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Long Island Community Divided Over Offshore Wind Energy Site Proposal

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- The federal government has designated an offshore wind energy site miles off of Long Island as a major step in the direction of clean energy for the region.

From the windy Long Beach boardwalk, you may one day be able to see the wind at work, lowering energy costs.

"I think it's a great idea as long as it doesn't interfere with boating, shipping, or fishing," one resident told CBS2's Carolyn Gusoff.

"I don't think it would bother me. I still see the water, so it would not bother me," another said.

A proposal for the wind farm out in the Atlantic Ocean is a step closer to reality. The Federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management has designated a site 11 miles south of Long Beach.

"Offshore wind represents a really great opportunity for carbon-free energy generation. It literally is an untapped resource right off the coast," Abigail Ross Hopper, director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, said.

But some are not so optimistic. Nick Dimeglio, a lobster fisherman, said he's worried about the 81,000-acre wind farm in the middle of fertile fishing grounds.

"A lot of guys make a living out there. They'll say 'we can't fish there' and it will disturb the ground miles and miles away," Dimeglio told CBS2.

The area known as the New York Bite is especially important for scallops. There's staunch opposition from an industry which warns 100-plus wind turbines will interfere with scallop beds.

With construction still six years off, officials said there is time for discussion. And heading off possible opposition from homeowners, they've released visualizations of what the seven-story turbines will look like from the shore, by day and by night.

"Every year we wait, we lose," Adrienne Esposito, of Campaign for the Environment, told CBS2.

Enviromental groups frustrated by the slow pace of clean energy say this is a major milestone.

"Fishermen should support this. One of the worst things for fin fish and shell fish population is the warming of the oceans and of our estuaries," Esposito said.

An organization called the Fisheries Survival Fund says there is no reason the construction can't be done in a way that doesn't hurt their industry. They want the site moved.

Federal officials said the wind farm would produce a portion of energy for Long Island and New York City, and would not interfere with busy shipping lanes.

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