The Block Island Wind Farm, the first offshore wind farm in the United States, attracted intense interest and speculation about the effects of construction and operation on valuable coastal resources. Four studies designed to address the questions raised were conducted over seven years as a requirement of the lease agreement between the State of Rhode Island and the developer, Deepwater Wind Block Island. The objectives of the studies were to separate the effects of construction and operation on hard bottom habitats, demersal fish, lobster and crabs, and recreational boating from regional changes in conditions. Study elements included: early engagement with stakeholders (fishermen and boaters), adaptive monitoring based on data and stakeholder feedback, cooperative research with commercial fishermen, use of methods consistent with regional surveys, stratified random sampling within a before-after-control-impact (BACI) design, power analysis (when possible) to determine sample size, and multiple metrics to evaluate fish and fisheries resources. This combination of studies and analytical approaches evaluated multiple mechanisms by which potential effects could be detected. Lessons learned included practical guidance, for example, for collaborating with stakeholders and regional scientists to address concerns through adaptive monitoring, quantifying uncertainty associated with BACI contrasts, and evaluating the duration of a seasonal lobster survey. Applying these lessons can improve monitoring at proposed larger-scale offshore wind projects in the United States.
This article is part of Oceanography's Special Issue on Understanding the Effects of Offshore Wind Energy Development on Fisheries.