May 27 2021

Biden Administration Sees Victory in CA Offshore Wind; Fishermen See Deception

Windmill park green energy during sunset in the ocean, offshore wind mill turbines Netherlands

Photo Credit: fokkebok/iStock/Getty Images Plus

 

The White House announcement Tuesday of fast-tracking large areas in California to offshore wind brought with it the sharp-edged blade of betrayal to fishermen trying to work with federal agencies to retain their livelihoods.

In Washington, D.C., far away from the areas being discussed, the White House convened National Climate Advisor Gina McCarthy, California Gov. Gavin Newsom, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland and Under Secretary for Defense for Policy Dr. Colin Kahl for the announcement of the first commercial scale offshore wind energy areas off the Pacific Coast. The Biden administration hailed it as a significant milestone to achieving the goal of creating good-paying, union jobs through the deployment of 30 gigawatts of offshore wind by 2030, the administration said in a press release. These initial areas for offshore wind development in the Pacific Ocean could bring up to 4.6 GW of clean energy to the grid, enough to power 1.6 million American homes, according to the White House.

Specifically, the Department of the Interior, in coordination with the Department of Defense, identified an area (“the Morro Bay 399 Area”) that will support three gigawatts of offshore wind on roughly 399 square miles northwest of Morro Bay, the White House said. The Department of the Interior is also advancing the Humboldt Call Area as a potential Wind Energy Area, located off northern California.

The White House said the Department of Defense played a critical role in identifying the areas because it engages in testing, training and operations essential to national security off the California coast. The DoD objected to some of proposed areas in the past but was working with the state and Interior in the past.

“Tacking the climate crisis is a national security imperative and the Defense Department is proud to have played a role in this important effort,” Under Secretary for Defense Policy Dr. Colin Kahl said in the press release. “… Throughout this effort, the Defense Department has worked tirelessly with the White House, the Department of the Interior, and the state of California to find solutions that enable offshore wind development while ensuring long-term protection for testing, training, and operations critical to our military readiness.”

But the announcement shocked the seafood industry. The area is larger than expected and effectively negates good-faith efforts to work with the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management and state agencies. The seafood industry has tried to elevate the importance tof fishing and processing and the need to identify important harvesting and natural resource areas prior to establishing an area for wind turbines.

“The fishing industry has been told these areas work best for offshore wind developers, but no one has asked us what areas would work best for us,” Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations Executive Director Mike Conroy said. “There has been no effort to engage with or partner with fishermen, no planning process to evaluate fisheries data and spatial needs to inform this development, nor is there a clear process for how to do that through permitting now that we have missed the opportunity to plan effectively. The areas announced today are large areas; and with additional Call Areas likely to be identified off California and Oregon later this year, a comprehensive, upfront, cumulative effects analysis should be required.”

The administration’s move mirrors those by BOEM on the East Coast with the recent approval of the Vineyard Wind offshore wind project. The pattern of excluding the seafood industry is not new. Fishermen and processors on the West Coast have seen similar BOEM patterns.

Another case in point: BOEM announced this week it would hold a California Renewable Energy Intergovernmental Task Force meeting on June 24 and sent a notice to the seafood industry to join. The public is invited to “listen and attend on June 24, 2021, to discuss both central and northern California offshore wind planning areas considered for future leasing and next steps in the BOEM leasing process moving forward,” the notice said.

However, that’s also the first day of the Pacific Fishery Management Council meeting.

“It is inexcusable that BOEM, who has claimed to engage closely with the Council, would schedule a Task Force meeting during the Council’s meeting,” the PCFFA said. “The fishing community will now have to choose between attending the Council meeting and participating in discussions fostering our sustainable fisheries or attending a meeting where they will be told that dire consequences are possible for the fisheries the Council manages.”

Morro Bay fishermen were particularly angry.

“We’re totally against this,” Tom Hafer, president of the Morro Bay Commercial Fishermen’s Organization, was quoted as saying in a New York Times story. “We’ve been consulting with the Castle Wind people for a long time, and we helped pick the spot and developed a memorandum of understanding on an area that we thought would be sustainable for us. That was about 120 square miles. This is 399 square miles. We’re going to lose a whole bunch of fishing grounds. There will be cables in the water. We don’t know how the whales will react. There are a lot of unknowns. People don’t realize how massive this project will be.”

The Responsible Offshore Development Alliance noted the seafood industry’s efforts.

“The California and broader Pacific fishing communities have raised multiple direct requests and concerns to BOEM, the Pacific Fishery Management Council, and others that merit prompt attention,” RODA said in a press release.

These include:

  • Expanded fisheries representation on BOEM Intergovernmental Task Forces;
  • Greater opportunities for public input;
  • Additional resources for fisheries-related research and environmental review;
  • Performance of full environmental analyses at the onset of project siting;
  • Enhanced interstate coordination;
  • Implementation of an inclusive marine spatial planning process prior to lease decisions;
  • Advancement of science processes and products that include fishermen’s traditional knowledge; and
  • Decisions based on appropriate time series and data sets with sufficient timelines to gather such data, which is largely unavailable at present.

The Pacific Council will likely discuss meaningful engagement with BOEM again at its June Council meeting.

Susan Chambers
SeafoodNews.com
1-541-297-2875
susanchambers@urnerbarry.com


Posted with permission from SeafoodNews

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