Where future wave energy devices are destined to be placed along the Oregon Coast is still very clouded.
Where future wave energy devices are to be placed, whether on the surface or on the ocean floor, is still very much unknown even after the final meeting of those trying to make such recommendations. Oregon’s Territorial Sea Plannning Committee (TSP) wrapped up five years of hard work at trying to find places along the Oregon Coast where the budding wave energy industry can test and ultimately position their wave energy devices to help meet the country’s green energy goals set by the federal government.
Mirroring discussions earlier last month in Newport, top location candidates decided by TSP members Thursday are in order of importance; 1-Camp Rialea at Warrenton, 2-Lakeside (Coos County), 3-Reedsport at a near-shore location, 4-Langlois (south of Reedsport), 5-Pacific City/Nestucca, 6-Newport (north of Yaquina Head), 7-Gold Beach and 8-Netarts in Tillamook County.
Committee member, commercial fisherman and Lincoln County Commissioner Terry Thompson strenuously protested Newport still being in the running for a wave energy development site. Thompson said the Lincoln County coastline has already had fishing areas removed to accomodate marine reserve study areas along with other withdrawals in addition to having already committed to withdrawing more good crabbing areas to make way for an OSU wave energy testing area off South Beach. Thompson said to add more areas for fishing grounds withdrawals is unacceptable.
However, Thompson was not the only representative of a coastal community decrying what’s been described as the “forced accommodating of potential wave energy sites” by state officials. TSP representatives from the Port of Coos Bay strongly complained that they were on the chopping block to lose three or four lucrative fishing areas to future wave energy operations and that such losses for them are also unacceptable.
Discussions then centered around the idea that none of Oregon’s deep water ports should have to cough up more than two locations. Thompson piped up again saying that what matters is which area’s have already given up their fair share of fishing areas.
In a move that could be interpreted as Newport being thrown under the bus, a majority of the committee voted that there should be no more than two lost areas to each of the three deep water ports, Astoria, Newport and Coos Bay. Since Newport is counting on OSU’s proposed test site off South Beach to count as one of those sites, it could technically mean that Newport could lose at least one or maybe even two more fishing areas to energy development depending on how higher ranking state officials view the political calculus. Further complicating the politics is that the OSU site is tentatively expected to be placed beyond the three mile limit of the Territorial Sea which is far better suited for wave energy testing.
Other discussions produced an observation that when wave energy companies begin applying for permits to put their devices in the water, they may prefer some areas over others which could further cloud the issue by clumsily violating the effort to spread the pain equally among the coast’s three major ports.
So, in the end, the Territorial Sea Planning Committee (TSP) generally agreed to ranking target areas (listed above) that will be passed on to the next review panel, the Ocean Policy Advisory Committee (OPAC). OPAC, of which TSP member and Newport City Councilor David Allen (pictured) is a member, will review the TSP report, take further public testimony, and then make its own recommendations to the Oregon Land Conservation and Development Commission (LCDC). The LCDC will review it all again and decide how all this should work out. From there the final configuration would be wrapped into in a bill and be given to the legislature to make the final plan part of state statutes regulating Oregon’s territorial waters. But before the legislature finalizes anything, the proposed plan will be presented and publicly debated in legislative committees, passed by the state house and senate, and then would have to be signed by the governor before it could become law. And, of course, in these litigious times, if any industry or other group isn’t happy with the results or believed their needs or interests were trampled, they could file a lawsuit and possibly tie the plan up for years.
Hovering over this uncertainty is the shadow of the federal government which has plans of its own to allow wave AND wind energy development in federal waters from just beyondOregon’s territorial three mile limit out to 12 miles. There are enormous sums of money to be made in green energy development requiring large subsidies from the federal government to make wind and wave energy pencil out in order to reduce the country’s over-reliance on fossil fuels like coal, oil and natural gas. These mountainous subsidies allow wind and wave energy projects to turn a profit because the power generated by wave and wind devices is very costly. Although they work, their cost per kilowatt hour of energy is many times that of hydroelectric dams, coal and natural gas power plants.
Critics contend that the whole process should slow down long enough for research and development to produce wave energy devices that can produce power at much lower cost thereby reducing federal subsidies, especially in an era of calls, if not shouting, to reduce the nation’s budget deficit. State and local officials who have participated in Oregon’s Territorial Sea Planning saga over the past five years say it’s highly unlikely that any wave energy company will be applying for a permit to launch their energy devices off the Oregon Coast for another seven to ten years. They have much more designing and testing to do before they can fire them up.
Therefore nobody is predicting that any of today’s commercial, sports or recreational fishing will be changing much over that time even if future research and development eventually produces more cost-effective wave energy devices and brings down costs to something more reasonable requiring lower or no federal subsidies.