Jessica Cejnar Andrews / Wednesday, Feb. 7 @ 3:21 p.m. / Environment, Infrastructure
Crescent City Harbor District Approves Tri-Agency JPA Minus Offshore Wind Energy Exclusion Clause
Crescent City Harbor Commissioners refused to restrict the Tri-Agency Economic Development Authority’s role in offshore wind energy discussions.
Acting in opposition to the Del Norte County Board of Supervisors, commissioners unanimously approved the Tri-Agency’s proposed bylaws on Tuesday, minus an offshore wind energy exclusion clause.
Their 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.
Harbor Commissioner Wes White noted that the Del Norte site is the largest of the six. Public comment on that document is due March 22.
“We need to be at the table even if we oppose it,” he told the Wild Rivers Outpost on Wednesday. “We need to know what’s going on and so that’s why I think one agency would be great to be at the table to represent this community.”
To White, that one agency is the Tri-Agency, a joint powers authority consisting of the harbor, Crescent City and Del Norte County. However, two weeks ago the Board of Supervisors — sans District 2 Supervisor Valerie Starkey, who was absent — approved a Tri-Agency joint powers agreement that included the following clause: “The Tri-Agency shall not support or pursue activities involving the offshore generation of wind energy.”
The Crescent City Council will likely discuss the joint powers agreement at its meeting on Feb. 20, City Manager Eric Wier. The amended agreement, including the changes the Harbor District has made, will then go back to the Board of Supervisors, Wier said.
“All three agencies need to agree to the same JPA,” he said.
At the Board of Supervisors’ Jan. 23 meeting, District 3 Supervisor Chris Howard urged his colleagues to remove the offshore wind energy restriction from the Tri-Agency agreement. When supervisors Joey Borges and Darrin Short refused to budge, stating they were standing up for Del Norte’s fishing industry, Howard reluctantly agreed to exclude offshore wind from the JPA.
On Tuesday, Kevin Hendrick, chairman of the Del Norte Democratic Central Committee, urged Harbor Commissioners to decline to approve the Tri-Agency JPA. He pointed out that BOEM is seeking comment on a programmatic environmental impact study for offshore wind energy leases in Morro Bay and Humboldt Bay by Feb. 20.
Hendrick also mentioned the CEC’s strategic plan.
“If the Tri-Agency is not tracking wind power, then who’s going to do it?” He asked rhetorically. “Who’s involved? Who’s asking questions? Who’s commenting on this? These things will affect us.”
At Tuesday’s meeting, White noted that at $70,000 Del Norte County contributes the most to the Tri-Agency. Crescent City contributes $30,000 and the Harbor District kicks in $10,000.
Brian Stone who, along with White, represents the Harbor District on the Tri-Agency Board and has been researching offshore wind energy for years, mentioned the CEC’s draft Assembly Bill 525 Offshore Wind Strategic Plan.
Adopted in 2021, AB 525 required the CEC to evaluate and quantify offshore wind generation potential in California waters. According to the CEC’s strategic plan, the North Coast could generate between 26.9 and 44.8 gigawatts of offshore wind energy.
Stone pointed this out at Tuesday’s meeting.
“This is the largest field off any place in California,” he said, referring to the Del Norte sea space. “They’re expecting to get anywhere from 8.3 to 13.8 gigawatts, that’s a billion watts. You’re looking at 13 billion watts of power coming on shore. It’s going to happen.”
Offshore wind energy aside, Stone asked his colleagues if they “want economic development in this county?” The Tri-Agency, he argued, was behind the new terminal at the Del Norte County Airport, high-speed broadband to the community and it helped the Harbor District recover after the March 2011 tsunami.
Harbor Commissioner Rick Shepherd said he was willing to support the Tri-Agency JPA, but questioned the district’s continued involvement. Shepherd said he wasn’t sure what the Crescent City Harbor was getting out of being involved in the Tri-Agency.
As for offshore wind, Shepherd said he’s opposed to development off the coast, but fishermen “can’t walk away from it.” They must be part of negotiations for potential benefits as well as negative impacts, Shepherd said.
Harbor District Board President Harry Adams said he, too, is against wind energy and the Tri-Agency, though he voted with the rest of his colleagues to approve the bylaws sans the wind energy exclusion clause.
It was Hendrick who urged the Harbor District to approve the Tri-Agency JPA while taking out the offshore wind energy exclusion clause. He referred to a statement Starkey made during a Del Norte Association of Realtors candidate forum that she would have urged her colleagues to allow the Tri-Agency to help educate the community about offshore wind.
On Wednesday, Hendrick told the Outpost that though Stone and White are researching and taking part in discussions surrounding offshore wind energy, it’s not the same as having a government agency staying on top of it.
Hendrick said he began his career as an environmental advocate, working for an environmental group for eight years and then for the city of West Hollywood as an environmental program manager.
For 20 years, Hendrick was director of the Del Norte Solid Waste Management Authority and when he retired, worked for three years for a solar energy firm.
“At one point we had a contract with the Catholic Diocese in San Diego to put solar panels on all their buildings,” he said.
As chair of the Del Norte County Democratic Party, Hendrick said people need to be smarter, especially elected officials. Borges and other county supervisors voting to not allow the Tri-Agency to be involved in wind power discussions was bad policy, he said.
On the other hand, Hendrick said, the Yurok Tribe, which held a two-day summit on offshore wind energy development in Humboldt County last week, is approaching the issue the right way.
“They have not taken a position for or against, but they are at the table,” Hendrick said. “They’re going to get mitigation, they’ll get money, they’ll get respect. And if Del Norte County or the Tri Agency is not involved, things will happen around us.”
To White, when it comes to negotiating community benefits for Del Norte County that would mitigate the negative impacts and provide perks such as local jobs and other programs, the Tri-Agency should be involved.
The Board of Supervisors could take up the reins to negotiate community benefits, but White questioned if they really represent the whole community.
Then there’s the possibility of the Crescent City Harbor District serving as an operations and maintenance port for wind farms off shore of Brookings and in Humboldt Bay, he said.
According to White, several different government agencies have identified the Crescent City Harbor as a potential operations and maintenance site.
“It could be a huge thing for the Harbor District,” he said. “There’s huge money. You talk about Humboldt bay, they got a grant for a half a billion dollars and they have another one that’s a matching (grant), so they’ve got a billion dollars. If we could get a tenth of that coming here, think about what that could do.”