Feds study Gulf wildlife to make way for wind turbines
May 13, 2013 at 10:37 am by Jennifer A. Dlouhy
Jim Holl, a geoscientist, interprets seismic data. (E. Joe Deering/Chronicle).
Two federal agencies are laying the foundation for wind turbines to join oil derricks in the Gulf of Mexico, by launching a study of the effects seismic research poses on whales and fish in the region.
The environmental impact study by the Interior Department’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management and the Commerce Department’s National Marine Fisheries Service will look closely at the potential impacts from seismic surveys and other geological research meant to help pinpoint oil reservoirs as well as scout locations for wind turbines and other energy infrastructure.
The last environmental analysis was done nearly a decade ago, before the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster, and the new study is expected to be released in a draft form by the middle of 2014. It will help guide future permitting of seismic surveys in the region, whether done for oil and gas development or renewable energy initiatives.
Report: Seismic research on East Coast could harm 140,000 whales, dolphins
Conservationists critical of seismic research cheered the development.
Miyoko Sakashita, oceans director at the Center for Biological Diversity, said she was encouraged that the government “is finally scrutinizing” the sound associated with seismic research, including air guns that produce pulss loud enough not only to penetrate under the seafloor but also damage marine life.
“Whales and dolphins in the Gulf depend on sound for communication and finding food, but these blasts – sometimes as loud as an explosion – make it all but impossible,” Sakashita said.
Separately, the ocean energy bureau is on track to unveil a final environmental study of a potential seismic research program from Delaware to Florida as early as November, after releasing a draft of that...