January 22nd, 2013
By Lori Tobias
“This pretty much is the playbook for the marine renewable energy in Oregon’s territorial sea for the immediate future,” said Paul Klarin, marine affairs coordinator for the Department of Land Conservation and Development.
“Some people think it will be a starting gun for industry to jump on certain areas. It does signal Oregon has a plan in place. The door is open for renewable energy.”
The 32-page document, part five of the Oregon Territorial Sea Plan, is to be voted on by the Land Conservation and Development Commission at its meeting Jan. 24 in in Salem. It is an amendment to the original draft of part five adopted in 2009.
That early draft came after then-Gov. Ted Kulongoski worked out a memorandum of understanding with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission that halted the permitting process to give the state time to come up with standards for the siting.
“This has been four years in the works,” said Tim Josi, chairman of the Territorial Sea Plan Advisory Committee. “We control our destiny with this plan. Without it, the federal government controls our destiny.”
The Ocean Policy Advisory Council, the Territorial Sea Plan group and other local entities held more than 100 public meetings, as well as dozens of conferences and workshops to learn who uses the sea and how, where natural resources and marine habitats are, and how such facilities would impact scenic beauty.
“It was a painful process,” said Josi. “Fishermen were the primary controversy … having to tell where their best sites are, and not only that, but having to give up fishing grounds. No matter what you do there is going to be one fishery or another hurt. People who live shore side don’t want to look at these facilities. People who use the ocean for recreation want to make sure their playgrounds are protected. We had to develop standards for all of those.”
Once that information was gathered, it was used to create a map delineating the Territorial Sea – the three miles of sea off the Oregon Coast – into areas defined by uses and resources.
The groups also came up with four areas – called Renewable Energy Facility Suitability Study Areas – where siting of renewable energy facilities is preferred. They include areas off Camp Rilea, Nestucca, Reedsport (where Ocean Power Technology holds a permit for a wave energy project) and Lakeside. The four areas cover about 22 square miles, or less than 2 percent of the territorial sea, Klarin said.
The areas could be home to wave-energy buoys, which would supply a new source for electrical power. Different buoys would have different capacities but the one planned off, for example, Reedsport would generate about 150 kilowatts, enough electricity to power about 100 homes.
But with the exception of exclusion areas – marine reserves and dredge disposal sites – companies can apply for permits beyond the preferred sites.
“That’s the whole point,” Klarin said. “It’s flexible; it allows the industry to have a broader range of opportunity.”
The standards for developing beyond the preferred study areas, however, will be much higher, depending on how the area is defined, he said.
Companies wanting to develop in a Proprietary Use Management Area — areas where authorized uses already exist — for example, would have to work with the existing user to see if there was a place they could operate, while those seeking to develop in conservation areas would have to meet the highest threshold of standards.
While the siting is an important piece of the amended Part 5, it’s only one component of a comprehensive plan, Klarin said.
“It’s a total package,” he said. “It applies the standards for projects that would be proposed for any of the areas in the Territorial Sea Plan. You have these project review standards for the environment, fishing, view sheds and recreation. Standards apply not just to sites, but other areas as well.
“The review process is more clearly identified, who’s involved, the plan maps, standards that apply to that plan and we added in expanded financial assurances. We have more clarity what it is we as a state would require in terms of financial assurances.”
Painful as the process might have been, many seem happy with the outcome.
The industry is happy Oregon is taking a proactive approach, said Jason Busch, executive director of the Oregon Wave Energy Trust.
“We’re walking a fine line,” Busch said. “The goal is to implement protections to make sure wave energy doesn’t run roughshod over the ocean. At the same time the plan has to be clear enough that there is ability for industry to move forward. We’ve created tremendous protections. At the same time, we created reasonable regulatory pathway for the industry to be able to move forward with certainty in Oregon in order to justify their investment. It’s not perfect. We’ll be working on it and fixing it for years.”
Environmental groups are also pleased with the process, said Gus Gates, Oregon policy manager for the non-profit Surfrider.
“There’s been a lot of hard work that has gone into this,” Gates said. “When you look at the full package, I really think we should feel pretty darned proud as a state. Arguably we now know more about where the human activities occur and where important habitats are in the ocean than at any other time in our history and that is a pretty significant thing.”