Lincoln County Commissioner Terry Thompson submitted written testimony on behalf of the Board of Commissioners to the U.S. Department of Interior, Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) this week opposing the issuance of a lease to Principle Power Inc. for an offshore deep water wind project 16 nautical miles off Coos Bay.
Thompson noted, “I really regret that the County is forced to take this tough stand on the Coos Bay Wind Float Project. It may take place west of Coos Bay, but it will have a major impact on the Pacific Whiting Fishery and Lincoln County’s economy. The proposed lease area will exclude the Pacific Whiting Fleet from a significant fishing grounds.”
Lincoln County recently contracted with a Corvallis research company to provide an updated picture of the County’s economy. The study found that the Pacific Whiting industry supplied $17. 4 million in personal income in Lincoln County in 2012. Pacific Whiting is an integral part of the distant water fisheries that homeport in Newport. Pacific Whiting vessels utilize the services of many marine service businesses in Lincoln County. These businesses support family-wage jobs, which means the ripple effect of that major fishery goes well beyond the $17.4 million.
Thompson noted, “The County, through our Fishermen Involved in Natural Energy and the Board, previously submitted testimony and wrote letters to, and met with, the U.S. Department of Interior requesting that they do a much better job of collecting information about ocean uses and the marine environment prior to leasing areas under their jurisdiction. The Department of Interior has not done their homework which leads to these kinds of conflicts.”
“The leasing process is flawed,” Thompson declared. “It’s not fair to the coastal communities or the fishing industry to be placed on the defensive reacting to these unsolicited lease applications. It hurts the potential to optimize the economic benefits from the ocean which includes companies that want to develop ocean energy projects, if we are in conflict instead of collaborating.”
Commissioner Thompson continued, “Principle Power, the lease applicant, did the right thing by working with a respected group of fishermen on the South Coast called SOORC (the Southern Oregon Ocean Resources Council). But, SOORC doesn’t represent all the fisheries on the South Coast. SOORC also doesn’t represent the interests of the Pacific Whiting Fleet based in Newport, Astoria, and Seattle. These groups were not required to be consulted on the front end of the process, but instead have to react to the permit request. This demonstrates that a more comprehensive information gathering, mapping and leasing process is badly needed to fully include all ocean users.”
The site Principle Power has proposed for their project occupies 10 square miles of productive Whiting fishing grounds. Pacific Whiting fishermen would lose as many as 15 square miles of fishing grounds because these vessels need room to haul and set their nets to avoid entangling their gear in mooring lines.
Thompson stated, “In Lincoln County, we strongly support the research of renewable ocean technologies. However, it needs to be located in the right places to minimize conflicts and maximize full use of every square foot of productive capacity. We deeply regret we’ve been put in this position to oppose Principle Power’s project, but if we don’t object now, this will be the first of many more conflicts in the future. We need major reforms in federal ocean leasing and planning law.”
Information and photos provided by Casey Miller PIO.