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Atlantic Coast Port Access Route Study (ACPARS)

By MarEx 2011-06-09 11:26:08

In a joint address to the Congress on February 24, 2009, President Obama called for doubling renewable energy within the next three years. In order to spur production of clean energy along the continental shelf of the Western Atlantic Ocean, in November 2010, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, launched 'Smart from the Start' wind energy initiative. The Smart from the Start initiative was crafted to facilitate siting, leasing, and construction of new projects, spurring the rapid and responsible development of this abundant renewable resource.  This "smart permitting process "allows the DOI (through BOEMRE) to identify priority Wind Energy Areas (WEA) for potential development through an "accelerated leasing process" to enable leases to be issued in 2011 and 2012. 

DOI/BOEMRE has announced Wind Energy Areas (WEAs) off the coasts of Massachusetts, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Rhode Island and Virginia, and intends to identify other areas off New York, Maine, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia in 2011.  All of the identified WEAs are located at or near the entrances to major ports.   The locations of some of the identified WEAs are at the seaward terminus of existing navigational Traffic Separation Schemes (TSSs).  Other WEAs are located in or very near the traditional routes used by vessels in foreign trade and on Atlantic coastwise transits.  The impact to safe and efficient navigation appears to be significant; although not yet characterized.  

The Ports and Waterways Safety Act (PWSA)(P.L. 95-474, 33 U.S.C. 1223(c)) requires the Coast Guard to undertake a study of the potential traffic density and the need for safe access routes for vessels for any area for which fairways or traffic separations schemes are proposed or existing fairways or traffic separation schemes are adjusted.   The siting of WEAs has the potential to affect coastwise shipping and may require modification to the existing fairways and separations schemes.  To ensure safety of navigation, the Coast Guard needs to fully characterize the impacts of rerouting traffic, funneling traffic, and placement of structures. (e.g., wind turbines) that may obstruct navigation.    

The ACPARS will focus on the coastwise shipping routes from Maine to Florida and near coastal users of the Western Atlantic Ocean between the coastal ports, and the approaches to coastal ports within the EEZ.  It will identify all current and new maritime users of the Western Atlantic near coastal zone determine what impact, if any, the siting, construction and operation of proposed alternative energy facilities may have on existing near coastal users of the Western Atlantic Ocean.

The ACPARS will:

* Determine whether the Coast Guard should initiate actions to modify
or create safety fairways, Traffic Separations Schemes or other routing measures;

* Provide data, tools and or methodology to assist in future
determinations of waterway suitability for proposed projects; and

* In the near term, develop AIS products and provide other support as
necessary to assist Districts with all emerging coastal and offshore energy projects.

* Develop interim products using best available guidance and information to determine areas unacceptable for OREIs and those areas requiring further study to determine if navigational risk would be acceptable or could be made acceptable through the use of mitigation measures.

* Develop criteria for evaluating navigational safety risk.

* Develop a modeling and analysis tool using the above criteria to assess the implications of varying inputs such as OREI location, changes to routing measures, and predicted changes in vessel activity, size or type, etc.

* Create a final report detailing the information above,
recommendations to create or modify routing measures and final recommendations for areas unacceptable for OREIs and those areas where navigational risk would be acceptable or could be made acceptable through the use of mitigation measures pending a final environmental impact statement including a navigational risk assessment specific to the proposed project.

The ACPARS may recommend:

* Maintain the current vessel routing measures;

* Modify the existing traffic separation schemes;

* Create one or more precautionary areas;

* Create one or more inshore traffic zones;

* Establish area(s) to be avoided;

* Create deep-draft routes;

* Establish Regulated Navigation Areas (RNA) with specific vessel operating requirements to ensure safe navigation near shallow water; and

* Any other appropriate ships' routing measures.

 

Go to http://www.regulations.gov, click on the `"submit a comment'' box.

In the "Document Type'' drop down menu select "Notice'' and insert "USCG-2011-0351''.  In the "Keyword'' box Click "Search'' then click on the balloon shape in the "Actions'' column.