Anglers debate OC offshore wind farm – Dredging and fishing near turbines could (will)be prohibited

ANNAPOLIS — If a wind farm is ever built off the coast of Ocean City, it could enhance recreational fishing by creating artificial reefs, but hurt commercial fishermen who dredge in the area by taking up valuable bottom with cables and lines. A number of steps still need to be taken before the offshore farm, which could include between 50 and 100 wind turbines, becomes a reality. Still, Catherine McCall of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources said the department is taking steps now to minimize the impact on the fishing community. “The largest impact could occur to gear types that tend to make contact with the bottom, so your trolls or your dredges. The connections between each of the turbines require cables or lines and you don’t want people dredging or trolling over that,” McCall said. McCall said where dredging would be prohibited would be decided during the siting process. Depending on who installs the project, all fishing near the turbines could be prohibited for safety reasons. Gov. Martin O’Malley’s Maryland Offshore Wind Energy Act of 2012 passed through the House of Delegates but never came to a vote in the Senate. The bill is not necessary to build a farm but would encourage construction by requiring that Maryland power suppliers get a certain amount of power from wind. Similar legislation is expected in 2013 as proponents continue to try to jump start wind farming in Maryland.