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Wave energy plan needs local input

Modified: Friday, Jul 29th, 2011


Pictured is an Aquamarine Oyster I wave energy device off the coast of Scotland. The state’s Ocean Policy Advisory Council’s Territorial Sea Plan Working Group is urging local governments to get involved in saying where the devices will be placed off Oregon’s coast. Theresa Wisner, of Newport based Aquamarine Power USA, said the industry wants to work with communities to find the best locations for wave energy generators. (Courtesy photo)


Devices could affect coastal views

Wave energy is coming to the Oregon coast, and the window for local governments to influence where those devices are situated is rapidly closing.

Oregon, through its Ocean Policy Advisory Council (OPAC), has been updating its territorial sea plan since 2008 to identify siting locations for wave energy projects. Up to this point, city, county and other local agencies have given little input to the plan, which is scheduled to be completed by next spring.

Getting local governments engaged has to be a priority, members of the OPAC Territorial Sea Plan (TSP) Working Group said during a Monday meeting in Newport.

For communities, one of the biggest concerns is likely to be how wave energy devices affect viewing the ocean. Tillamook County Commissioner Tim Josi told the working group that the viewshed issue is “a sleeping giant” that could kill Oregon’s fledgling wave energy industry.

“If the public that live and has second homes on the Oregon coast feel like they’ve been shortchanged in terms of being able to weigh in, it could stop this whole thing, and you’d have a hell of time getting it fixed,” Josi said. “Once you start talking to people about what the view might be, you can start diffusing some of their concerns.”

Josi also serves on the Oregon Land Conservation and Development Commission, the state agency that will ultimately approve the TSP updates.

Theresa Wisner with Newport based Aquamarine Power USA, LLC said wave energy devices would not significantly alter ocean views.

“When you actually see the devices in the water, they are not prominent as people think they are,” Wisner said. “When they’re in the water, they mostly duck totally under the waves. We want to work with communities to find the absolute best places to site the devices.”

No firm plans now exist on a program to educate the public on the issue in the coming months. One possibility is to insert scaled shapes of wave devices in photos of “postcard view” areas of the coast, said Kaety Hildenbrand of Oregon State University’s Sea Grant and OPAC TSP Working Group member.

Local government issues were on the agenda Monday, but few representatives from Lincoln County governments attended. Newport Community Development Director Derek Tokos said although cities and counties may not have much say on what takes place off their shores, they do have jurisdiction over onshore-related facilities.

“We’d really like to see a seamless process,” Tokos said. “We don’t want to see a situation where decisions are being made in-water independent of decisions being made in upland areas. We’re going to have constituents, if they don’t want what’s in the in-water, try and take it out on the upland facility. That’s not a good process. You want them connected.”

The Newport City Council this spring voted to work with Lincoln County on what the two agencies would like to see in the territorial sea plan update. To date, no meetings have taken place and none have been planned, Tokos said.

Paul Klarin, co-chair of the TSP working group, along with Tillamook County Commissioner Josi, Nehalem Mayor Shirley Kalkhoven and others agreed to a conference call next week to discuss how to quickly get local jurisdictions involved in the TSP update process.

Oregon’s near-shore waters are considered some of the best in the world for development of wave energy. The state began updating its territorial sea plan three years ago, prompted by several wave energy companies filing for choice sites (including some on prime fishing grounds) with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. In a 2008 memorandum of understanding, FERC agreed to look to Oregon’s updated territorial sea plan when making energy siting decisions.

David Allen, TSP Working Group co-chair, said the group will meet again in September to review additional data from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. Additionally, public meetings to review plan options will take place in October and November.

More information about the TSP amendment process and wave energy is available online at www.oregonocean.info and www.oregon.marinemap.org.

Contact reporter Larry Coonrod at 541-265-8571 ext 211 or larry@newportnewstimes.com.



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