SPRING LAKE HEIGHTS — Citing recent incidents in which dead whales washed ashore, the borough council Monday joined calls by other Jersey shore municipalities for a moratorium on the development of offshore wind farms until it can be proven that such projects would not harm marine life.
The resolution by the Heights council was approved unanimously on Monday by those present. Not present were council members Leonard Capristo, William Graetz and Michele Degan-Spang.
Earlier Monday, Mayor Christopher Campion became the 31st New Jersey mayor to sign a letter that demands the moratorium “until an investigation is held by federal and state agencies that confidently determines these [wind farm projects] are not a contributing factor to recent whale deaths.”
To prepare for the development of state funded offshore wind farms, the wind power plant company Ørsted was contracted by the state to conduct Cone Penetration Testing [CPT] sampling, a process that uses surveying vessels to “understand the nature of the soil on the ocean floor.”
CPT sampling involves a drill on the top of a surveying vessel that presses a metal rod into the seafloor to test the resistance of the soil, which is then used to determine the necessary steps to construct and install wind farms off the coastline.
There is debate over whether the wind farm project is harming whale populations. One claim made against the wind farm project is that noise omitted during CPT scanning may be interfering with the whales’ echolocation, which they use to navigate the waters.
Clean Ocean Action [COA], a non-profit environmentalist group focused on the conservation of waterways and marine life, issued a statement blaming the whale deaths on “the excessive scope, scale and magnitude of offshore wind power plant activity in the region.”
Meanwhile, in a statement released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration [NOAA], one of the leading federal scientific agencies, the group stated, “[There is] no evidence to support speculation that noise resulting from wind development-related site characterization surveys could potentially cause mortality of whales.”
In a letter written to The Coast Star, Ørsted’s head of government affairs, the group denied that company “prioritizes coexistence with our communities and marine wildlife,” adding that “the completed surveys did not involve sounds or actions that would harm whales or other marine mammals.”
Before bringing forth the resolution calling for the state to place a moratorium on the wind project, Councilman John Casagrande described the recent whale deaths as “quite significant.”
He then said that he “hopes that the Governor and the state would take a pause on this until further investigation is performed. We may not be on the beach like many of the other municipalities are but this is certainly affecting our community as much as any other.”
During his comments on the matter, Mayor Campion said that “there are enough questions being raised about the events going on”, that, “it’s proper for us to stop the progress in order to investigate the cause for it.
“I think anyone here can agree that whale deaths are happening at an unprecedented frequency, and while I don’t want to draw conclusions on the cause and effect with the [CPT sampling] scanning, I think we would be remiss if we didn’t do the responsible thing and investigate thoroughly before we proceed further.”
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