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More public discussion is planned before any final decisions are reached concerning development of wave energy projects along the Oregon coast.
And that’s fine with Seaside Mayor Don Larson who wants more time to review how the plans would impact the economy and ocean views in Seaside.
“I am not sure that I want to see a large structure when I look out to the ocean,” said Larson. “I want more information before I can say whether harnessing wave energy will be positive for our area.”
Draft maps citing areas where potential offshore energy devices could be placed along the coast were unveiled in Astoria during two days of public workshops Dec. 15-16.
The Territorial Sea Plan Working Group and the Oregon Ocean Policy Advisory Council met to take public comment on changes to the state’s Territorial Sea Plan. The plan currently contains no language to address where energy production facilities might be placed off the Oregon coast.
In 2007, a number of wave energy companies submitted preliminary federal permit applications to develop energy production facilities off the coast. While none are ready to put devices into the water, the applications prompted a need to amend the Territorial Sea Plan, which governs activities within the three nautical miles of sea under the state’s jurisdiction.
Three layers of maps were unveiled during the two-day meeting. The maps will help OPAC determine areas to be set aside for fishing, recreational use and offshore energy production.
Each map – which can be found online at oregonocean.info – marks places predominately used in one of three areas – ecological, fishing and other “existing uses.” Places of multiple, overlapping uses are less likely to be used for further development.
The ecological layer contains information about nesting birds and their feeding areas, locations of rocky shores and reefs, and other ecologically sensitive places that should be preserved. A second layer marks places most commonly used for commercial fishing operations. The “existing uses” layer includes information on dredge material disposal sites, pipelines, navigation channels, utility corridors and other managed areas.
Recreational was taken into consideration as an “existing use,” but not to the extent that some interest groups wished.
“Recreation needs to be considered as an existing use,” argued Gus Gates of the Surfrider Foundation. “I’ve been involved in a two-year study that non-consumptive use – such as surfing, wildlife watching and just walking on the beach – brings $2.4 billion to the state each year.”
Using the layered maps, the Oregon Ocean Policy Advisory Council considered five different methods for determining future ocean development. By Dec. 16, they narrowed those options down to two – Option 2 and Option 5.
Under Option 2, any area with any use as defined on the layered maps would be considered unusable for offshore energy development. Paul Karin of the Department of Lands Conservation and Development said Option 2 would exclude about 95 percent of the territorial sea from offshore energy development.
Along the north Oregon coast, the 5 percent that would considered for use includes a large area around Nestucca Bay in south Tillamook County and a small sliver on the coast south of Astoria.
Option 5 would leave an additional 13 percent of the territorial sea open for further analysis and consideration. It opens up waters around Astoria, areas south of Astoria, and an area south of Garibaldi to possible development.
Option 5 also allows for temporary “floating zones,” which Karin described as “small areas where scientific equipment prototypes, for example, could be placed for a limited amount of time, a year or two. They would not be allowed to become permanent, large commercial operations.”
Public meetings on the two options will be held from mid-January through March in Reedsport, Waldport, Eagle Bay, Pacific City, Cannon Beach, Camp Rilea, Eugene and Portland. Dates and times will be announced.
After those meetings, the Territorial Sea Plan Working Group plans to give OPAC a recommendation on which plan to adopt. OPAC’s recommendation will be given to the Department of Lands Conservation and Development, which has the ultimate authority on the decision. The amended Territorial Sea Plan could be adopted as soon as September of next year, when the DLCD will meet in Salem.