May 29, 2012

Future commercial fisheries to use robo-fish provocateurs?

An important study was recently published about the behavior of salt water groundfishes. At  least, about one groundfish - the feisty but not-so-mighty threespine stickleback!  But it surely applies to all schooling fish.

The study "Quorum decision-making facilitates information transfer in fish shoals" reveals that schooling fishes operate by quorum sensing-based decisionmaking, and further, that artificial fishes placed within a school can be used as agent provocateurs to trigger quorums that cause the entire school to change direction - such as, perhaps one day, right into into a fishermen's net.

How does this work? In the course of each day, each member of a fish school acquires both  "private information" (the things her or she personally finds or encounters) and "social information" (things learned by keeping tabs on the actions of others in the school)

Quorum sensing means that individuals in that school will respond when they see a threshold number of  similar individuals performing a certain behavior.  Monkey see/monkey do.
A single fish or two may be influenced by a single provocateur;  it took two or more artificial fishes expressing the same "Hey! Food is THIS way" or "It isn't safe here, follow me!" behaviors to provoke a new quorum amongst the many members of that school to all head for the food or to all head away from a threat to a safer place.

So only a very small number of the members of a fish school needs to be influenced by the provocateur for a split second, for the group behavior of the whole school to be modified, whether it be the school's general collective direction, or to respond to a threat or a food source.

In the future, perhaps commercial fishermen will use such  agent provocateur robo-fish to incite whole schools or pollock or mackerel to hurry into stop-seines along a coast or into purse seines further offshore.

Details in these two articles: Quorum Decision-Making in Foraging Fish Shoals  and  Quorum decision-making facilitates information transfer in fish shoals

May 25, 2012

DeepCwind won't deploy floating test turbine this year

 Bad news for devotees of Habib Dagher's plan to install floating deepwater windpower extractors in the Gulf of Maine.  But good news for wild & scenic Gulf of Maine.

The Spring 2012 deployment of the DeepCwind Consortium's  prototype floating wind turbine off Monhegan has been delayed until  2013. This according to a May 24, 2012 story  in the weekly Free Press of Midcoast Maine : "Deep Water Wind Test Turbine Postponed Until 2013"

Writer Christine Parris noted  that the DeepCwind Consortium is having problems gaining several  government permits and has been forced to push back launch of its prototype windmill until next spring.  
She wrote: 
"Dagher said that some permits were still pending for the Monhegan site, but that he expected them to be approved in the next two to three months, which will push the launch date to next summer. "

"still pending?"  It seemed  like the permits were settled more than a year ago.  I wonder which ones they're having trouble with?  Or is that a mask for investment woes?

Or could this be proxy war between Statoil with their Maine Hywind project  and the University of Maine led DeepCwind Consortium? Statoil with their Maine Hywind project, and DeepCwind Consortium with their Monhegan Test site?  If so, Statoil's deep pockets & its deepwater experience will pose a major challenge for Maine's home team DeepCwind to overcome, if they are to compete.

Dr Dagher has declined to respond to an inquiry on exactly which permits remained to be acquired.

The mind boggles

May 24, 2012

Feds/Maine ocean energy task force e-meets on next 2 steps reviewing Statoil's 4-turbine floating windpark plan, then holds public teleconference. AUDIO and TRANSCRIPT of public teleconference

On  May 23, 2012, the Federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) held a virtual interagency meeting of the Maine Ocean Energy Task Force  on the next steps reviewing energy giant Statoil's  "unsolicited" application to deploy four deepwater wind turbines12+ miles off Brunswick, Maine. 

The e-meeting was closed to the public, but was followed by a public teleconference, recounting that meeting.  Listen to  conference call (20 min mp3) See public tele-meeting transcript click here and below  Short description of BOEM process with "unsolicited"  offshore windpower applicants like Statoil.

Key topics reviewed by the Maine Ocean Energy Task Force included.
(1) The wording of a Request for Competitive Interest (RFCI), to be published to learn if any other energy companies are interested in the proposed location before moving forward with Statoil's application;
(2) A July issuance of a  Notice of Intent to Prepare an Environmental Analysis. Whether to do a Environmental Impact Study or only an Environmental Assessment and 
(3) Upcoming meetings and events. Statoil will hold multiple public meetings in late June 2012. Then in July  BOEM will release its Request for Competitive Interest and its Notice of Intent to prepare an Environmental Analysis,   To get notification about the Statoil public meetings, contact:   (Statoil: Kari Hege Mork :email  Kahm at statoil dot com . To be notified of BOEM's  Notice of Intent to Prepare an Environmental Analysis, and RFCI, contact  Aditi Mirani. Email:  Aditi.Mirani at boem dot gov.                                                              

PUBLIC CONFERENCE CALL After the close of the virtual Task Force meeting, Aditi Mirani of BOEM hosted  an 18 minute public conference call about the meeting.  Conference call attendees included:
Aditi Mirani & Randy Jones of BOEM
Michelle ___?__ from Coast Guard
Heather Parent,  Maine DEP Policy Director
Michael Ernst and Kathleen Miller of Tetra Tech
Suzanne McDonald Island Institute
Ron Huber, Penobscot Bay Watch
Kristen Amodt, Kari Hege Mork & Megan Kaiser of Statoil 

TRANSCRIPT START (edited for clarity)
Aditi Mirani BOEM Introduction  Let's go over a brief debrief of the intergovernmental task force meeting: We discussed the three main goals for issuing the Request for Competitive Interest:

1. Description of  proposal. Who is the applicant? What are they proposing? What type of technology: the who, what , where and how of it.

2. Public Input Get public input regarding proposal, including its potential environmental consequences and competitive interests for a commercial lease off Maine.

3. Last, the mechanism. When published in the federal register (estimated date mid to late July) it will be for 60 days. You can send in comments electronically via or via mail to BOEM's address

Mirani (continued)Then the Task Force discussed the requirements for those interested in submitting a nomination for a lease: a statement of their wish to acquire a commercial lease for the area; what the schedule is; any available pertinent resources, and documentation of proof of being financially qualified. We do a qualification scheck of the applicant.

Then the task force meeting discussed what kind of info we are looking for frominterested or affected  parties. For example geological info. Geophysical info.Physical conditions, historic or geological studies. Looking for any kind of alternative uses : navigation vessel traffic and commercial and recreational fisheries -we know thatis an important area, especially in Maine. Another example: archeological info; any other environmental economic information you think is relevant.   The last part of the Maine Task Force meeting was about the confidentiality of information supplied to its members.

I should mention that along with RFCI, we plan to at the same time issue a notice of intent to prepare an environmental analysis which will be a separate federal register notice but will be going out at the same time as the RFCI That was the nature of the discussion

That's really it. Questions?   (End of Mirani's summary)


Q. Ron Huber, Penobscot Bay Watch :Would that be an assessment of whether an EA or Environmental impact study would be done?
A. BOEM That'll be determined in the publication in the notice of intent It will tell  exactly what we intend to prepare. There will be a public comment opportunity between
30 to 120 days, that will be determined by the type of document we choose. In addition there will be public information sessions that we will conduct as part of our
scoping process. Statoil is planning to have their own public information session meeting during the week of June 25th. There are going to be held maybe in three or four
locations. so if anyone is interested in attending you can certainly do so I do not have the date information but Statoil's Kari Hege Mork will. There will be public notices published in the newspaper for the open house details.

Q . Ernst For the Statoil meeting?
A.  Yes.

Q. Ron Huber TheMaine  DEP person on this call was on the conference; Does that person have any insights to share?
A. Heather Parent, Maine DEP. At this point we don't have an application submitted for review. Once an application has been submitted to DEP we' ll be going forward with our environmental review. We'll be having independent public comment opportunities at that time.

Q. Suzanne McDonald, Island Institute. The RFCI once released will be published in the federal register. Will it be publicized through any other way, like one of the emails that will come out from you like the one announcing this meeting today?
A. BOEM. I think there will be a press release. Keep a look out in the federal register. I can probably also send a notice to the interested parties.

Q. Michael Ernst, Tetratech. Can you tell us the focus of the environmental analysis that you are beginning at the same time as the issuance of the request for competitive interest?

A. Randy Jones (sp?) - BOEM Environment Branch Here's a little about NEPA. The NEPA analysis will be focused on the proposed action but it will be scoped, and therefore, the answer to your question will be the results of the scoping meetings and the comments we receive as a result of the Notice of Intent .

You'll have much more information about our NEPA process when you get the Notice of Intent But the result of that scoping really will inform the full view of what we're looking at. So we'll be more prepared to answer that question fully when we get through with our scoping process.

Q. Michael Ernst , Tetratech. You mentioned that it is targeted to the specific action. Are you referring to the decision on Competitive interest Is that the specific action?
A. No I'm referring to the unsolicited proposal that BOEM received from Statoil

Aditi Mirani . Any other questions?

Q Ron Huber; A question to Statoil: How does this process stack up with the process for your Hywind project off Norway?
A. Megan Kaiser, Statoil. The only other Hywind demo we have right now is just a single demonstration project off the coast of Norway, It did not go through a similar process so it is difficult to compare. We feel confident we’ve been having a good dialog and with the task force and feel its progressing well.

Q. Ron Huber The fishermen do not think they been getting connected very well with Statoil.
A Mirani : that should be a subject for Statoil's meeting, not this one.

Q. Ron Huber Was there anyone from the municipalities at the task force meeting?
A. Mirani Yes. Bruce McDonald was there, Chris Rector was not there. The County Commissioner Jean Cloutier was there. Representative Michaud's staffer Rosemary Winslow and a representative of Senator Collins: Carol Woodcock. The town manager of Boothbay was there..

Q. Michael Ernst, Tetratech: Re the NEPA review announcement. I understand the agency whenever it takes a particular action or issues a significant decision, that appropriate NEPA review is required. If BOEM issues a determination of no competition interest, then Statoil will proceed to the next step in the BOEM process? That will proceed with them filing a COP  (Construction &Operation Plan) ?
A. BOEM: Then there will be an appropriate environmental review under NEPA for that process.

Q. Michael Ernst, Tetratech: My question is, by announcing this NEPA analysis in
conjunction with the request for competitive interest, are you focusing on a decision that will be made related to the determination of competitive interest? Or are you announcing your proposed environmental review for the entire process, including the COP
A. BOEM: What we received in the unsolicited proposal includes the information that would be necessary for us to conduct the review through decommissioning of that proposed project. This assumes that we are able to determine non competitive interest and proceed down that path. If it is determine there's no competitive interest we’ll complete the environmental analysis based on the entirety of the proposed project - from lease issuance all the way through  decommissioning.

The other possibility. although not going to make any indications that it may or may not be, is that there IS some competitive interest. In that case we would have to reconsider and revise our notice of Intent and reform our environmental analysis around a structure that looks like our "Smart From The Start" program for the midatlantic states. But the short answer is we are trying to issue the RFCI and the Notice of Intent at the same time to build efficiencies into the time scheduled for this project.

We aren't predetermining the outcome of either the RFCI or the NEPA analysis but we are initiating them concurrently so that we can gather this information from you and other interested parties very early in the process. And so that we can complete it more efficiently. Does that answer your questions?

A Ernst Yes.

Q Aditi Mirani: Are there any more questions before we wrap up? 
(15 second silence)

A (multiple persons:) Thank you.


May 21, 2012

Statoil's Maine deepwater floating windmills plan - open webinar May 23rd, 1-3pm

The closing by Big Energy of America's great public and wild commons we call the Gulf of Maine  is underway. Big Renewable Energy, that is.  A virtual meeting of government officials  today will move that process a bit further.

On May 23, 2012, from 1-3pm, a virtual meeting of state and federal bureaucrats (public not invited) will continue consideration of a plan by global energy giant Statoil to set up the world's first deepwater floating windfarm, 12+ miles off Brunswick, Maine. The meeting will be followed at 3pm by a 30 minute public webinar that all are urged to take part in.)  

To take part in the 3 - 3:30pm  webinar:  Use the following dial-in number to participate in this public question and answer session: 1 (877) 972-8773Code: 9556297. To see BOEM description of meeting click here, then scroll to bottom of that page)

Statoil IS being precautionary, in its own vigorous way. Having  launched a full sized  prototype floating wind turbine in 2009 - which shows a respectable 50% capacity factor, the company has decided to apply for permits to  deploy four floating windturbines off Midcoast Maine.  If those are approved and built, what comes after, if those achieve Statoil's expectations,  is of great interest and concern to existing Gulf of Maine natural resource users  and conservationists.

HOW MANY TURBINES? At the 2012 Maine Fishermen's Forum's  offshore windpower seminar,  fishermen asked: how  many turbines  the company might deploy to reach its ultimate goal of 300 to 500 megawatts?  
Note this chart is from DeepCwind Consortium not from Statoil

Mork replied that the number could be up to 90 turbines.  She cautioned however, that as deepwater floating wind technology develops, larger turbines could reduce that number substantially. 

Read a  recent short presentation  (pdf) by Statoil's stakeholder manager about  the company's approach to British fishermen and other stakeholders, concerning a proposed ocean windfarm off the UK.  The presentation suggests the company gives little heed to environmentalists  and conservationists & some heed to fishermen's organizations. But the bulk of its strategic attention by far is, not surprisingly, on negotiating with the agencies who will grant or deny Statoil the necessary permits and licenses.  

While Statoil has experience negotiating with fishermen and other ocean windfarm stakeholders,  Maine fishermen  aren't so pleased by Statoil's approach.  At the 2012 Maine Fishermen's Forum's  offshore windpower seminar, Portland tuna fishermen Chris Weiner  spoke of  his concern that Statoil was not engaging with his industry( 6 minute mp3) 

WHAT'S AT ISSUE?  Even though windmills do not extract hydrocarbons, they are still extractive industries. Ask the wind industry itself, spending millions to finance studies figuring out how far apart to spread ocean turbines to minimize the "wind shadow" impact of each windturbine's energy extraction activity on the turbines downwind of it.  On the larger scale, too: figuring out  the windshadow impact of each ocean windfarm on neighboring ocean windfarms is critical. 

It is fine to maximize  extraction of wind energy, but what effects do these offshore windshadows  have or the inhabitants of the aqueous environment underneath the ocean turbines?  Research on both sides of the Atlantic suggests  that the impact could be substantial

First,  read  On the Influence of Large Wind farms on the upper ocean circulation.  by Göran Broström, Norwegian Meteorological Institute in Oslo, Norway.  Broström describes how these artificially generated wind shadows translate into changes in  vertical water column movement, potentially disrupting local currents - an issue of major import for the Gulf of Maine, as most commercially important species spend part of their lives migrating along Maine's coastal currents.
Next,  learn why unhindered ocean currents are  important in the Gulf of Maine.  Consider University of New Hampshire professor James Pringle's 2007 paper  What is the windage of zooplankton? Turbulence avoidance and the wind-driven transport of plankton.

Pringle shows that migrating zooplankton avoid surface turbulence by dropping below it.   But dropping below a certain depth will take the plankton out of those surface currents and result in it settling in that location instead of proceeding on to the normal end of its migration.

A question for Statoil: Given that Dr Brostrom showed that ocean windfarms can cause turbulence and water column destratification extending over a fairly large area, will the Statoil's own project induce premature settlement of zooplanktonic lobster and scallop larvae, or their prey species in their windpark's vicinity?

Will that reduce commercial fisheries downcurrent of ocean windparks off the coast of Maine? While Statoil's planned 4 turbines likely will not, it is believed that they will demonstrate the effect on a small scale. It will be critical to use those results, if any, to extrapolate the potential impacts to zooplankton-carrying currents when planning the utility scale windparks that Statoil ultimately proposes to set up , in the Gulf of Maine or elsewhere

WHERE THINGS STAND Happily, Statoil's  Kari Hege Mork has agreed with a request from Penobscot Bay Watch to have her company look into this ocean currents/floating deepwater turbines question.   At least, Statoil will consult with state and federal agencies and others on whether to review this issue in depth.  Let us hope that Statoil relies more on the academics than on the permitting agencies when doing this evaluation, as permit reviewers are under political pressure to bring ocean windpower extraction to the Gulf of Maine, and will be loath to examine additional issues such as the one that Brostrom revealed..

Statoil's  Hywind Maine's project manager Kristin Asmodt recently reminded us that, "one of the benefits of floating offshore wind is that there is more flexibility on placement of the turbines (e.g. can be placed further from shore in less conflicting areas)"

Let us hope that one of the things Statoil is willing to be flexible about is looking after the best interests of the Gulf of Maine's larval fishes and shellfishes. These are utterly dependent on reliable Gulf of Maine currents.

 If Statoil commits to studying the potential impacts of their new technology on zooplankton-sensitive currents during this 4 turbine  prototype phase - and  if it discovers that the water column destratification does occur as Brostrom predicts, the company could set a standard of ecological review of full deepwater wind projects that other deepwater windpower  applicants around the world will be pressured to follow. 

Time will tell.

May 17, 2012

Waldo County EMA grilled about propane at Open House 5/17/12

On May 17, 2012 The Waldo County Local Emergency Planning Committee  and the  Waldo County Emergency Management Agency held a meeting and hosted a public open house at their facility in Belfast. Most questions

Below are recordings of the meeting's Q&A session - both an hour long recording, and broken into 4 easy to listen to sections
Full  60 minute session  Podcast  or  MP3

60 minute Session in 4 parts : Part 1 14 minutes 35 seconds  ***  Part 2 16 minutes 13 seconds  ***  Part 3 14 minutes 55 seconds  ***  Part 4 14 minutes 15 seconds

Most  of the questioners expressed doubt about the ability of the Local Emergency Planning Committee and the County Emergency Management Agency to deal with a catastrophic event at the planned DCP Midstream LPG tank facility proposed for Mack Point in Searport.

Dale Rowley. director of  the Waldo EMA said that neither the Waldo County LEPC nor the EMA has any regulatory or enforcement powers. If the LEPC concluded that the planned Liquified Petroleum Gas tank in Searsport was unsafe, it could not block the project, but only let elected officials and agencies know of its disapproval.  
Note: Some bits of ihe recording were deleted due to overwhelming propane truck noise in the Waldo EMA's parking lot.

May 16, 2012

Waldo County Emergency Planning Committee Open House Thursday

On May 17, 2012 at 10:00 am the Waldo County Local Emergency Planning Committee  (LEPC) will hold an OPEN HOUSE at the Emergency Management Agency Office, 4 Public Safety Way (Off Miller Street) Belfast. 
The open house will allow the interested public to meet  representatives of the LEPC, view important documents like the county's Emergency Response Plans;  and the Material Data Sheets; and Maine Chemical Reporting Forms that have been submitted by local industries under federal and state laws.

 If you have any questions call Waldo County LEPC  338-3870 or e-mail

May 14, 2012

GAC Chemical Corp's alum waste still eroding into Stockton Harbor clamflat.

 On May 6, 2012 three Friends of Penobscot Bay, later joined by a fourth, core sampled Stockton Harbor's intertidal flats near the GAC Chemical facility..Photo essay HERE
One inch pvc pipe was hammered to twelve inches into the mud and the captured material 
pressed out of the pipe and photographed. Coring was primarily along the edge of the 
mudflat closest to the facility, below a shorebank waste material erosion site.

RESULTS Cores showed a significant amount of alum tainted mud at the edge of the flat 
closest to GAC Chemical's eroding bluff with normally colored brown mud to the south 
along the shore towards the Sears Island causeway. One probe struck apparent buried 
tarpaper or other yielding yet impervious debris.


* The slumping eroding waste slope need to be re-vegetated, and otherwise sealed off 
from the water. Offer to assist with volunteer labor if needed. (Though, it being  acidic toxic
 waste, they probably will use professionals in chemsuits). 

* Map the extent of the their alum waste plume moving glacier-like through the harbor's
 intertidal mud. 

* Start removing some of the brick and ceramic debris strewn all over the beach and flats 
below their facility, again offering volunteers. GAC employees could join us in on the shore 
(Because there's probably so much hard trash buried in the mud  will keep "mud heaving"
 ever more bricks and pipe pieces up to the surface 

* Clarify the state of the outfall 002 liming process. Meet, and/or showing interest in doing 
an erosion control action or beach cleanup, we will praise them and announce it to the 
media.  If they get the eroding bluff dealt with, (the low-hanging fruit) we'll give GAC an 
award for caring about its community and environment, and then promptly push them into the
 intertidal mudflats' alum plume and ceramic trash problem.

bring some media to the waste site(s) and to some picketers at the GAC entry on Route 1, 
and illustrate the reasons for our demand that the company act.

* File complaint with DEP and the US EPA. and start THOSE turgid wheels turning.

*. But first give GAC the chance to save face and do the right thing. They ARE an i
mportant part of the community - frequent donator to community causes large and small,
 and employer of 60 people -according to their literature. We should celebrate their positive
impacts to the community and its citizenry, and just keep pushing them to clean up a little 
more at a time

*  If they just WON'T be a good corporate citizen, why, the jaws of the federal court are 
always yawning wide for a Clean Water Act suit.

*  In the meantime, we'll pay a call on DEP Bangor's land and water qiuality staff to review 
and copy the agency's last few years' files on GAC Chemical.  We'll learn how they are 
really doing, pollution discharge-wise, (are they still liming Outfall 002 to reduce acid 
deposition into the harbor? (something begun in 2004)). 

Find out how GAC's chem  landfills and old waste pits are holding up as the years pass. 
Also take advantage of the trip to look at and copy the discharge monitoring reports of the 
companies across the causeway on Mack Point.

Stockton Harbor intertidal core sampling 5/13/12: Silvery mud, tarpaper, dead clams.

On May 13, 2012, friends of Penobscot Bay Ron Huber, Rob Levangie and Bob Huber 
carried out a core-sampling investigation of the intertidal mudflats of Stockton Harbor.
See photoessay, click here.

Route: The team started coresampling and digging near the low water mark, well 
out from the shore, and worked their way landward toward an eroding slump in the 
waste rich bluff upon which GAC Chemical perches above the beach and flats. They 
took 15 core samples, and  five digs with a clam  fork.

CLAM FORK RESULTS Large cluster of  mature dead clams (still with hinges) found
 near low tide line. Large pieces of tarpaper were also found buried in the mud  
near the low tide line; presumably blown into the flat from the roof of the  now 
vanished large quonset shaped building that once loomed over the flat above the  flat.

CORE SAMPLING RESULTS. Mud was tainted near shore, less to no alum taint was 
visible in the mud more than 20 yards out from shore, in the line of coring from the
low tide line 100yards offshore. Soft mud did not "core" well. Gray clays and sandy 
mud samples cored better.

RECOMMENDATIONS. Intensify core sampling close to shore; explore outer flats for 
additional tar paper wastes (tar paper a few inches below mud surface prevents clams 
and other organisms from settling). Collect dead clam shells for examination.

May 5, 2012

Sunday in Stockton Harbor' field investigation continues.

On Sunday May 6  from 3-6 pm Friends of Penobscot Bay will be doing a core sampling project in the Stockton Harbor intertidal flats between the Sears Island causeway and Kidder Point. See aerial photo below.

GAC-tainted clamflat in 1998. Time to look again.
This is a follow up on our April 22nd examination of the crumbling waste slopes of GAC Chemical Corp that found that alum-tainted waste spoils continue to erode from the shore and into the clamflats  along the shore

Weather Service says Sunday afternoon will be sunny and in the lower 60's. Feel free to show up at any time over those 3 hours.

For location, see "contaminated flat" site in attached aerial photo. Parking is available at the little red asterix or  along the Sears Island road. 

Note the dug up alum-tainted intertidal mud that we are looking for. In 1998 DEP guessed "about an acre" is contaminated.We'll be taking another look

What is Core Sampling? Core sampling consists of pounding a 1 inch wide piece of PVC pipe about a foot  into the mud, pulling it out, then pushing the sample out of the pipe with a wooden dowel onto a flat surface. There it is first photographed, then samples taken from the different colored  strata. Then the sample is crumpled and sluiced with water to see if any amphipods or other life is in the mud. (cont'd below aerial photo)

Then we  proceed twenty paces further in the line of  sampling and repeat. By keeping to a sight line we can then map out a general idea of the extent of the gunk, then fine tune it later

To limit personal muddiness, bring kneepads or a doormat-sized mat to kneel or sit upon when core sampling and examining  the samples and photographinhg.  Bring a snack and something to drink as well.