Bluewater explores options for future bird studies

Ever since the Russell W. Peterson research vessel was grounded on Bethany Beach in May, members of the Bluewater Wind research team have been seeking alternate options to conduct required bird studies in the Atlantic Ocean.

Jim Lanard, spokesman for Bluewater Wind said Tuesday, July 29 the company continues to support the Peterson’s owners — Aqua Survey Inc. of Fleming, N.J. — but that the investigation into the beaching of the boat is ongoing.

“We are planning to do a fall avian study and then do two more seasons next year,” said Lanard.

The most important seasons to federal regulators are spring and fall during the peaks of migration, but Lanard said Bluewater Wind also plans to conduct smaller studies during the summer and winter months.

“We are currently assessing our options for the fall study,” said Lanard.

The original study was being conducted by Aqua Survey researchers aboard the Russell W. Peterson — named after one of the most environmentally-conscious governors to ever have served Delaware.

During a storm the boat took on water, lost engine power and ended up running aground on Bethany Beach May 13. One of the crewmembers was killed. The events of that evening leading up to the grounding of the vessel are still being investigated by the Coast Guard.

As for the proposal to build an offshore wind farm off Rehoboth Beach — it continues to move forward, said Lanard.

The final vote could come as soon as Thursday, July 31, in Dover.

The main conversation hovers around whether the proposed back-up generation will be included in the original RFP (Request for Proposals) and be overseen by all four state agencies — Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, Office of Management and Budget, Controller General’s Office and the Public Service Commission.

The other option would allow the back-up generation to be considered under the IRP (Integrated Resource Planning), which means it would be overseen only by the Public Service Commission. Every two years, Delmarva Power is required to do long-term energy planning — the IRP — so some think the proposal natural gas back-up plant should be considered as part of that process, said Patricia Gearity of Citizens for Clean Power, a local grassroots organization promoted to cleaner energy.

“With the price of natural gas rising nationwide, it has thrown a lot of uncertainty into the situation as to whether it is wise to make Delmarva Power build a natural gas plant,” said Gearity. “General consensus seems to be that it should be considered as part of the IRP … because the IRP is a more comprehensive process.”

The Public Service Commission meeting in Dover is open to the public and will begin at 1 p.m. on Thursday, July 31.