Harbor dredging, tsunami maps, exploring franchise fees, focusing on tsunami-oriented signs, and siding with Pacific City’s Dorymen
The Depoe City had a wide range of issues to get through Tuesday night, among them wondering when their “World’s Smallest Harbor” might get dredged again. It was said that it’s been since 2005 in certain areas of the harbor and 2009 in others since the harbor got some TLC. Councilor Barbara Leff observed that dredging Depoe Bay is important to the city’s economy and further observed that there is no money in the federal budget to dredge it this year. And with all the political battles going on in Washington D.C., dredging in the 2014 fiscal year is in no way assured.
Leff told the council that there is a special federal dredging and port improvement fund supported by revenues from the nation’s ports that is supposed to be put to work keeping America’s bays and harbors working smoothly for commerce. “But I’ve been told that the six billion dollars in the fund has been tucked away to help lower the appearance of the federal deficit,” said Leff. “That money is supposed to be spent, not withheld.” It was observed by another city councilor that the Army Corps of Engineers no longer will be dredging behind the Depoe Bay check dam. The Army Corps reportedly would like the check dam removed and let the sediment behind it flow into the harbor to be scooped up with the rest of the sediment and silt on the harbor bottom. Staff said it would look into the issue.
City Councilors learned that the State Department of Geology is about to release its latest tsunami inundation maps for Depoe Bay. They were recently revised partly due to the behavior of the recent Japanese Tsunami that inundated more land and higher up than was forecasted. The new maps being issued by the agency for the Oregon Coast also show more broad and higher elevations being affected by a tsunami generated by an earthquake like the Cascadia Subduction Mega-thrust earthquake just offshore. The city council ordered six thousand of the new maps and will be placing them around town as well as available for residents. Even a refrigerator magnet version is seriously being pondered by the council.
The council was also told that with the new tsunami inundation maps coming out soon, the city will need to change locations of signs indicating which areas are expected to be inundated, official escape routes and gathering areas. A volunteer with CERT said she would be that volunteer and report back to the council on the need for bringing tsunami signage up to date.
Depoe Bay City Councilors also launched a study to determine how to standardize franchise fees derived from local utilities. The current cable TV franchise with the city is half-way through a one year extension of the old contract. Councilors said they would like to have a new contract with Wave Broadband before the extension runs out and to make sure it fits in with franchise fees as charged to other utilities like CLPUD, NW Natural Gas and others. The city attorney’s office is expected to help with the study along with volunteer help from a Depoe Bay resident who has many years of professional experience in dealing with such a complicated issue. Councilor Leff took note of the fact that Depoe Bay has no property tax, therefore long-term stable revenue sources must be firmed up. She said franchise fees may be a part of the solution.
And upon hearing a report from local charter boat company owner Loren Goddard, on the final plan approved by the state’s Land Conservation and Development Commission for wave energy use of offshore waters, the council decided to send a strongly worded letter to the LCDC chiding them for deciding to sacrifice important Dory Fleet fishing grounds off Pacific City for eventual use by wave energy devices. Goddard said that while Depoe Bay and Newport areas appear to have “dodged the bullet” on further withdrawals of fishing grounds, the fact that LCDC staff ignored the community’s firm opposition to harming the historic Dory Fishing Fleet off Tillamook County. Goddard said five years of hard, honest work went into the recommendations on what areas could be given up for placing wave energy devices offshore. “Yet they ignored us on the Dory fishing community,” he said. “What other area might LCDC staff declare suitable for wave energy expansion on a similar whim?” The protest letter to state LCDC was passed unanimously. Goddard thanked them for their support, adding that the Dorymen Fishing Association is appealing the loss of a prime fishing area off Pacific City.
Comments were made and echoed by several city councilors that the wave energy industry has yet to produce any wave energy device capable of producing electricity at rates that the average Oregon family can afford. Electricity from current prototypes is said to be four to five times higher than current power rates. If actually placed in the waters off Oregon, the devices would force the federal government to pay huge subsidies to wave energy investors to give them a high enough return on investment, while, at the same time shielding electricity customers from sky high power bills. In essence a long-term steady drain on the U.S. Treasury to subsidize wave energy. Such experimentation is falling out of favor in Europe where Germany has begun to curtail the expansion of wind, solar and wave energy and re-assessing their approach to reducing their carbon footprint.
On another green energy front right here in Oregon, AltaRock Energy, which runs an experimental injection geothermal project south of Bend, just struck pay dirt by proving that multiple underground lakes of 800 degree water can be created at a depth of 10,000 feet. The next step in the process is to pump that hot water back up to the surface and run it through heat exchangers which creates steam to drive electric turbines. It represents a breakthrough in devising ways to use green energy not just when the sun shines, wind blows or waves head for shore, but with a steady flow of power everyday of the year, 24/7 virtually pollution free. AltaRock spokesmen say multiple extraction wells from a single injection site greatly reduces the cost of such power generation. They say they’ll need at least another three to five years to prove out the technology. The U.S. Department of Energy, Google, Khosla Ventures, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Advanced Technology Ventures and Vulcan Capital are major financial backers of the Newberry Crater project.
Meanwhile many wave energy experts predict it could take five to eight years to perfect their technology.
So the race is on.