Jessica Cejnar Andrews / Wednesday, Feb. 21 @ 3:41 p.m.

Crescent City Council Refuses Offshore Wind Energy Exclusion Clause in Tri-Agency JPA, Putting It At Odds With Board of Supervisors

The California Energy Commission identified Del Norte County as having potential for offshore wind energy development. | Map courtesy of the CEC


Crescent City Harbor District Approves Tri-Agency JPA Minus Offshore Wind Energy Exclusion Clause

Del Norte Supervisors Approve Tri-Agency Agreement Restricting JPA's Involvement in Offshore Wind Energy Discussions

Though skeptical about whether offshore wind energy generation is even really in Del Norte County’s future, Crescent City councilors decided that it shouldn’t be in the Tri-Agency Economic Development Authority’s foundational document.

The City Council unanimously approved the Tri-Agency’s proposed joint powers agreement on Tuesday minus a clause excluding the entity from supporting or pursuing activities “involving the offshore generation of wind energy.”

This action mirrors a similar action Crescent City Harbor commissioners took on Feb. 6 and puts the City Council at odds with the Del Norte County Board of Supervisors. On Jan. 23, in the face of opposition from Joey Borges and Darrin Short, who were concerned for local fishermen, the Board agreed to exclude offshore wind energy from the JPA.

The Board will take another look at the joint powers agreement since all three member agencies making up the Tri-Agency must approve the same document.

At Tuesday’s City Council meeting, more than one member questioned why the Tri-Agency board appeared so focused on offshore wind energy.

“I don’t think we need to fear wind energy, but I don’t think that I should honor a vote for the Tri Agency to go forward and tie their hands on any specific industry,” Mayor Pro Tem Ray Altman said. “I think they will probably have successes in other areas with grants and other industries. I don’t believe we should associate wind energy specifically with this entity.”

Founded to drive economic recovery in the wake of the 1964 tsunami, Tri-Agency members have been trying to reboot the JPA for about two years. In 2022, about 11 years after the JPA defaulted on a U.S. Department of Agriculture loan, the entity’s member agencies agreed on a plan to pay it off.

In July 2023, each member agency decided it would contribute a set amount toward reviving the Tri-Agency, according to City Attorney Martha Rice. The JPA agreement was amended to include outreach to local tribes and stipulated that the Tri-Agency would not be a lender of last resort, a practice that led to the defaulted USDA loan, she said.

In addition to paying off the loan program, each member agency decided how much funding they’d be willing to contribute to keep the Tri-Agency going. Del Norte County contributes $70,000, Crescent City kicks in $30,000 and the Crescent City Harbor District contributes $10,000.

Rice noted that though the loan program led to its near insolvency, the Tri-Agency had established the local Council of Economic Advisors, created Del Norte’s first comprehensive economic development strategy and was instrumental in creating the Del Norte County Visitors Bureau. The Tri-Agency was also instrumental in projects at the wastewater treatment plant and the Del Norte County Airport, she said.

City Councilor Kelly Schellong also reminded her colleagues that the Tri-Agency had been instrumental for rebuilding the Crescent City Harbor following the 2011 tsunami.

“I think that political differences right now has become an issue with the Tri-Agency,” she said. “And I would like us all to remember the power the JPA has to benefit economic development in our county.”

Though she voted to approve the JPA minus the offshore wind clause, Schellong said she didn’t think including that statement meant anything because the Tri-Agency members can change the JPA “and say you can support it.”

Short, whose district includes Crescent City, gave the Council a breakdown of the conversation he and his fellow county supervisors had on Jan. 23. He said he, Borges and their colleagues Dean Wilson and Chris Howard attempted to find language that would “appease all parties at the table” and failed.

Howard moved to adopt the JPA with the offshore wind energy exclusion clause rather than face the demise of the Tri-Agency Economic Development Authority entirely. His motion came after Borges stated in November that he would support the Tri-Agency if it wasn’t involved in discussions surrounding offshore wind energy.

On Tuesday, Short disagreed that the offshore wind energy exclusion clause prohibits the Tri-Agency Economic Development Authority members from even talking about wind energy.

“I can’t recall the language as it’s in the JPA exactly, I believe it was leaning toward the [advocacy] of wind energy,” he said. “We didn’t want the Tri-Agency to blindly say, ‘yes we want it bring it here’ without science to back it up. It was an imperfect conversation and an imperfect motion … doing the action we did was to protect our fisheries.”

Though he had argued before the Board of Supervisors that offshore wind exclusion shouldn’t be in the Tri-Agency’s foundational document, Inscore agreed with Altman that it shouldn’t be the organization’s primary focus. But it was stymied from doing much else due to its defaulted USDA loan, Inscore said.

“We spent years battling with the USDA — three presidential administrations, multiple trips to Washington DC, trips to our USDA representatives in meetings in the State of California dragging us along saying, ‘Do this and we’ll do that,’ ‘wait till the new administration appoints their new director,’” the mayor told his colleagues. “We had nothing else we could effectively do. We had money, but it wasn’t ours because we had this debt and we had two harbor commissioners that were very interested in wind energy that brought it to the table to talk about.”

Harbor commissioners Wes White and Brian Stone were interested in the potential benefit to the Crescent City Harbor District if offshore wind energy is generated off of Del Norte County, Inscore said.

At the Board of Supervisors’ Jan. 23 meeting, White argued that Del Norte County is a “premier site” for offshore wind energy development. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, which manages the waters where those wind turbines would likely go, is requiring developers to negotiate community benefit agreements with local governments, White told supervisors.

“In other words, a lot of money can come from one of those community agreements,” White told supervisors. “Do we really believe that a natural resource that’s controlled by the federal government is not going to be developed and we have the power to restrict that development? Do we really believe we have control over what will happen here?”

On Tuesday, Inscore said he thinks that Tri-Agency should be part of offshore wind energy discussion in Del Norte County. But in addition to its joint powers agreement, the Tri-Agency also has a work plan approved by each member agency. That’s the document that should address offshore wind energy, according to Inscore.

“If the Board of Supervisors are instructed by their combined board that we do not want wind energy on the work plan, then it’s not going on the work plan,” he said. “If the county later on decides because of science — if science tells us this is a good idea and we should get on board — put it in the work plan.”

Inscore also pointed out that the Tri-Agency still has an approved joint powers agreement from 1997, though it doesn’t include the prohibition on being a lender of last resort.

Short added that the 1997 joint powers agreement also doesn’t outline out each member agency would fund the Tri-Agency. The county won’t contribute funding unless the JPA bylaws are changed, Short said.

The Crescent City Council’s decision comes as the California Energy Commission seeks public comment on a draft strategic plan identifying Del Norte waters as one of six “sea space areas” suitable for wind farms. Public comment is due March 22.

Feb. 20 was also the public comment deadline on a BOEM programmatic environmental impact study for offshore wind energy leases in Morro Bay and Humboldt Bay.


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