Jessica Cejnar Andrews / Wednesday, Oct. 4, 2023 @ 3:42 p.m.
Curry County On Offshore Wind Energy: 'No Way In Hell'
Curry County commissioners are gearing up for a fight against offshore wind energy development, with Jay Trost as the tip of the spear.
Trost will represent Curry County on the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s Oregon Intergovernmental Renewable Energy Task Force. Though convinced that current proposals to develop two areas off the coast is “ready, fire, aim at its greatest level,” the appointed commissioner said having a local voice on that task force is vital.
Still, Trost and his colleagues told residents on Wednesday that they’re a hard no on offshore wind energy development.
“I asked myself, ‘Is there any viable compensation to equate to what we would lose, and the answer is still no,’” Trost said. “If they said you’ll have a fully funded county government, we’ll provide energy rebates, we’ll do this, we’ll do that — but you can’t put a price tag on where we live, how we live and the economies that drive us.”
The Board of Commissioners formerly declared their opposition to local offshore wind energy development a week after BOEM representatives held open houses in Gold Beach, Coos Bay and Brookings.
Part of a 60-day public comment period that ends Oct. 16, BOEM is focused on two call areas for offshore wind energy development in Southern Oregon. The first is about 13.8 miles offshore of Charleston, Oregon, near the entrance to Coos Bay. The second call area is about 13.8 miles offshore from Gold Beach and Brookings.
According to Trost, who said he also met with representatives from one of the potential developers, RWS, the wind turbines would be 987 foot structures with 100 foot blades on floating platforms.
The Board wasn’t alone in its opposition. Residents crowded the meeting room in Gold Beach to see where commissioners stood. Those that spoke said offshore wind turbines threaten to reduce property values, decimate fisheries and wreck the view for the tourists that visit.
“As I see it, it does our county no good having these things offshore,” said Gold Beach resident Jeff Sheldon. “We’ve had no say in this. The meetings were perfunctory. They held the meetings to soothe us.
Patrick Hollinger, who is on the Port of Gold Beach Board of Commissioners, said while he supports renewable energy, an offshore wind farm requires large barges and support vessels coming and going out of deep water ports. Port Orford, Gold Beach and Brookings are not deep water ports, he said.
Curry County also doesn’t have the infrastructure to handle the 1,000 to 3,000 workers necessary to construct the proposed wind turbines, Hollinger said.
“How are we going to be able to support these efforts if this happens?” He asked rhetorically. “We don’t get to vote on this. It’s either going to happen or it’s not going to happen.”
Curry County Treasurer David Barnes, speaking as a private citizen, urged residents to visit the Humboldt Bay Harbor District’s website and read about their heavy lift marine terminal project.
Slated for the old pulp mill property on the Samoa Peninsula near Eureka, the terminal would be able to produce and ship the components needed for floating offshore wind turbines. Barnes pointed out that the facility is near a deep water channel and Pacific Gas and Electric operate a power plant near there.
“Power from this call area off of Brookings would end up going down there rather than coming across here,” Barnes said. “Our terrain is just not suitable for running transmission lines across.”
Barnes said he fears that tourism will suffer if offshore wind energy development is realized off the Curry County coast.
“That’s about all we have left,” he said. “At one point we had 19 or 20 lumber mills, now we’re down to one — South Coast Lumber. The second largest employer in Curry County isn’t even in Curry County, it’s down at Pelican Bay. We need help here in this county and this isn’t going to do it for us.”
Ted Fitzgerald, director of county operations, said that while he heard several residents rail against offshore wind energy in Curry County, others are also urging the community to get as much money out of the proposed development as possible.
Fitzgerald said he didn’t think that was the way to convince BOEM that Curry County’s not the right place for offshore wind turbines. He urged commissioners to take a “real stand” against offshore wind.
“When you tell me, ‘Yeah, I don’t like what you’re going to do with me, but if you are going to do it could you please pay me?’ I’m probably going to pay you and I’m not going to pay you as much as you hoped,” Fitzgerald said.
It was Commissioner Brad Alcorn who nominated Trost to represent Curry County on BOEM’s intergovernmental task force. There are too many unknowns and no value when it comes to offshore wind energy, Alcorn said.
"There is no way in hell that I would support this," he said.
According to Alcorn, Trost is already involved in advocating for Curry County’s payment in lieu of taxes from the federal government due to the loss in timber revenue. Alcorn said he felt voicing Curry County’s opposition to offshore wind will be similar.
“When you’re on these committees or task forces or boards and you go there and you speak, it’s not your opinion, it’s our opinion,” Alcorn told one resident who called for forming a firm coalition against offshore wind. “When Jay goes there and he speaks, he’s speaking and he’s representing all of us. He’s been effective so far in advocating for timber rights. I’m very pleased with where we are in that position.”
The Brookings Call Area begins 13.8 miles offshore of Gold Beach and Brookings and extends to about 46 miles offshore, according to BOEM. The eastern boundary water depth ranges from 410 to 1,115 feet roughly. The area stretches 42 miles from north to south and 22 miles east to west consisting of 286,444 acres.
The Coos Bay Call Area also begins about 13.8 miles offshore and extends to about 65 miles near Charleston. Its eastern boundary water depth ranges from 394 to 722 feet. It stretches 67 miles from north to south and about 41 miles east to west and consists of roughly 872,885 acres.
Efforts to explore Oregon’s offshore wind energy potential are part of the Biden-Harris administration’s goal of deploying 30 gigawatts of offshore wind energy capacity by 2030. They also come as members of the Tri Agency Economic Development Authority in Del Norte County figure out how offshore wind energy can benefit their community.