The words alone stimulate our imagination. They conjure up images of futuristic technologies, new industries, jobs and a limitless supply of renewable power.
Of course anytime we consider major new projects along our Oregon Coastline, we need to move cautiously. Study and research is a good thing, but we want to know- will this new technology work? What will it cost or what kinds of subsidies will be necessary? What happens to these huge machines when we are done with them??
For these reasons and more, I was pleased with the announcement earlier this year that the Pacific Marine Energy Center (PMEC) will be sited off of Newport.
This is a study and testing zone of limited size which will strive to answer many of our questions. The siting was supported by city and county leadership, the fishing community and by local business organizations. I supported it as well, seeing PMEC as an excellent extension of the local research cluster at Yaquina Bay including the Hatfield Marine Science Center, NOAA and the Ocean Observing Initiative.
As pleased as I was with the PMEC announcement, I was hugely disappointed days later with decisions to place one of the actual wave generation zones off the coast of Southern Tillamook County.
Two volunteer advisory boards have spent the past three years developing proposals. They held informational meetings and public hearings. They negotiated, compromised and eventually developed a consistent plan.
The Territorial Sea Plan Advisory Committee is a working group formed by the Land Conservation and Development Commission (LCDC) to make recommendations regarding the impact of wave energy sites along the Oregon Coast. TSPAC ranked Nestucca 6th out of 8 sites ranked.
Oregon’s Ocean Planning Advisory Council (OPAC) is a legislatively mandated marine policy advisory body to the Governor. OPAC recommended three sites while at the same time voting to remove the Nestucca site from further consideration.
But LCDC approved four sites with Nestucca as the second. And they gave no explanation at all for disregarding literally thousands of hours of community conversation and consensus.
Whenever we consider new opportunities, we have to balance them against any effects on existing industries, communities and traditions. New jobs are good, but not if they replace or harm existing jobs.
The Nestucca wave energy site includes the major fall/winter fishing and crabbing grounds of the historic Pacific City Dory Fleet. The dories have been plying the waters off of Pacific City for over 100 years. Being small boats, they have limited range and cannot be safely diverted to other fishing grounds.
I had written previously to oppose the Nestucca site. In fact, many letters of opposition were submitted to LCDC from the Tillamook County Commission, Lincoln County Commission, Oregon People’s Utility District Association, Pacific City-Nestucca Valley Chamber of Commerce, Pacific City-Woods Community Planning Advisory Committee, Neskowin Citizen’s Planning Advisory Committee, Fishermen’s Advisory Committee Tillamook and the Pacific City Dorymens’ Association.
Oregon has a long tradition of public participation in the decision-making process. Yet, as I said previously, I am seriously disappointed that the recommendations of formal advisory groups and local communities were not considered in this site selection process.
I have now begun meeting with the Coastal Caucus – an influential group of legislators representing districts along the Oregon Coast. We are continuing to review legislative and administrative alternatives to the LCDC decision. In addition, I am having conversations with the Governor’s office about the issue and have been assured a clearer explanation of the decision will be forthcoming.
Meanwhile, let’s be clear that wave energy devices are not going into the water off the Coast of Tillamook County yet. That date is far off, and the results of research from the PMEC site may determine if such a time will ever come.
Even so, we need clear answers to why OPAC and TSPAC recommendations were not addressed by LCDC. Failure to do so undermines confidence and cooperation with government. Finally, we need to ensure that if wave energy does come to Tillamook County it addresses fishing, crabbing and view shed issues.
(David Gomberg represents District 10 from Waldport to Tillamook and inland to Sheridan; for further questions, concerns or other issues, he may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)