This research plan was developed with input from state and federal regulators, academia, nonprofit organizations, industry, and other stakeholders. It identifies environmental information gaps and research needs for marine wind energy development offshore of New York State. Specifically, the aim of this report is to identify immediate information needs, and ensure that offshore research and monitoring efforts are orchestrated to address the data gaps of greatest need for New York State at this time.
The research needs identified in this plan were prioritized because they were judged to be best addressed at this time at the state scale, and with some involvement of state agencies, rather than being more appropriate to address at larger or smaller geographic scales (perhaps by federal agencies, private developers, or other entities) at some point in the future.. “Priorities,” as used in this research plan, describes the most pressing research needs at this time, not necessarily the most important priorities for each participating entity. For example, cumulative effects have been provided a lower priority for New York at this time, but will become a higher priority as projects are developed. Similarly, baseline surveys for deep sea corals have been given a lower priority here because of the fine spatial resolution required for such surveys; this type of intensive survey may be more realistically performed by site developers at the project scale. Lower prioritization in this plan should not be construed to indicate that the research needs are not priorities to participants in this exercise; rather, research relating to these issues will become the priorities as other needs are met and the development process unfolds in New York.
Baseline data on potential wildlife exposure by season, including distribution and abundance information, was generally identified during this effort as a key gap in current understanding of offshore wildlife populations in New York. Regional-scale baseline information on animal distributions, abundance, and movements are beyond the geographic scope of individual projects, and thus may not be required of individual developers during the permitting process. However, broader-scale data can accelerate the permitting process for individual projects by providing key data to regulators and placing project-specific monitoring results in context. Prioritization of baseline studies should be informed by gap analyses for existing data, such as the data assembled as part of the Offshore Atlantic Ocean Study and subsequent efforts (by the New York Department of State and federal partners). It will also be important for New York State agencies to determine the appropriate spatial scope for such studies. Suggested research priorities include: mapping of benthic habitats and patterns of primary productivity; identifying distribution patterns of focal species such as cetaceans, sea turtles, seabirds, and commercially important fishes; examining the movements and habitat use of focal aquatic species; and assessing the relative vulnerability of avian species to offshore wind energy development in New York, to guide future research activities.
This research plan is intended to be general guidance for what is important in New York waters, and does not specifically articulate NYSERDA’s priorities, although NYSERDA may choose to support components of this plan at a future date.