State of Oregon Adopts Territorial Sea Plan for Ocean Energy Development

Plan will govern how and under what conditions ocean renewable energy will develop in state waters.

The State of Oregon has adopted a new Territorial Sea Plan (Part 5) that includes policies and maps governing how and under what conditions ocean renewable energy will be allowed to develop in state waters.

On Thursday, January 24th, after a full day of comments and discussion, the Land Conservation and Development Commission voted to adopt the staff recommendations of the Department of Land Conservation and Development.

Those recommendations were a result of three years of public hearings intended to ensure that stakeholder concerns were well understood. The initial terms of the plan are intended to be reviewed in seven years, or when one percent of the territorial sea is actually used for ocean energy, whichever comes first. This qualification ensures that necessary revisions are addressed in a timely manner.

Four sites have been identified and designated as “Renewable Energy Facility Site Suitability Areas (REFSSA),” which are areas where ocean renewable energy companies will be encouraged to develop first. Those areas equal about two percent of the territorial sea, which is approximately 25 square nautical miles. Two of those sites are ideal for nearshore technologies, while the other two are preferable for deep-water technology. All of the sites were selected based on several factors, including access to electrical grid connections, access to deep-water ports and service ports, ocean bottom type, bathymetry, and avoidance of conflict with ocean resources and the users of those resources.

Although two percent of the territorial sea has been initially identified as REFSSA, up to an additional three percent may be made available as REFSSA for development in the future. The actual footprint of projects in the water will be limited to three percent of the territorial sea, which is approximately 37 square nautical miles.

Importantly, the REFSSA provide for a facilitated regulatory process that avoids strenuous requirements regarding impacts to fishing, recreation and ecological resources. Those lower requirements are justified because the areas were selected to avoid impacts with ocean resources and resource users.

In addition to the REFSSA, a secondary level of areas called Resources and Uses Management Areas (RUMA) was created. Those areas are also available for ocean energy development, if the project avoids “significant adverse impacts” on ecological resources and fishing. Those RUMA represent about 11% of the territorial sea. In combination with the REFSSA, that’s about 163 square miles available for potential ocean renewable energy projects.

According to Oregon Wave Energy Trust (OWET) Executive Director, Jason Busch, “OWET believes the Territorial Sea Plan is a great step forward for Oregon. It strikes the correct balance between promoting the nascent ocean renewable energy industry and protecting the ocean and its users. Additionally, it provides a clear regulatory pathway for developers, and provides adequate space to support multiple technologies in areas specifically intended for wave energy development.”

This new Territorial Sea Plan, combined with the two in-water testing areas operated by the Northwest National Marine Renewable Energy Center, ensures that Oregon will continue to lead the nation in advancing this new form of clean, reliable power and support the family wage jobs the industry will create.