Representative Peter DeFazio (OR-04) and Oregon Sen. Wyden sent a bicameral letter to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) about their significant concerns with the ongoing siting process for offshore wind facilities off the southern Oregon coast. BOEM has issued Call Areas for potential offshore wind leasing off Coos Bay and Brookings. These Call Areas are the first step in the leasing process and are meant to assess commercial interest and public input on offshore wind leasing activities in the designated areas. However, stakeholders have raised critical issues that need to be addressed before the process should move forward.
In the letter, DeFazio and Wyden urge BOEM to prepare a Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for wind energy off the entire Pacific Coast to address critical data gaps on environmental impact, to move the Oregon Call Areas beyond a 1300-meter depth to minimize the impact on sustainable fishing operations, formally consult with all relevant stakeholders throughout the siting process, and fully collaborate with federal partners. The letter calls on the agency to take a thorough and collaborative approach to ensure that economic, environmental, and safety impacts of the nascent technology of floating offshore wind facilities in the Coos Bay and Brookings Call Areas are understood and mitigated before moving any further in the siting process.
The Oregon Members express concern that the Call Areas would significantly disrupt sustainable fishing operations. They write, “The seafood industry is economically critical to Oregon as a whole, and especially Oregon’s coastal communities. Fishing grounds have been steadily shrinking for decades and coastal communities up and down the Pacific coast continue to suffer economic and cultural loss. Further limiting Oregon’s fishing industry from the productive fishing grounds in the current Call Areas could spell economic disaster for these towns that have relied on harvesting seafood for generations.”
“I strongly support the use of renewable energy alternatives, like wind, solar, wave, and thermal energy, to address the climate crisis, but the installation of these alternatives cannot be to the detriment of vitally important fisheries, mariner safety, near- and on-shore habitat, and endangered marine species. Any offshore wind leasing near Coos Bay and Brookings will have a significant impact on these coastal communities and the Pacific Coast ecosystem, but BOEM has a troubling history of ignoring the most immediate stakeholders on this issue,” said Representative Peter DeFazio.
“BOEM needs to seriously revise its decision-making process to ensure that stakeholders have a full seat at the table and that the cumulative impact of Pacific coast offshore wind leasing is understood and mitigated before moving forward.” “Fishing is an integral and iconic part of the coastal economy with job-creating benefits that ripple into communities throughout Oregon,” Senator Wyden said. “Oregonians and coastal users have spoken, calling for more comprehensive analysis to address data gaps for wildlife, fisheries and user conflicts with the call areas. It's important that BOEM's process meets these concerns and builds trust and transparency through opportunities for engagement and collaboration at the ground level,” said Charlie Plybon, Oregon Policy Director, Surfrider Foundation.
“It does not make sense to risk an environmental catastrophe and create a food security issue trying to solve the climate crisis. BOEM must slow down this process and the environmental and economic impacts must be known and understood upfront before leases are issued – at the end of the process, which is the current plan, is too late,” said Heather Mann, Executive Director, Midwater Trawlers Cooperative. The Oregon members also call on BOEM to consult with all relevant stakeholders and federal partners including NOAA, the Pacific Fisheries Management Council, and the United States Coast Guard to make sure the most relevant expertise is included in each step of the decision-making process.