NORTH BEND, Ore. – The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management continues to move forward with the development of offshore wind farms on Oregon’s coast.
But the local seafood industry is urging BOEM to slow down before irreversible damage is done.
Coos County leaders kicked off the first of a number of meetings planned by several different organizations to inform and hear from residents on call areas released by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management last week.
During the meeting, fishermen, trawlers, even biologists gave feedback on the areas BOEM identified as most viable for wind turbines 13.8 miles off Coos Bay and Brookings.
“We’ve been attending BOEM webinars and meetings for many, many months, trying to stress the importance of having the call areas further off the coast. Those were largely ignored,” said Tim Novotny, Oregon Dungeness Crab Commission spokesman.
Fishermen insist the ideal depth is 1,300 meters or further – something trawler Nick Edwards says is already the case for central Atlantic wind farms. He fears that miles and miles of chains in the current call area will be tragic to marine life.
“We need to find a call area that works for all parties, and that’s known as the Oregon way.”
Officials like Coos County Commissioner Melissa Cribbins urged the community to comment, handing out packets with instructions to guide attendees through that process.
“If you really want your voice to be heard on this issue by BOEM, who makes the decision about where these lease areas go and where the wind floats can go, then you need to comment through the federal register process,” Commissioner Cribbins said.
“They figure out where they’re going to do it before they figure out if that’s the right place to do it, and then they go through all this process to figure out if they picked the right place,” said Arnie Roblan, a retired state senator who moderated Wednesday’s meeting. “What we need to do is to make sure we get ourselves in position where we can make the comments and do the kinds of things so people will hear us.”
Heather Mann, the Executive Director at Midwater Trawlers Cooperative, says so far, she believes BOEM hasn’t been transparent.
“I can’t tell you how many times people said, do not include the Bandon high spot, but there it was,” Mann said. “And now it’s not there, and we’re supposed to say ‘thank you.'”
Most want to slow the process; others believe a wind farm would be more expensive and take longer to develop than other renewable energy sources.
A representative for the Siuslaw Tribe says BOEM has not yet consulted with them and that tribes all the way to Alaska rely on salmon which are believed to be fascinated by wind turbine cables, which may impact repopulation.
Supporters in attendance for Wednesday’s meeting say they support only if proper research and surveying is done.
Cribbins said BOEM expects to meet with local tribes next week.
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