Feds reduce area off NC coast for wind farms

N.C. COAST - The U.S. Department of Interior has reduced the areas of the Atlantic Ocean where turbines can be built, dealing a potential blow to North Carolina's hopes for wind farms off the coast.

The News & Observer of Raleigh reports the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management approved just one-fourth of the ocean waters it had been considering for wind farm development, leaving most of the sea regions off-limits. The decision leaves open about 480 square miles of ocean, down from the 1,900 square miles that had been considered.

Most of the reduction impacts the Outer Banks near Manteo, Kill Devil Hills and Kitty Hawk. Two sections across from Wilmington were largely left intact.

Further reductions are a possibility if an upcoming environmental assessment identifies conflicts with natural habitats and wildlife.

"I'm a little surprised by the magnitude of the cuts in the Kitty Hawk area," said Brian O'Hara, president of the Southeastern Coastal Wind Coalition. "It appears to be pretty severely cut back."

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management listed a host of reasons for its decision to reduce workable regions, in response to concerns raised by the U.S. Coast Guard, the shipping industry, marine ecologists and local town officials whose communities depend on tourism and recreation.

The town of Kitty Hawk expressed aesthetic concerns and passed a resolution in 2013 that urged that no wind farms be built within 23 miles of the coastline. The federal map released Monday shows that wind farms would be set back nearly 28 miles away in the Kitty Hawk area.

Other concerns included turbine towers interfering with shipping routes used by tugs, barges and container ships. The National Park Service requested that wind farms be set back nearly 39 miles from the Bodie Island Lighthouse.

In the Wilmington area, sections were deemed off-limits to wind farms that have high fish populations or that are known as migration routes for North Atlantic right whales, other marine mammals and sea turtles.

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