Environmental

Contents
Permits & Site Control
   1. Certificate of Environmental Compatibility and Public Need
   2. National Environmental Policy Act
        - Summary of Environmental Impacts
   3. Clean Water Act and Rivers and Harbors Act
   4. Water Quality Certificate
   5. Rivers and Harbors Act, Section 408
   6. No Hazard to Air Navigation
   7. International Joint Commission Approval
   8. Private Aid to Navigation
   9. Submerged Lands Lease
   10. Community Acceptance and Impact
   11. Wildlife Risk Analysis
        -Birds and Bats
        -Fish and Aquatic Resources
 

Icebreaker Wind is located 8 miles offshore of Cleveland, Ohio, on leased submerged state land in Cuyahoga County, Ohio. The turbine array will be in a single row generally oriented southeast to northwest (323⁰ NW) with the turbines spaced 2,480 feet (6 rotor diameters) apart. This places the project perpendicular to the prevailing winds (west - southwest) and yields the greatest energy output.

Icebreaker Wind is the first offshore wind project in the Great Lakes, in which the permitting process is under the control of each state rather than the Department of Interior (DOI) and the Bureau of Ocean Energy management (BOEM). The U.S. DOE is the lead federal agency for Icebreaker Wind for the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process because of the receipt of federal funding. The United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and United States Coast Guard (USCG) are coordinating agencies. The Ohio Power Siting Board (OPSB) is the lead state agency.

The Project requires many state and federal permits and approvals. A summary of the major permits and approvals needed follows.

 

 

 

 


Certificate of Environmental Compatibility and Public Need

The major state permit required is the Certificate of Environmental Compatibility and Public Need from the Ohio Power Siting Board (OPSB), which agency regulates the siting of wind farms in Ohio with a generating capacity of 5 MW or more. Icebreaker Wind submitted an Application to the OPSB for a Certificate to Construct a Wind-Powered Electric Generation Facility on February 1, 2017. The Application was assigned OPSB Docket No. 16-1871-EL-BGN. On July 31, 2017, the OPSB issued its letter finding the Application complied with OPSB regulations.

A local public hearing was held on November 8, 2017 in Cleveland.  Project supporters included representatives of the business, environmental, and labor communities as well as government entities. Icebreaker Wind has worked closely with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) to craft two Memoranda of Understanding (MOU) establishing pre- and post-construction monitoring protocols for aquatic resources/fisheries and birds/bats

Link: OPSB Docket No. 16-1871-EL-BGN

National Environmental Policy Act

The major federal approval required for the project is issuance of the Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The Council on Environmental Quality’s (CEQ’s) NEPA regulations and the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) NEPA implementing procedures require that DOE consider the potential environmental impacts of a proposed action. This requirement applies to DOE’s decisions about whether to provide awards of financial assistance. Since Icebreaker Wind was competitively selected for a DOE financial assistance award under Funding Opportunity Announcement U.S. Offshore Wind: Advanced Technology Demonstration Projects (Number DE-FOA0000410), the NEPA process applies to the Project. The DOE is the lead federal agency for the NEPA process. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) are cooperating agencies.

The agencies posted the project Draft Environmental Assessment (EA) on August 18, 2017 in the Federal Register. The EA evaluates the potential environmental impacts of the Project. The Draft EA concludes that the project will have no significant environmental impacts as outlined in the table below. An informational open house was held on the Draft EA on September 6, 2017. The public comment deadline ended on October 10, 2017.

Link: DOE Draft Environmental Assessment

Summary of Environmental Impacts from the Draft EA
Resource Area Impact
Physical Resources  
Lake-Based Geology and Sediments No Impact
Lake-Based Geology and Soils No Impact
Water Resources  
Lake Water Quality Minor, Short-term Adverse Impact
Drinking Water Supply and Quality No Impact
Biological Resources  
Benthos Moderate, Short-term Adverse Impact
Fish Resources Minor, Short-term Adverse Impact
Insects (Butterflies) Negligible, Short-term Adverse Impact
Birds and Bats Minor, Short-term and Long-term Adverse Impact
Aquatic and Terrestial Protected Species Negligible, Short-term Adverse Impact
Health and Safety  
Waste Management Negligible Impact
Hazardous Materials Negligible Impact
Public Health and Safety Minor, Short-term Adverse Impact
Air Quality Minor, Short-term Adverse Impact
Climate Change Negligible Impact
Lake Use Minor, Short-term Adverse Impact
Traffic and Transportation Minor, Short-term Adverse Impact
Cultural Resources No Impact
Aesthetic and Visual Resources Minor, Long-term Adverse Impact
Noise Minor, Short-term Adverse Impact
Economics and Socioeconomics Negligible with Short-Term Beneficial Impact
Environmental Justice No Impact

As a component of the Draft EA, a Navigational Risk Assessment (NRA) was prepared. The USCG uses the NRA to evaluate potential navigational risks as part of the NEPA review. The NRA informs USCG’s recommendations to USACE and DOE, which will be integrated into the agencies’ NEPA findings. Also as a part of the NEPA process, the DOE will consult with other agencies and the Native American Tribes (There are no federally recognized Indian tribes in Ohio today). The DOE has notified the relevant parties of the Project.

A Biological Assessment has been prepared for the Draft EA, and DOE initiated consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to ensure compliance with the Endangered Species Act. That consultation concluded on September 14, 2017 with a finding by the USFWS that the Project is not likely to affect the five federally listed threatened and endangered species in the project vicinity. DOE has initiated consultation with the Ohio State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) to ensure compliance with the National Historic Preservation Act.

 

Section 404 of the Clean Water Act and Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act

Icebreaker submitted its permit applications to the USACE under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act and Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act on August 25, 2017. This permit covers the potential discharge of dredged or fill materials and potential obstructions into and out of navigable waters of the United States.  The USACE issued a Jurisdictional Determination that two of the three project components (the horizontal directional drilling and the Mono Bucket installation) would be reviewed under Section 404.  The USACE ruled that a 404 permit was not needed for the installation of the electric cable itself.

Section 307 of the Coastal Zone Management Act of 1972, also called the “federal consistency” provision, generally requires that federal actions that would have reasonably foreseeable effects on any coastal use or natural resource of the coastal zone be consistent with the enforceable policies of a state's federally approved coastal management program.

A Coastal Zone Consistency Analysis was prepared to assess Project consistency with the OCMP. The analysis shows that the Project would comply with the 41 policies detailed in the OCMP. The Coastal Zone Consistency Analysis was submitted with the Section 404/10 permit application on August 25, 2017. It will be reviewed by the ODNR. A Section 404 Permit will be issued when the proposed Project receives a Coastal Zone Management Federal consistency determination and when the Project receives its Section 401 Water Quality Certificate from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), below.

Link to documentation

 

Section 401 Water Quality Certificate

Section 401 of the federal Clean Water Act (CWA) delegates state agencies the authority to evaluate projects that would result in the discharge of dredge or fill material into Waters of the United States and to determine whether the discharge would comply with the state’s water quality standards. The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been delegated this authority in Ohio. A Section 401 Water Quality Certificate (WQC) is required for activities that require a Section 404 permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE). Icebreaker Wind submitted a Section 401 WQC Application to the Ohio EPA on October 17, 2017.

Public Notice | Link to documentation

 

Section 408 of the Rivers and Harbors Act

Section 14 of the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899, as amended, and codified in 33 USC 408 (Section 408) provides that the Secretary of the Army may grant permission to other entities for the permanent or temporary alteration or use of any USACE Civil Works project, upon the recommendation of the Chief of Engineers. To address the horizontal directional drilling (HDD) installation of the export cable beneath the Cleveland Harbor breakwater and navigation channel, Icebreaker submitted a Section 408 Request to Alter, Impact or Encroach upon a Buffalo District Navigation Project on February 3, 2017. The USACE issued an approval letter on September 8, 2017.

 

No Hazard to Air Navigation

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is responsible for the evaluation and issuance of a determination of no hazard to air navigation on petitions on objects that penetrate the nation’s airspace. The FAA conducted aeronautical studies of the proposed turbine layout under the provisions of 49 USC 44718, applicable 14 CFR 77, and Ohio Revised Code (ORC) Section 4561.32. The FAA can issue two types of determinations, one that identifies a hazard and another that identifies no hazard. Proposed structures over 200 feet must undergo an Obstruction Evaluation by the FAA and be permitted through a Form 7460-1 filing prior to construction. Form 7460-1 was submitted for the proposed Project on July 22, 2016. The FAA issued its determination of no hazard to air navigation if the structure is marked and/or lighted in accordance with the FAA Advisory circular 70/7460-1 L Change 1, Obstruction Marking and Lighting on February 22, 2017. Construction and operation of the proposed Project will be according to FAA standards and will not result in any adverse effects to the regional air transportation network.

 

International Joint Commission Approval

The International Joint Commission (IJC) was established in 1909 by the Boundary Waters Treaty (Treaty) to help prevent and resolve disputes that may arise in waters shared by the U.S. and Canada. A request for approval under the Boundary Waters Treaty of 1909 was sent to the U.S. State Department on December 9, 2016. The U.S. State Department and Global Affairs Canada determined that the proposed Project would not require approval under the Boundary Waters Treaty and therefore would not require further action with the IJC.

 

Private Aid to Navigation

Icebreaker Windpower Inc. will obtain a permit to install Private Aids to Navigation (PATON) (e.g., buoy, light, day-beacon) to mark the wind turbines. Approval for PATON is regulated by the USCG under Title 33 of the Code of Federal Regulations, Part 66 (33CFR66). Private aids to navigation will be maintained by the owner as stated on the USCG permit. USCG has provided the PATON requirements to Icebreaker, and those requirements were included in the EA. Per guidance from the USCG, Icebreaker will apply for this permit after the NEPA process has concluded.

 

Submerged Lands Lease

LEEDCo entered into a 50-year Submerged Lands Lease (SLL) with the State of Ohio, File Number SUB2356-CU, which commenced on February 1, 2014. The SLL grants site control for the turbine sites, cable right-of-way, and the onshore substation within the CPP Substation. As per the SLL, the acreage to be used in the construction/operation for the Facility consists of 0.4 acre for the substation and 4.2 acres for the 6 wind turbine sites. The cable right-of-way leased area consists of a 100-foot-wide strip along the approximately 12.1-mile cable route (inter-array and export cables), totaling approximately 135 acres. LEEDCo also obtained an upland easement from the City of Cleveland, which was a precondition to obtaining the SLL from the State of Ohio. The upland easement is a non-exclusive property easement with the City of Cleveland for 0.2085 acres of parcels adjacent to the SLL. A request to assign the SLL to Icebreaker Windpower Inc. was approved by the State of Ohio on January 18, 2017.

 

Community Acceptance and Impact

The Icebreaker Project has received strong support from the entire Northeast Ohio community, including from many environmental organizations, labor unions, businesses, and federal, state, and local elected officials.

A clear demonstration of this public support was demonstrated through LEEDCo’s door-to-door POWER Pledge Campaign, where 21,000 households/individuals were contacted. This scientifically designed survey (by Akron University’s Polling Institute) covered LEEDCo’s four counties (Lorain, Cuyahoga, Lake, and Ashtabula) as well as numerous other non-lakefront communities. The results showed that 92% of the respondents were in favor of Icebreaker Wind, while 60% of those surveyed expressed a willingness to pay more for the electricity from the Project. This strong support is illustrated in the Figure below where each marker indicates an individual household.

Probably the most satisfying statistic was that the support was uniform across all counties, and the variance between different demographics and income classes was very small. The explanation can be traced to the fact that individuals across the spectrum of communities in the Great Lakes understand the environmental and economic benefits of clean renewable energy that will come from offshore wind.

A sampling of local media stories is a clear indication of how this Project is integral to the local fabric. Ohio’s desire to become a leader for sustainable change will tap into this strong outpouring of public support for Icebreaker Wind and a cleaner energy future in Ohio.

From the public’s perspective, offshore wind has several advantages.  Due to the distance to shore, there will be no noise or shadow flicker, and minor visual impacts, associated with the wind project. Furthermore, Icebreaker Wind is located in an area that is rarely used by recreational boaters or commercial anglers.

 

Wildlife Risk Analysis

Icebreaker Wind is the first freshwater offshore wind project that will be permitted in North America and only the second offshore wind farm in the U.S. The Project is undergoing thorough environmental review by numerous state wildlife agencies and regulators, including the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, and Ohio Power Siting Board, and many federal agencies, including the U.S. Department of Energy, Army Corps of Engineers, Fish and Wildlife Service, Coast Guard, and Environmental Protection Agency.  

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has stated that any impact of Icebreaker Wind on birds and bats will be minor.  The Service has also concluded that the project will not adversely affect any federally listed endangered or threatened species.  The Draft Environmental Assessment prepared by the Department of Energy, in cooperation with the Army Corps and Coast Guard, also makes a draft finding that the project will have no significant impact on fish, wildlife, or the environment.

Icebreaker Wind has entered into Memoranda of Understanding with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources on monitoring protocols that describe how project impacts on fish and wildlife will be studied (Link: MOU). The results of these monitoring efforts will feed the adaptive management plan and efforts, intended to specify additional impact reduction measures that will be taken in the event that significant unforeseen adverse impacts to fish and wildlife occur.  Icebreaker has also entered into an agreement with the Cleveland Water Department to monitor sediment suspension during the cable laying operation to ensure no adverse impact on drinking water.  The Water Department has stated that the project poses low risk to water quality at Cleveland’s four water intakes.

The DOE and USFWS conclusions of low risk to fish and wildlife are consistent with the aquatic/fisheries risk assessment prepared for Icebreaker by LimnoTech, and with the avian and bat risk assessment prepared by Western EcoSystems Technology Inc. (WEST).

 

Birds and Bats:  WEST’s analysis concluded that the Project poses low risk of adverse impacts to birds and bats, based largely on two principal observations: 1) the Project is small in scale, consisting of six turbines; 2) the level of use of this area by birds and bats is low compared to bird and bat use of terrestrial or nearshore environments.

Link: Birds and Bats Risk Assessment

WEST evaluated the potential for collision, displacement, and avoidance/attraction effects. Collision risk was evaluated by examining data on the use of the Project site and other offshore environments in the central Lake Erie basin by birds and bats, in consideration of current knowledge regarding offshore wind-wildlife interactions, as well as comparisons with use patterns and observed fatality rates at land-based facilities in the region. Total fatalities of birds and bats are expected to be lower for Icebreaker Wind than for land-based wind energy facilities in the region. The Project is not likely to generate population-level effects for any species. WEST’s conclusions are based primarily on the low use of offshore environments within the central Lake Erie basin by birds and bats, the small size of the Project, and known patterns of taxon-specific collision susceptibility and species’ geographic ranges.

Nocturnally migrating songbirds and similar birds may be exposed to collisions they migrate across Lake Erie in spring and fall.  As a group, nocturnally migrating songbirds and similar birds exhibit low general susceptibility to collisions with wind turbines.  Icebreaker will use lighting that does not attract birds.  Furthermore, two analyses of  NEXRAD radar data show that the density of songbird migration over the central Lake Erie basin is less than one half what it is over terrestrial environments within the region, and one seventh what it is over the eastern Lake Erie basin.  Although considerable nocturnal migration activity does pass over the central Lake Erie basin, numerous studies at land-based wind facilities indicate that annual fatality rates of nocturnal migrants are generally below four birds/MW within the region.  On the basis of this information, and also in light of the small size of the Project, WEST concluded that the collision risk for nocturnally migrating songbirds and similar birds is low.

Collision risk is also low for eagles and other raptors.  No eagles or other raptors regularly forage 8-10 miles offshore, minimizing exposure to collision risk in this group of birds.  A small number of eagles and other raptors may be exposed to collision risk if they encounter the Project while migrating across Lake Erie; however, eagles and other raptors tend to avoid migrating over large water bodies such as Lake Erie, and no raptors were documented within 10 miles of the Project area during a 2-year baseline survey effort.

The potential for displacement effects, defined as the transformation of the Project area from suitable habitat to less suitable habitat by virtue of Project construction or operation, is also low.  Baseline data have shown that the use of the Project area as a habitat for anything other than migratory transit by any bird species is minimal or negligible.

The potential for behavioral avoidance or attraction effects was also evaluated. Behavioral avoidance is defined as the avoidance of the Project by bird or bat species that would otherwise use the Project area strictly for transit.  Behavioral attraction is defined as attraction to the Project area by bird or bat species that would otherwise utilize the area less frequently or not at all. WEST concluded that Icebreaker Wind does have the potential to generate both behavioral avoidance and attraction effects in some groups of birds or bats. After construction some migrating birds and bats may detect the presence of the facility and fly around it. In such cases, the additional energy expenditure of this avoidance behavior is expected to be negligible, as has been demonstrated at offshore wind projects in Europe. Other birds and bats flying in the vicinity of the Project area may be attracted to the facility. This is not likely to occur in nocturnal migrant birds, as the Project will utilize flashing red aviation obstruction lights, which do not attract nocturnal migrants or other birds, as well as bird-friendly platform lighting. Attraction effects are more likely to occur with some diurnal waterbirds, such as gulls and cormorants, as has been demonstrated in Europe, and may also occur with additional taxa.  

For bats, even though bat activity is lower in the offshore environment than it is in most terrestrial environments or the near-shore environment, WEST conservatively concluded that the likely per megawatt fatality rate at Icebreaker Wind could be anywhere within the range of rates that have been documented at land-based facilities in the region (0-30 bats/MW/year).  The relationship between pre-construction bat acoustic activity rates and post-construction bat fatality rates at land-based wind energy facilities in the Midwest and nation-wide is complex.  Although bats are primarily terrestrial animals, some species are likely to cross Lake Erie and the Project area on a regular basis, particularly as they are migrating, and the extent to which bats may be attracted to the Project’s turbines as they are migrating across the Lake is not well-known and is difficult to determine.  The overall bat collision risk is low for Icebreaker Wind, nonetheless, because the small size of the Project limits the total (facility-wide) bat fatality.

For birds, fatality rates are most likely to be on the order of one or two birds/MW/year, or 21 to 42 total birds/year for the facility.  Even if the per-megawatt fatality rates for birds are as high as the highest documented to date for land-based facilities in the region, total annual bird fatalities from the Project would number less than 150. At these levels, the collision fatalities caused by Icebreaker do not have a reasonable likelihood of generating a population-level impact for any species of bird or bat, particularly as these fatalities are not likely to affect any listed species, and will be distributed among many species, further lessening the impact on any one species.

 

Fish and Aquatic Resources: LimnoTech’s analysis concludes that the Project poses low risk of adverse impacts to fish and aquatic resources for the following reasons:

Link: Fish and Aquatic Resources Risk Assessment

Aquatic habitat alteration

  • The chosen project site is far from ODNR identified fish spawning or larval nursery areas, reefs, or shoals that offer enhanced fish habitat. ODNR identifies the turbine area as very favorable for development based on its own aquatic habitat assessment maps. Data collected in 2016 and 2017 at the site verify this assessment.

  • Dissolved oxygen (DO) data collected in 2016 and 2017 shows the proposed turbine sites were all within the Lake Erie Dead Zone and therefore experience seasonal hypoxia, which is poor habitat for fish spawning and macroinvertebrates.

  • Juvenile fish trawl and acoustic sonar survey data from 2016 and 2017 show the turbine area has significantly lower numbers of fish in the summer and early fall months compared with other months due to the presence of hypoxic bottom waters.  

  • The area impacted by the 17 meter diameter turbine foundations is 0.05 acres per turbine and 0.3 acres total.  Spacing between turbines is approximately 0.5 mi.  Therefore, the footprint of the foundations represents an insignificant loss of habitat and juvenile and adult fish can avoid the structures easily.

Sediment disturbance

  • Construction related sediment resuspension and enhanced turbidity near the turbines is mitigated by the chosen mono bucket foundation, which has minimal and only temporary impact on surrounding sediments during installation.

  • Degradation of habitat by sediment resuspension during electric cable installation is expected to only last several hours and extend no further than a few hundred meters or less beyond the point of installation.  This is based on a review of sediment transport results from a similar project in Lake Erie with similar sediment type and ambient lake velocity.

Noise

  • Construction related impacts due to increased noise levels at the site are temporary and similar to noise levels experienced consistently in the region by up to 1,000 passing lake freighters going in and out of the Port of Cleveland on an annual basis.  Low levels of noise expected to be emitted by the turbines during operation don’t transmit any significant distance. In addition, there are often less receptors (fish) within the region due to the hypoxia mentioned earlier.

  • The mono bucket foundation eliminates the need for pile driving, which significantly reduces potential construction related noise at the site.

Fish movement/behavior/fishing and boating

  • The project is sited in a location with poor fish spawning habitat as identified by ODNR, which minimizes changes to existing fish behavior changes.

  • The mono bucket foundations minimize sediment disturbance during installation and cover a limited area.  

  • A review of electromagnetic field (EMF) impacts on fish found that expected EMF levels at the sediment surface for the Project are well below background levels and below all threshold impact levels from existing EMF studies.  The project’s electrical transmission cables will be buried below the sediment surface to minimize or eliminate any electromagnetic impacts on fish in the water column.

  • In 2016 and 2017 the location of boats offshore of Cleveland were monitored to ensure the chosen project site is not a frequent fishing or boating destination.  The study found that only 2% of the boats counted in all of the surveys were within three miles of the project site.

Physical lake conditions

  • The project is utilizing a circular foundation base that minimizes potential impacts to currents and sediment scour. The circular shape of the foundation and monopole minimizes eddy formation and allows currents to easily travel past the turbines with minimal interruption and disturbance.  Each turbine base has a foundation diameter of 17 meters and a combined footprint from all six turbines of 0.3 acres.

  • Installation of the buried electric cables will follow a jet plow installation method, which represents the industry standard for minimal impact to the surrounding area during installation compared with open trench cable laying. As cited previously, suspended sediments are expected to follow a similar fate as those of the ITC Connector Lake Erie project, which were estimated to remain suspended for several hours and travel less than a few hundred meters.

The 2016 and 2017 aquatic data collection by LimnoTech was conducted under the guidance of ODNR with review by the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS).  A comprehensive sampling plan was developed to guide the 2016 monitoring and characterization effort and to meet the requirements of the submerged lands lease from ODNR (ODNR, 2013).