This document is Appendix I from the Final Environmental Assessment LEEDCo Project Icebreaker Lake Erie, City of Cleveland, Cuyahoga County, Ohio. This document summarizes the relevant ecological issues affecting offshore wind development in Lake Erie that have been identified by experts. The report characterizes the site chosen by Icebreaker Windpower, Inc. (Icebreaker Windpower) for Icebreaker Wind, the six turbine demonstration project 8 to 10 miles off the shore of Cleveland, Ohio and assesses the potential aquatic ecological impact of the project on Lake Erie. This assessment was done utilizing a weight of evidence approach based on information presented from the following sources:
- Review of risk factor maps created by Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) to specifically map out key aquatic habitats and areas of low and high potential impact from offshore wind across the Ohio Waters of Lake Erie.
- Review of recent reports authored by experts from around the Great Lakes region as part of the Great Lakes Wind Collaborative (GLWC) to identify categories of impacts from offshore wind in the Great Lakes.
- Review of other studies and reports from similar projects in Lake Erie, on the east coast of the U.S., and abroad where offshore wind (OSW) turbines have been installed in freshwater.
- Collection of site specific ecological data in 2016 at the proposed project site to validate the impact assessments contained in GLWC reports and in ODNR’s risk analysis maps.
A project team led by LimnoTech with support from Ohio State University and Cornell University identified relevant potential impact categories from ODNR and GLWC documents. These major impact categories included:
- Aquatic habitat alteration during and after construction
- Noise impacts during and after construction
- Electromagnetic field impacts from electric cables
- Sediment disturbance
- Physical changes to wind, waves, and currents on the lake
The primary receptors for these potential impacts would include the following:
- Fish, which includes all growth stages including larval, juvenile, and adult
- Zooplankton and phytoplankton
- Benthic macroinvertebrates
- Humans that use the lake’s resources for fishing, boating, swimming, and a source of drinking water
A review of the available information from federal, state, universities, and site specific data collected as part of the project concludes that Icebreaker Wind poses minimal risk to the aquatic ecological resources of Lake Erie. This conclusion was based on the following major assessment outcomes:
- Aquatic habitat alteration
- Sediment disturbance
- Fish movement/behavior
- Physical lake conditions
The 2016 aquatic data collection by LimnoTech was conducted under the guidance of ODNR with review by the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). A comprehensive sampling plan was developed to guide the 2016 monitoring and characterization effort and to meet the requirements of the submerged lands lease from ODNR (ODNR, 2013). The sampling plan was first drafted in May 2016, but has undergone minor revisions after review with ODNR and USFWS. The latest version is dated January 23, 2017 (LimnoTech 2017). ODNR, USFWS and Icebreaker Windpower are finalizing a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), which details the annual level of sampling and analysis that Icebreaker Windpower will be required to perform during all pre-, during-, and post- construction phases of the project. ODNR and USFWS will review monitoring data and address any discrepancies between the assessment of potential impacts and results from monitoring data.
It is our assessment that the scientific weight of evidence presented here shows that Icebreaker Wind presents minimal risk to the aquatic ecosystem. Ongoing engagement with regulators through ecosystem monitoring, adaptive management, and stakeholder engagement will address any other concerns.