Jessica Cejnar Andrews / Thursday, April 20 @ 3:56 p.m. / Infrastructure, Local Government
Curry County Treasurer Urges Commissioners to Demand Feds Offer Financial Cut When They Start Selling Offshore Wind Energy Leases
Curry County’s treasurer urged commissioners to consider sending a letter to the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management demanding a financial cut once they begin selling wind energy leases off the coast.
Offering an update to the county’s elected officials, David Barnes said Wednesday that wind turbines off the Curry coast could negatively impact fisheries and other “sea life migration,” which could, in turn, negatively affect the region’s tourism industry and economy.
Commissioners shared Barnes’ concerns, with Brad Alcorn saying, “it’s something the government is forcing upon us” and Jay Trost stating that Curry County’s view will be permanently damaged.
“I think we need to begin having substantial discussions,” Trost said. “We can definitely start with a resolution voicing our opposition. In terms of compensation, we need to involve several facets of industry in terms of the financial consequences that are going to occur.”
Barnes compared potential offshore wind energy development to Curry County’s history with logging and forestry.
Though he didn’t cite specific examples of potential offshore wind development in Curry County waters, Barnes pointed to the two leases sold near Humboldt County. In November, BOEM announced that California North Floating LLC, a subsidiary of Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners, and RWE Offshore Wind Holdings LLC, a German multinational energy company, placed the winning bids for two lease areas in the roughly 132,000 acres roughly 20 miles west of Eureka.
Barnes also brought up a federal bill that would share revenue from offshore wind development with coastal states, but he said he didn’t want to wait that long.
“That might be years down the road before there’s any profits,” he said. “I would like to see, as soon as BOEM sells leases out here, that we start getting money — whether it’s 1 percent, 5 percent (or) 10 percent of the leases they sell; if they’re going to do a one-time payment of 10 percent. If they’re selling leases for $1 billion, if we get 10 percent of that that’s $100 million.”
Barnes made his request after Curry County commissioners heard a presentation from Steve Beyerlin, principle consultant for Oregon Strong LLC, on Rogue River fisheries issues. Beyerlin said back in the 1970s and 1980s, the Rogue River had chinook salmon runs of about 60,000 fish. Now, “they’re not there,” he said.
Barnes said Curry County “wants something out of this.” He urged commissioners to send BOEM a letter stating their opposition, but saying if wind energy goes forward “we need to help mitigate the damage and impact it’s going to have on us.”
Ted Fitzgerald, Curry County’s interim director of operations, urged commissioners to continue to oppose wind energy development. He noted that previous efforts to harness offshore wind to produce electricity had failed because of the county’s isolation.
The infrastructure to deliver transport that electricity out of the area isn’t available either, Fitzgerald noted.
“It’s hard to get here and it’s hard to make stuff happen,” he said, urging commissioners to have the discussion and open it up to the public. “I would say absolutely not and, again, I like rooms full of fishermen showing up and being loud.”
Alcorn suggested he and his colleagues start the discussion by opposing offshore wind energy development and reaching out to the leadership in each city in the county to see if they also oppose it.