Feds, Md. launch study of marine mammals in development area

Source: Jessica Estepa, E&E reporter • Posted: Monday, July 14, 2014

As plans for offshore wind energy in Maryland move forward, federal and state officials yesterday announced a project that will study the marine mammal populations found in the development areas.

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management has pledged $1.1 million to study the bionetwork of the Maryland Wind Energy Area. The site, located about 10 nautical miles from Ocean City, Md., comprises nearly 80,000 acres and will be auctioned off for wind energy development in August (Greenwire, July 2).

In particular, the study will allow the agencies working on development — BOEM and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources — to better understand the distribution, abundance and densities of the whales, dolphins and porpoises found in the area.

“The Atlantic Ocean supports a wide variety of marine mammals, some of which are endangered,” DNR Secretary Joe Gill said in a statement. “This agreement will help us better understand migratory pathways to protect these critical species as Maryland pursues the development of offshore renewable energy.”

DNR will direct how the study will be done, and the research itself will be led by a University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science team. The study will collect two years of base-line data that could be used to assess environmental impacts for future developments and mitigation measures for the animals.

The effort will build upon those already done by DNR and the Maryland Energy Administration to survey the area and assess populations of the marine mammals and other wildlife and natural resources.