Solicitation by U.S. federal energy planners of wind-energy developer interest offshore of the U.S. state of Oregon has the state’s commercial fishing advocates organizing to push for major environmental analysis before any decision-making takes place.
“The effect of offshore wind development on fisheries, the habitat and the California Current is unknown. Placing giant turbines and anchors in a current system that is largely free-flowing and structure-free could cause irreparable harm to seabirds, marine mammals, fisheries management regimes and more,” Southern Oregon Ocean Resource Coalition Chair Susan Chambers said in a joint statement with other groups. “Robust environmental analyses need to be completed before areas are identified and leased, not after. Our productive California Current must be protected.”
Activists organized on the eve of an expected U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management announcement 25 February that it will look at new “call areas” spread over more than 2,000 square miles for potential future federal leasing. The activists planned to speak at the BOEM Oregon Renewable Energy Task Force meeting, where the announcement is expected to take place.
“The importance of where these gigantic, floating wind farms are placed cannot be underemphasized,” Oregon Dungeness Crab Commission Executive Director Hugh Link said. “If we do not get this decision absolutely correct, the fallout could have a dire domino economic effect on all Oregon commercial fisheries, including the vitally important Oregon Dungeness crab fishery.”
The Oregon call areas process is beginning as U.S officials, renewable energy advocates, and fishing and maritime industry representatives are still in the early stages of BOEM planning for wind energy areas off California’s Morro and Humboldt bays.
“These turbines are going to blow me off the water,” said Travis Hunter, president of the Fishermen’s Marketing Association, whose family has fished for years off southern Oregon and northern California and in the Humboldt Wind Energy Area. “These areas will displace hard-working fishermen.”
The future of several Oregon commercial fisheries and the shore-based service businesses, including processors and equipment providers, are at risk due to the potential development, according to Nick Edwards, an Oregon fisherman and secretary of the Shrimp Producers Marketing Cooperative.
“Developers are largely funded by foreign companies. Most of the profits, at Oregon taxpayers’ expense, will be funneled overseas. This is not ‘the Oregon way,’” Edwards said.
Midwater Trawlers Cooperative Director Heather Mann said fishing groups want a voice in the BOEM decision-making process.
“This is what results from government agency lip-service versus authentic engagement,” Mann said. “BOEM has essentially chosen prime fishing areas for turbines threatening not just Oregon harvesting and processing jobs, but food security as well.”
Photo courtesy of Principle Power/Redwood Coast Energy Authority