With the passage of the Energy Policy Act of 2005, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) acquired regulatory authority for renewable energy activities on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS), including wind energy development. As part of this responsibility, BOEM conducts detailed environmental analyses of projects proposed for development. The potential direct, indirect, and cumulative impacts on the human, coastal, and marine environments must be evaluated in order for BOEM to make environmentally sound decisions about managing renewable energy activities and developing mitigation measures to avoid or minimize impacts.
BOEM’s overarching strategic goal is to achieve expeditious and orderly development of resources, while minimizing impacts on the environment and developing and employing sound science and partnerships. As such, BOEM joins its need to gather baseline data with efforts to leverage partnerships with other Federal agencies, state agencies and universities, and tribal governments. Doing so creates efficiencies in BOEM’s processes and reduces expenditures; builds relationships that will extend these efficiencies and cost reductions into the future; and provides needed data to inform sound decision-making in the present.
BOEM has issued both a Section 238 research lease and a commercial wind energy lease offshore Virginia near and within the Virginia Commercial Wind Energy Area. BOEM needed baseline data for these areas in order to make sound decisions about how to minimize impacts, to form post-construction comparisons during monitoring of environmental changes that might be discernible later, and to meet its responsibilities under the National Historic Preservation Act (54 United States Code (U.S.C.) 306101(a) and 306102). Previously identified geophysical targets (side scan sonar contacts and magnetic anomalies) and listings in BOEM’s Atlantic Shipwreck Database in these areas could prove to be archaeological resources that should be avoided, or they could prove not to be resources and therefore should not prevent development. Archaeological ground-truthing of these targets was therefore necessary for informed, responsible decision-making and to consider the effects of BOEM’s undertakings subject to 54 U.S.C. 300101 et seq.
To meet these needs, BOEM invited the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to collaborate on an archaeological investigation near and within the Virginia Commercial Wind Energy Area (Figure 1). This afforded BOEM and NOAA the unique opportunity to explore both geophysical targets within the Virginia Commercial Wind Energy Area as well as another recently identified anomaly of archaeological interest positioned nearby the Wind Energy Area.
In 2013, NOAA Office of Coast Survey (OCS) was conducting a routine hydrographic survey off the Virginia Capes. During the course of the survey, an un-charted acoustic anomaly was recorded with mutlibeam and sidescan sonar. The imagery suggested possible cultural material and was shared with NOAA and BOEM archaeologists for further assessment. This anomaly, which lies in approximately 30 meters (m; (100 feet [ft]) of seawater 48 kilometers (km; 26 nautical miles [nm]; 30 statute miles [mi]) off Virginia Beach, became a second priority for this project while anomalies in and near the Virginia Commercial Wind Energy Area remained the primary priority.