Despite objections, BOEM finalizes wind energy areas off Oregon coast
(NEWPORT, Ore.) Despite overwhelming opposition from tribes, fishing organizations and coastal communities, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) announced the release of the final wind energy areas (WEAs) off Oregon’s south coast today. The WEAs remain unchanged from the draft areas released earlier this year. State agencies, fishermen, environmentalists, state legislators and others raised significant concerns about the draft WEAs, apparently to no avail.
“This is a slap in the face to the many stakeholders who have been trying to engage with BOEM for the last few years,” said Heather Mann, Director of the Midwater Trawlers Cooperative. “BOEM is a rogue federal agency pushing a dangerous agenda largely unchecked. BOEM will stop at nothing until our oceans are littered with wind turbines and all just to meet an arbitrary political deadline.”
Three weeks ago, Oregon’s Coastal Caucus sent BOEM a follow-up letter detailing concerns about the flawed BOEM process and the need for authentic engagement which most agree has not occurred. Oregon state legislators noted, “Coastal community members and individuals tied to the fishing industry have overwhelmingly spoken with great opposition towards offshore wind. These concerns have been echoed by marine scientists, engineers, environmentalists, tribes, and coastal municipalities. We cannot move forward with offshore wind in Oregon until the needs and concerns of these groups have been addressed.”
Mann said authentic engagement with BOEM has been non-existent. “The final wind energy areas are in prime fishing grounds where millions of pounds of sustainable seafood have been harvested. The areas are prime habitat for marine mammals and include nursery grounds for important fish species. BOEM is pitting renewable energy against sustainable food production.”
Fourth-generation fisherman Chris Cooper was also caught off guard by the announcement. “I am shocked and I’m angry,” he said. Cooper has plied the waters off southern Oregon for years. “We gave BOEM our track lines for where we fish, and I guess they have decided that our businesses and livelihoods are worth trading off to create gigantic wind farms. We will not be able to fish in these areas and we have no idea what the impact of these installations will be on the fish species found in there.”
The scale of floating offshore wind being contemplated for the West Coast does not currently exist anywhere in the world. The technology is also not successfully deployed in waters deeper than 300 meters. The WEAs finalized by BOEM for floating turbines off the Oregon coast are at 1300 meters.
Mann summed the situation up by saying, “This is a giant experiment and unfortunately, Oregon’s seafood industry and coastal communities are the ones who will end up paying the price.”
According to the BOEM announcement, the next steps in the process involve preparation of an environmental assessment of potential impacts in those areas. This will include a 30-day public comment period, during which concerned citizens are encouraged by Mann to voice their opposition.