NEWPORT — Offshore drilling may not be on the mind of every American, but for coastal businesses, it could have a grave effect.
The federal administration proposed a plan in January to open 90 percent of U.S. waters to new oil and gas drilling. That drilling threatens the health of the Pacific coast marine environment, which in turn could cost the livelihoods of coastal businesses which depend on it.
On Thursday, Local Ocean Seafoods hosted the Surfrider Foundation’s traveling surfboard, a symbol of opposition to offshore drilling. Laura Anderson, owner of Local Ocean Seafoods, explained that she was glad to host the event because the issue is so close to home.
“As somebody who highly values our seafood scene and coastal culture, the risks to our economy and way of life is too high,” said Anderson. “I’m glad Surfrider decided to take this up.”
The board began its journey in San Diego, stopping at coastal communities all along the way and collecting signatures from local businesses in the coastal recreation and tourism industries. The businesses signing the surfboard are also joining the Business Alliance for Protecting the Pacific Coast, a group of businesses along the Pacific coast which “support policies, resolutions, grassroots efforts, and more to prevent new offshore drilling and educate our elected leaders on the economic value of a clean and healthy ocean,” as stated on their website.
“The folks who are signing the surfboard are joining BAPPC. You can think of it as the surfboard is symbolic as a petition,” said Jocelyn Enevoldsen, coordinator for the Oregon Surfboard Tour. “So, when business owners are signing it, they’re signing onto the alliance.”
Now, the surfboard is touring Oregon, continuing to gather support from businesses which depend on the health of the coast.
“Not only is it a threat to the environment, it’s a threat to our economies,” said Enevoldsen. “People come to Oregon from all over the world to appreciate our incredible scenery, our beautiful beaches and our amazing foods — and all of that is dependant on the clean ocean.”
The new proposal calls for seven new oil leases — one for Washington and Oregon, six for California. No leases have been offered off the Pacific coast since 1984. Not only was the proposal met with opposition from state and local leaders of both major parties around the country, but the cities of Lincoln County, Newport, Toledo and Yachats passed resolutions opposing the proposal, as did the Siletz Tribal Council and the ports of Toledo and Newport.
After environmental reviews are conducted, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management will release the proposed program, expected in later this year, and the final program is expected in 2019.
In spring 2019, the surfboard will be presented to the U.S. Department of the Interior as a representation of opposition to the Draft Proposed Program for Oil and Gas Outer Continental Shelf Leasing Program.