservation law.

If passed, S6314 would create a moratorium on the building or placement of permanent or semipermanent wind turbines on bodies of fresh water in New York or any fresh water within the jurisdiction and control of the state.

“A moratorium is what needs to happen in all the Great Lakes states,” says Nicki Polan, executive director of the Michigan Boating Industries Association. “Current proposals to industrialize the lakes with wind turbines have failed to undertake the extensive Environmental Impact Statement as outlined in federal law. An EIS is necessary to identify all the possible risks going forward. Without that, we are opposed to blindly jeopardizing 20 percent of the world’s fresh water, our drinking-water sources, our fisheries and wildlife, our recreational boating and so much more.”

For several years, a wide range of marine industry, environmental and boating groups have vigorously opposed issuing permits to build turbines in Lake Erie off Cleveland. Known as “Icebreaker Wind,” the project proposes initially building six turbines, but the goal is to locate as many as 1,200 more turbines in the lake, the first such installation in fresh water.

In addition to MBIA, other organizations fighting Icebreaker Wind include the Boating Association of Ohio, the Lake Erie Foundation, the Black Bird Conservancy, the Lake Erie Marine Trades Association and shoreline residents, among others.

Borrello’s bill would establish a moratorium on the placement of any infrastructure used to support wind turbines in federal waters or in waters within the jurisdiction and control of another state. New York shares Lake Erie with Ohio, Pennsylvania and Michigan, as well as Ontario. Notably, Ontario established a moratorium against any turbine construction in Lake Erie nearly a decade ago, finding such plans environmentally unacceptable and economically undesirable for rate payers.

Many people don’t realize the Great Lakes are the single largest source of drinking water in the world, accounting for one fifth of the fresh water on the planet. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that notes 84 percent of North America's surface fresh water is contained in these five lakes, including Erie and Ontario, which border New York. About 11 million people rely on Lake Erie alone for drinking water.

Even closer to home for our industry, the Great Lakes is the largest region for retail boat sales and recreation in the country. Lake Erie, once declared dead and the poster child for the nation’s water pollution in the late 1960s, now has the most productive fisheries and boating opportunities in mid-America.

“When will we learn from the past?” asks Polan. “While Lake Erie has recovered, experts say it is still a very fragile ecosystem. All the Great Lakes are fragile. Building any turbines will remain totally unacceptable until we can truly determine the long-term impact on these precious bodies of water. So we are urging lawmakers in all the Great Lakes states to follow Sen. Borrello’s lead.”

Showtime in Ohio

The industry’s return to in-person shows in the Great Lakes region starts tomorrow when the Catawba Island Boat Show docks for three days on Lake Erie. It will be the first in-person show anywhere in the eight-state region in more than 15 months.

“Based on the successful return of shows in other parts of the country, we’re anticipating a well-attended event,” says Michelle Burke, president of the Lake Erie Marine Trades Association. “And in spite of low inventories, dealers are coming through with excellent representations of their boat lines.

For Ohio boaters, this show, now in its 16th year, has become as much a season kick-off festival as a showcase of new boats, from inflatables to 60-plus-foot motoryachts. In addition, more than 50 nautical accessory and service displays ring the picturesque marina basin at the Catawba Island Club in Port Clinton.

“We’re returning this show, cancelled last year by Covid, in high gear, with more live musical entertainment, select food trucks, our first-ever walleye fishing seminars, daily hands-on ‘Discover Sailing’ trips and more, to continue to be recognized as the official kick-off of Ohio’s boating season,” Burke says.

The show includes dealers from Ohio and Michigan.

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