Part 2, Sec. 2C13
Human Activities Offshore Fixed Artificial Platforms

12. Offshore Fixed Artificial Platforms

A proposal and plans initiated by a private marine consultant in the mid-1980's for the construction of a fixed offshore artificial "island", or platform, were submitted to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (COE) for its review under § 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act (as extended by § 4(f) of the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA)). The offshore fixed platform, to be known as "Gugel's Arabian Nights", was proposed as a holiday resort facility, incorporating restaurants, shopping malls, hotels, casinos, apartments, a hospital, a heliport,and other amenities to accommodate 100,000 persons (Figure 16).

As originally proposed, the physical structure would consist of an octagonal-shaped steel platform supported by 16 steel piles, located approximately 30 miles (48.3 km) east of Boston, in water depths of 80 to 85 feet (24.4 to 25.9 meters), and directly over the Stellwagen Bank, at 42_23'N x 70_23'W (Figure 16). Each of the 16 piles would support 850,000 tons, and would rest in pockets cut into bedrock (no additional anchoring would be required). The platform itself would be 1000 feet (304.8 meters) wide and 60 feet (18.3 meters) deep, and constructed of steel and reinforced concrete. The bottom of the platform would rest 60 feet (18.3 meters) above the mean high water level.

The interior of the platform would consist of two or more levels. The lower level (approximately 800,000 square feet) would be between 20 and 40 feet (6.1 to 12.2 meters) high, and contain support systems for the facility, including diesel electric powerhouse; garbage disposal; fire pumps; storage tanks for fuel, potable water, emergency water (fire); food storage; maintenance shops and warehouses. The upper level (approximately 800,000 square feet) would contain multiple stories, including eight towers rising above the main platform. Transportation to and from the facility would be aided by a helicopter landing pad, and three docking spaces for cruise liners.

During the summer and autumn of 1988, the COE received comments from the public and other Federal and state agencies in response to the proposed project. Significant concerns were raised regarding the effects of the project on the marine habitat and living resources of the Stellwagen Bank system. Also, the Massachusetts Coastal Zone Management Office (MCZM) determined the proposal was likely to affect the Massachusetts coastal zone, and was thus subject to a Federal consistency review and determination, pursuant to § 307 of the Coastal Zone Management Act (15 CFR Part 930.53(b)). In addition to raising questions concerning structural stability and integrity, the Commonwealth asserted the proposal's likely effects would include:

• Operation of necessary support facilities in one or more ports or harbors;

• Increased boat and barge traffic within State waters, and in trips to and from Stellwagen Bank;

• Interaction with commercial and recreational fisheries on Stellwagen Bank;

• Potential environmental harm to fishery resources and the Bank's ecology, resulting from construction activities; volume and composition of discharges; fuel and other spills occurring during transfer operations; accidental loss of debris and litter; noise and light-induced changes in fish behavior;

• Potential environmental harm to threatened and endangered species, especially the northern right whale and sea turtles, resulting from noise and vessel traffic; and

• Interaction with whalewatch vessels.

The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) also stated that a NEPA environmental impact statement (including consultation pursuant to § 7 of the Endangered Species Act), would be necessary to address these concerns. In 1990, the applicant proposed the relocation of the artificial platform to a site further north (42_30'N x 70_06'W); and the expansion of the project to include two identical platforms, or "twin towers", each 1,000 feet wide and connected by a gangway. The COE has indicated numerous uncertainties still require resolution before the proposal may move forward, including the financial support for this project (T. Bruha, COE, pers. comm., June 1990). Additional inquiries to the COE have indicated there has been no further progress on this proposal (T. Bruha, ACOE, pers. comm., June, 1991).

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