US weighs offshore tourism impact

The US government intends to survey the public on its perception of offshore wind projects, and how the sector’s development could impact recreation and tourism along the East Coast, with their answers to impact future planning decisions.

The University of Delaware has been commissioned to undertake the survey, which seeks to gauge the public’s perception of offshore wind development from Massachusetts to South Carolina – information the government concedes is in short supply at present.

“While we have seen significant interest in offshore wind power development in recent years … the absence of a broader regional study on tourism and wind power have made it difficult to identify and analyze the potential impacts of offshore wind development on coastal tourism and recreation,” the Interior Department says.

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), part of the Interior Department, will use the public’s views in its “offshore wind decision-making process and marine spatial planning efforts”.

BOEM is responsible for conducting lease sales on the Outer Continental Shelf, and for monitoring and mitigating any adverse impacts that may come with offshore wind development.

The alleged negative impact on tourism and property values has been one of the main weapons employed by opponents of the Cape Wind project, off Massachusetts' Cape Cod, in seeking to block that project.

The survey must still be approved by another federal agency, the Office of Management and Budget, before it can proceed. The Interior Department hopes to survey about 1,800 people in all, including those who regularly go to the beach and those who have not been to the beach for a long time.

On Wednesday, the Interior Department announced it will hold competitive commercial offshore wind lease auctions for two areas off Maryland’s coast.

The auction will be the third along the US Atlantic seaboard after successful lease sales last year involving tracts off Massachusetts-Rhode Island and Virginia.

The government expects to hold additional competitive auctions for areas off Massachusetts and New Jersey in the coming year.