The development of offshore wind energy will play a key role in the critical transition away from harmful fossil fuels to a clean energy economy. If done right, offshore wind power provides an opportunity to fight climate change, reduce local and regional air and water pollution, and grow a new industry that supports thousands of well-paying jobs. While the need for this transition is only becoming more urgent, we can and must ensure that all offshore wind in the United States is developed responsibly and in a manner that minimizes impacts to biodiversity and the ecosystem.
Responsible development of offshore wind energy: (i) avoids, minimizes, mitigates, and monitors for adverse impacts on wildlife and habitats; (ii) minimizes negative impacts on other ocean uses; (iii) includes robust consultation with Native American tribes and communities; (iv) meaningfully engages state and local governments and stakeholders from the outset; (v) includes comprehensive efforts to avoid negative impacts to environmental justice communities; and (vi) uses the best available scientific and technological data to ensure science-based and stakeholder-informed decision making.
The foundation of all longitudinal monitoring of habitat change begins with obtaining a robust baseline of data/information. Many of the habitats and species that may be affected by offshore wind development are already in a dynamic relationship with existing ocean uses and ocean processes and face additional shifts due to climate change independent of other stressors. While there is some existing knowledge regarding these interactions, offshore wind energy development will occur in ecosystems for which there is inadequate baseline data. This poses many unanswered questions in terms of how habitats and species will be affected and potentially impacted. Gathering existing data, continuing ongoing studies, and commencing other intersectional studies as soon as possible will provide a foundation upon which to build a rigorous monitoring regime.
This document represents a concise guide to the science-based principles and priorities for environmental monitoring that the environmental non-governmental organization (ENGO) community considers to be crucial to the advancement of responsible offshore wind development in the United States. Environmental monitoring is rooted in common scientific principles; however, every geography will have a unique set of priorities and considerations that are not necessarily transferable across regions. To bridge this gap, this document first provides guidance on the scientific principles that underpin ecosystem-based monitoring efforts, presents monitoring priorities common to all regions, and then presents considerations and monitoring recommendations specific to individual regions. Brief descriptions of monitoring methodologies are presented in the Appendix.