Government overlooks Great Lakes; Cedar Point show opens today

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Norm's Column Turbines#1

Great Lakes boating, fishing and environmental groups are applauding BoatUS for weighing in on the question of why their region has been overlooked in the federal government’s call to expand the environmental review of offshore wind turbine projects currently proposed for eight Atlantic coastal states.

Specifically, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), the lead federal agency on offshore wind projects, is being called on to undertake an enhanced environmental review as a result of “comments received from stakeholders and cooperating agencies requesting a more robust cumulative analysis,” according to Boat/US. The request comes in response to concerns from anglers, the fishing industry, and coastal communities.

Meanwhile, in the Great Lakes, a plan dubbed Icebreaker Wind calls for building turbines in Lake Erie off Cleveland that backers see as forerunners to as many as 1,600 more turbines eventually spinning in the lake. The Icebreaker plan is currently before the Ohio Power Siting Board, having already received a green light from several federal agencies.

But the groups, citing too many unknown impacts of Icebreaker, are charging that efforts to fast-track energy infrastructure projects by federal agencies has short-changed the Great Lakes. They call this the latest example. Even more compelling, Icebreaker would be the first fresh water offshore turbine installation in North America. The developers behind Icebreaker have been allowed to submit only a lesser environmental assessment when a full Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) should have been required from the beginning. It should be mandated now.

Under a 2017 Trump executive order aimed at limiting environmental reviews for major infrastructure projects to two years, federal agencies must request support from cooperating agencies at three points in the review process, including before issuing the final environmental impact study. Documents viewed and reported on by Reuters, not seen by the public, show the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) declining to sign off on a project called Vineyard Wind that would install 84 turbines off Massachusetts.

In a letter to BOEM, Michael Pentony, regional administrator for NOAA Fisheries’ Greater Atlantic office, said his agency could not support the environmental permit for Vineyard Wind because the project failed to fully address the concerns of the fishing industry. This has raised legitimate questions in the Great Lakes about NMFS acceptance of a lesser environmental assessment for Icebreaker.

“Regardless of how you feel about wind energy, all wind turbine projects must be treated equally, regardless of siting, in salt and freshwaters,” said BoatUS Manager of Government Affairs David Kennedy. “We have BoatUS members on both sides of this issue, but what unites them is the need to ensure an environmental review process that doesn’t arbitrarily treat projects differently.” BoatUS has more than 104,000 members in the four states bordering Lake Erie.

Cedar Point Show Opens Today

Also, on Lake Erie, the Progressive Insurance Cedar Point Boat Show opens today for 4 days, with a fleet of more than 300 power and sailboats ranging from kayaks to 60-foot motor yachts. It also has first-time attractions expected to increase attendance.

Presented by Yamaha, it’s considered the first of the industry’s so-called fall circuit in-water shows on both the east and west coasts, ending with the St. Petersburg Boat Show in early December.

Among the new attendance builders is a Water Sports Toys Center highlighted by on-the-water wake surfing and wakeboarding demos, hands-on kayaks to paddle in the Water Toys Lagoon and virtually every toy from paddleboards to boarding shorts. In addition, the 13 annual Toledo Antique & Classic Boat Show will be held inside the Cedar Point show for the first time, as a show within the show.

Nostalgia is also big with a special “Lyman Come Home” celebration marking the 90 anniversary of Lyman Boats production in Sandusky, across from the boat show. Lymans were designed for Lake Erie’s choppy waters and the exhibit features a Lyman from each decade, numerous historical artifacts, and dozens more Lymans with many owners even offering the public a ride.

The show also boasts a first-ever Lake Erie Market with locally hand-crafted nautical items; an anything-goes Parking Lot Sales section; the Go Dive Now pool and exhibit; the Yamaha In-Water Demo Tour; Discover Sailing sailboat rides; a food truck rally and live musical entertainment in a new Waterside Pub.

The show is produced by the Lake Erie Marine Trades Association.

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