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The original item was published from 4/28/2021 10:09:35 AM to 7/1/2021 12:00:12 AM.

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Board of County Commissioners

Posted on: April 28, 2021

[ARCHIVED] Cape May County Commissioner Director Thornton's Offshore Wind Public Comment

The below is public comment that Cape May County Commissioner Director Gerald M. Thornton submitted to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management on Tuesday, April 27. The public comment period is open through April 29, 2021:

I am writing and submitting this comment today on behalf of myself as the Commissioner Director of Cape May County. I am presenting this information to oppose Ocean Wind, LLC's Proposed Wind Energy Facility Offshore New Jersey. The primary purpose of my objection is concerns for our commercial fishing industry, which is the second most important economic engine for Cape May County. To provide some context of its importance, the Cape May-Wildwood port in 2018 was ranked 14th in pounds landed and 10th in value for all ports in the United States and in the northeast (Maine to Virginia) ranked second in pounds harvested and value and is the largest commercial fishing port in New Jersey. In 2019, the Cape May-Wildwood port brought in 94.5 million pounds, which helped generate $270 million in local income. Commercial fishing in total for New Jersey in 2016 accounted for 37,100 jobs and Cape May County was the largest driver of that economic activity in this sector for the State. New Jersey’s seafood industry ranked sixth in the U.S with sales.

The discussions I have had with our fishing community is that they do not feel like they are being heard. They believe they have not been given a proper seat at the table. I have been lucky enough to represent the amazing people in Cape May County over the past decades and I hope that one of the main reasons they have bestowed that honor upon me is because I always try to listen to their concerns. 

Other issues that I have heard is regarding access lanes within the turbines not being large enough or enough of them. There have been questions raised about how construction will impact the area. They also question if enough research has been done on the overall impacts to sea life. The fishing community has a lot of questions that they feel have not been properly answered.

A large portion of the economy in Cape May County is built upon fishing, sea life, and seafood. Many people immediately think only of commercial fishing, but we have businesses that go far beyond just that. Our County has bait and tackle shops, recreational fishing, charter boats, and even extending into our number one economic driver of tourism with the strong push to put locally caught food on our visitors’ plate at restaurants. 

Fishing and boating play an even deeper role in our tourism efforts. A survey by our Cape May County Department of Tourism found that nearly one in four people who visit our County do so for fishing and boating. We also have amazing businesses that take people whale and dolphin watching. We cannot be sure how these windmills will interact with our whale population. I also have questions to how the transmission lines will come on shore, which appears likely to be through one of our busiest shore towns in Ocean City. During the last prepandemic year in 2019, Cape May County produced $6.9 billion in tourism expenditures. This includes nearly $700 million that is produced through ecotourism. The main drivers of ecotourism include birding and fishing. Cape May County is a world recognized birding destination. This represents another important industry that we must protect. Also, while it is not clear the impacts this project will have to jobs in fishing and tourism; the jobs that are going to be created are not going to support Cape May County residents. This includes the home office for this project being placed in Atlantic City, even though the windmills will be off the coast of Cape May County.

Our ocean is our most important resource in Cape May County. We need to protect what we have unless we can be absolutely sure the changes we are making will not make an impact. To this point, I have not seen enough information to convince me that our sea life won’t be harmed by this development. Equally as important, I cannot support a project who is not listening to our people. The fishing community should be better represented in development of these plans to alleviate their concerns. Since it has been relayed to me by many within the fishing community that they feel silenced, I must stand against these plans for Ocean Wind, LLC's Proposed Wind Energy Facility Offshore New Jersey.


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