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Posts Tagged ‘Fishermen’

Dan Bacher, July 24, 2010

In a historic protest on July 21, members of dozens of California Indian Tribes and their allies marched through the streets of downtown Fort Bragg protesting the violation of indigenous fishing and gathering rights under Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative.

“This is the biggest protest on any issue held on the North Coast since the Redwood Summer of 1990,” said Dan Hamburg, former North Coast Congressman and a current Green Party candidate for Mendocino County Supervisor, as he marched beside me on the way to the MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Force meeting in Fort Bragg.

Members of the Yurok, Tolowa, Cahto, Kashia Pomo, Karuk, Hoopa Valley, Maidu, Hopi, Navajo and other tribes and the Noyo Indian Community shouted “M.L.P.A. – Taking Tribal Rights Away” and other chants as they marched. Recreational anglers, commercial fishermen, seaweed harvesters, environmentalists, sea urchin divers and seafood industry workers walked side by side with tribal members in a show of solidarity.

Alongside tribal flags, participants hoisted banners with slogans including “Keep Away MLPA,” “Native Conservation, Not Naive Conservation,” “No MLPA,” “ MLPA=Big Oil,” and “RLF – What Are You Funding.”

The group peacefully took control of the task force meeting in a great example of non-violent direct action. After rallying at Oak and Main Street, over 300 people walked a half-mile to the C.V. Star Community Center. Just before heading into the meeting, tribal community members standing twenty deep chanted, “No Way M.L.P.A.!” to the MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Force (BRTF) members convened inside.

“Our message was clear: the state will no longer impose its will on indigenous people,” said Frankie Joe Myers, organizer for the Coastal Justice Coalition and a Yurok Tribal ceremonial leader. “This is about more than a fouled-up process that attempts to prohibit tribes from doing something they have done sustainably for thousands of years. It is about respect, acknowledgement and recognition of indigenous peoples’ rights!”

Before the group began their march, they spent an hour holding signs and chanting on the corner of Oak and Main Streets as driver after driver honked their horns in support.

“The outpouring of support from the Fort Bragg community was amazing,” said Jim Martin, West Coast Director of the Recreational Fishing Alliance. “It was clear that the majority of people supported our protest. Some people were driving around several times so they could honk in support again.”

After the protesters entered the meeting, tribal elders, including Walt Lara of the Yurok Tribe, said they would continue to do what they have done for centuries – harvest seaweed, mussels and fish.

“We’ve managed the ocean in sustainable way for thousands of years,” Lara stated. “We only take what we need so that nobody should be hungry. You take our water, you take our land and now your are going to take our appetite.”

Thomas O’Rourke, the chair of the Yurok Tribal Council, said, “We as an Indian Nation have the right to manage our resources. The people who have managed for the last 200 years haven’t done so well in managing the land and our coast.”

“It is wise to listen to the people who managed these lands for thousands of years,” he continued. “We believe in protecting species. We will continue to exercise our right to harvest seaweed and fish as we always have. You have to take us to jail until you go broke and you fix this law.”

The Yurok Tribe has a representative, Megan Rocha, on the MLPA’s Regional Stakeholder group. However, O’Rourke said the MLPA process has viewed tribes exactly the same as recreational fishermen, even though tribes are sovereign nations.

“There is nothing more offensive than the lack of recognition we have received from the Initiative,” he stated. “We are a sovereign government within the State of California and should be treated accordingly. We would like the Blue Ribbon Task Force to do what is morally right and remove tribes from this inappropriate process.”

Jimbo Simmons, a Choctaw Tribe member and a leader of the American Indian Movement, emphasized that numerous laws, including the American Indian Religious Freedom Act and the UN Declaration of Human Rights, affirm the right of indigenous people to conduct their traditional religious ceremonies including traditional ocean food gathering. “Food is a human right,” he stated.

“Our tribal rights are not negotiable,” Dania Colegrove, Hoopa Valley Tribe member and a member of the Coastal Justice Coalition, told the task force. “Get used to it!”

Some Tribal members and fishermen at the protest questioned the task force’s real motives in kicking indigenous people and other fishermen off the ocean.

Susan Burdick, Yurok Elder, pointedly told the Blue Ribbon Task Force that “You are like the Ku Klux Klan – without the hoods! We’re not going to stop what we have doing for generations. We have young people here, old people here and we will march everywhere you go.”

“What is your real purpose: to start drilling for oil off our coastline?” she asked. “Be honest with us!”

Burdick’s concerns over the push by the oil industry and others to industrialize the California coast were echoed by environmentalists including Judith Vidaver, Chair of Ocean Protection Coalition (OPC).

“For over 25 years OPC, with our fisher and seaweed harvester allies, has protected our ocean from threats such as aquaculture projects, nuclear waste dumping, offshore oil development and recently, wave power plants,” Vidaver stated. “We are requesting that final Marine Protected Area (MPA) designations include language prohibiting these industrial-scale commercial activities.”

She also shocked the panel by asking that task force member Catherine Reheis-Boyd voluntarily step down from her position on the BRTF.

“Oil and water do not mix—as we are being reminded daily by the disaster spewing in the Gulf,” she stated. “Mrs. Reheis-Boyd’s position as President of the Western States Petroleum Association and her lobbying efforts to expand offshore oil drilling off the coast of California are a patent conflict of interest for which she should recuse herself from the BRTF proceedings which are ostensibly meant to protect the marine ecosystem.”

Meg Caldwell, a BRTF member, responded to Vidaver’s request in defense of Reheis-Boyd.

“I am a died-in-the-wool environmentalist and I have worked for the past year with Reheis-Boyd. Not once has she demonstrated any bias for any industrial sector on the Task Force,” she stated.

The overwhelming majority of people making public comments criticized the MLPA process for any array of reasons.

However, Karen Garrison, policy analyst for NRDC, affirmed her support for the MLPA Initative. She said that her organization “is committed to creating an effective marine protected area network that also supports continued noncommercial traditional Tribal uses.”

“The Kashia Pomo regulation shows it’s possible to do both, at least under some circumstances, and shows the flexibility of the MLPA to accommodate Tribal uses,” Garrison stated. “We also support the Tribe’s proposal to separately identify noncommercial traditional Tribal uses in any regulation that allows both Tribal and recreational uses.”

The MLPA, a landmark law signed by Governor Gray Davis in 1999, calls for the creation of marine reserves with varying levels of protection from one end of the state to the other.

Many fishermen, environmentalists and Tribal members have blasted Schwarzenegger’s MLPA Initiative, privately funded by the Resources Legacy Fund Foundation, for taking water pollution, oil drilling and all other human uses of the ocean other than fishing and gathering off the table while denying Tribes their fundamental rights.

“Whether it is their intention or not, what the Marine Life Protection Act does to tribes is systematically decimate our ability to be who we are,” Myers said. “That is the definition of cultural genocide.”

“The MLPA process completely disregards tribal gathering rights and only permits discussion of commercial and recreational harvest,” Myers concluded. “The whole process is inherently flawed by institutionalized racism. It doesn’t recognize Tribes as political entities, or Tribal biologists as legitimate scientists.”

“The protest surpassed my wildest dreams,” said Mike Carpenter, a sea urchin diver and local protest organizer. “I’m glad that tribal members, fishermen, Latino sea urchin industry workers and local environmentalists all banded together to keep our communities from being robbed by outside interests and big corporate money.”

The latest action was preceded on June 29 by a protest during which a group of 40 Tribal members and their supporters interrupted the MLPA Science Advisory Team meeting in Eureka. Members of the Coastal Justice Coalition during both protests emphasized that there is no scientific data that says tribal gathering has any negative impact on the coastal ecosystem and the Act does nothing to stop pollution and off-shore drilling — the real threats to the ocean ecosystem.

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AMBROSIA SARABIA with edits, theLog.com, June 10, 2010

In May 2010, a reporter that was attempting to videotape proceedings was forcibly removed from a Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) North Coast Regional Stakeholder Group work session. MLPA staff then reversed their ban on videotaping and audio recording at future sessions. However, the move has not eased tensions between those tied to the planning process for new Marine Protected Areas off the California coast (where fishing will be off limits) and sport anglers who advocate retaining open fishing areas.

On May 28, United Anglers of Southern California (UASC) and the Partnership for Sustainable Oceans, who have opposed the direction MLPA’s appointed Blue Ribbon Task Force appears to be heading, filed a suit against the task force and the MLPA Science Advisory Team, claiming they have violated the California Records Act.

“It has become more and more evident that the MLPA process is being steered off course by special interests — and political motivations — with dangerous potential for restricting many popular areas enjoyed by fishermen and other outdoor enthusiasts,” said UASC president Steven Fukuto, in a prepared statement.

The law firm of Allen, Matkins, Leck, Gamble, Mallory & Natis LLP, acting on behalf of the UASC and petitioner Robert Fletcher, filed suit at the Sacramento County Courthouse as the first step of a multistage litigation process, according to Fukuto. The filing is the first step in what he expects to be an ongoing, thorough examination of the “flawed process.”

“Our legal team has identified several potential causes for action, and we will aggressively pursue any and all legal avenues to protect recreational access for fishermen, and all Californians,” Fukuto added.

According to the UASC, the suit is tied to the Blue Ribbon Task Force’s and Science Advisory Team’s failure to respond to requests made by Fletcher for documents and records relevant to the MLPA implementation process. The verified petition for writ of mandate and complaint seeks declaratory and injunctive relief.

Under the California Public Records Act, the public has the right of access to information that is in the possession of state and local agencies. By law, public records are open to inspection at all times during office hours of state or local agencies, except for those that are exempt from disclosure by express provisions of the law.

Transparent Process?

California’s Bagley-Keene Open Meeting Act of 1967 requires that “meetings of public bodies and the writings of public officials and agencies shall be open to public scrutiny” and requires open meetings for all California state agencies, boards and commissions. Its purpose is to mandate accountability and transparency of government activities and to protect the rights of citizens to participate in state government.

However, MLPA’s staff has long stated that its work sessions do not qualify as “public meetings,” as the MLPA initiative process is privately funded through a unique public-private partnership.

When a Fort Bragg journalist was forcibly removed from a North Coast Regional Stakeholder Group work session after refusing to stop videotaping, claiming California’s open meetings laws gave him the right to cover the event, there was public uproar — and a protest from United Anglers of Southern California.

According to MLPA staff, members of the media and the public were permitted to attend work sessions but were not permitted to make comments, take photos or make recordings of any kind. The rule was put into place to create a “safe space” for individuals to speak openly and toss out ideas, according to staff.

In May, the rule was revisited and redefined to allow videotaping and audio recording by the public and members of the media, after MLPA staff members determine that the ban “was not reflective of the process.”

“We always err on the side of being open and transparent,” said Ken Wiseman, executive director of the MLPA Initiative. He said the sessions do not fall under Bagley-Keene, since there is not a quorum. “It is important that people not be given this idea that we are somehow restricting access, or that it is not open and transparent.”

The change in policy has not changed UASC’s mind about the openness of the process. The organization has cited various instances where decisions were made during Science Advisory Team meetings.

One occurred in 2009 when “persistent kelp” was mentioned — a subject that UASC said no one but perhaps team members understood. The classification of “persistent kelp” reduced the amount of kelp used in scientific guidelines that the Science Advisory Team uses to evaluate habitat replication. At the time, stakeholder groups were not provided enough time to fully understand what it meant or how it applied, according to UASC.

“The Blue Ribbon Task Force said they would operate the process in the spirit of Bagley-Keene, and we feel they have not lived up to that spirit,” Fukuto said. “We feel that decisions have been made in private.”

Others argue that the process is anything but open. Months of planning and revising Option 2, an alternative for the South Coast Region that would implement the fewest fishing closures, were wasted, many participants in the process said, when the Blue Ribbon Task Force threw out the options recommended by stakeholders and instead developed its own preferred plan — the IPA. If approved, the plan will close approximately 400 square miles of ocean off the Southern California coast to fishing.

However, Wiseman argues that anglers’ time was not wasted and their input was not thrown out. The resulting plan created by the Blue Ribbon Task Force was a blend of all three stakeholder proposals, Wiseman said.

“For sportfishing associations to say their ideas were ignored is ludicrous,” he said. “Their ideas are incorporated into the preferred alternative that is in front of the commission.”

He added, “They did not get everything they wanted, but nobody did.”

Greg Schem, who served as a member of the South Coast Region Blue Ribbon Task Force and currently sits on the Blue Ribbon Task Force for the North Coast Region, said the process invites everyone to the table. Every proposal made by varied interested groups, information provided by the Science Advisory Team and the Blue Ribbon Task Force is open to public comment.

Schem said he is an angler who joined the process two years ago, so he understands where other anglers are coming from — but he said he also understands that fishing closures are necessary as marine resources continue to degrade.

“I don’t like closures either, but I recognize this is a necessity,” said Schem, president and chief executive officer of Harbor Real Estate Group, a firm specializing in marina and waterfront real estate investments — including a marina, fuel dock and boat- yard in Marina del Rey.

“It is not a question of how do we not close anything, but a question of how do we close areas while still preserving adequate areas for consumptive users, and provide protected areas that will allow this network of MLPAs to operate as scientists anticipated,” Schem said.

Closing specific fishing areas was especially difficult since everyone has a favorite spot, Schem said. These emotional ties made it difficult for many to compromise on closures, he added.

“Not everybody is going to be happy,” Schem said. “Everybody is going to give a little bit, and that’s how you come up with a compromise.”

The Fish and Game Commission will vote on the plan for Southern California’s MLPA closure areas this summer and plans to finalize and implement new Marine Protected Areas by the end of the year. The study region includes the area extending from Point Conception to the California/Mexico border.

The North Coast Regional Stakeholder Group is in the early stages of drafting alternatives for establishing Marine Protected Areas in Northern California. The group will work with the Blue Ribbon Task Force, the Science Advisory Team and staff to evaluate existing Marine Protected Areas within the North Coast study region. The study region extends from the California/Oregon border to Alder Creek in Mendocino County.

The planning process is expected to be completed in December 2010.

For more information on MLPAs, visit dfg.ca.gov.

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Dan Bacher, October 23, 2009

Image by Larry R. Wagner

Image by Larry R. Wagner

Environmentalists and fishermen on California’s North Coast are calling for an independent investigation into the killing of an endangered blue whale off Fort Bragg by a mapping survey boat contracted by NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service.

In order to stop the killing of any more whales, locals are also asking for an immediate suspension of the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) process that the boat was collecting habitat data for.

The 72-foot female blue whale, a new mother, perished on Monday, October 19, after being hit by the 78-foot Pacific Star, under contract to NOAA to update maps of the ocean floor

Jim Milbury, spokesman for the National Marine Fisheries Service, said the boat was doing multi-sonar beam surveys to update marine charts and to determine the habitat to be used in state and federal marine protected area designations.

“We know that the whale’s death was caused by the collision with the boat because the boat crew called us to report the collision,” said Milbury. “After the collision, the dead whale washed up on the beach off Fort Bragg.”

Collisions with boats are relatively infrequent, but the Fort Bragg blue whale was the second to perish from a collision with a boat this fall. On October 9, a 50-foot blue whale was found floating in a kelp bed off Big Sur along the Monterey County coast after an undetermined vessel hit it.

The National Geographic and other media outlets gushed that the Fort Bragg blue whale’s death provided a unique opportunity for scientists to study a whale.

“Though unable to move the blue whale, scientists and students are leaping at the research opportunity, scrambling down rock faces to take tissue samples and eventually one of the 11-foot-long (3.5-meter-long) flippers,” according to an article at National Geographic.

However, fishermen, environmentalists and seaweed harvesters are outraged that the vessel, conducting surveys designed to designate habitat to be included in no-fishing zones that will kick Indian Tribes, fishermen and seaweed harvesters off their traditional areas, was negligent in trying to avoid a collision with the whale. Many believe that the sonar beams coming from the boat may have disoriented the whale, causing it to collide with the boat.

Fearing the endangered animals could soon become extinct, the International Whaling Commission banned all hunting of blue whales in 1966. There are now an estimated 3,000 to 4,000 blue whales in the Northern Hemisphere. The longest known blue whale measured 106 feet long and 200 tons. Whales are an average life span of 80 to 90 years.

Local environmentalists and fishermen have decided to name the dead whale “Jane” after Jane Lubchenko, the NOAA administrator who is running the federal fishery “management” scheme that resulted in the whale’s death.

“The NOAA vessel was mapping both federal and state waters, and part of that data will be used in the MLPA process,” said Jim Martin, West Coast Regional Director of the Recreational Fishing Alliance. “I guarantee you she wants to have a federal MPA process to close large chunks of the ocean out to 200 miles. The state MLPA process is just the beginning.”

The RFA, Ocean Protection Coalition and other conservation groups have asked for a suspension of the MLPA process, due to lack of dedicated funding, numerous conflicts of interests by MLPA decision makers and the lack of clarity about what type of activities are allowed in reserves. This tragic incident only highlights the urgent need to suspend the corrupt and out-of-control MLPA corporate greenwashing process that is opposed by the vast majority of North Coast residents.

“How many blue whales must be killed in the name of so-called ‘ocean protection,’” asked Martin. “How many of these beautiful and magnificent animals must be sacrificed at the altar of corporate-funded marine ‘protection’?”

Martin emphasized, “The whale is a metaphor for North Coast communities who have been run over by NOAA, an agency on auto pilot. The Department of Fish and Game is riding their coattails using this habitat data in the MLPA process.”

Among the communities of the North Coast dramatically impacted by the corrupt MLPA process is the Kashia Pomo Tribe, who have sustainably harvested seaweed, mussels and abalone off Stewarts Point for centuries. However, the California Fish and Game Commission in August, under orders from Governor Arnold Schwarzeneger, banned the Kashia Tribe, seaweed harvesters, fishermen and abalone divers from their traditional harvesting areas in Sonoma and Mendocino counties.

As Lester Pinola, past chairman of the Kashia Rancheria, said in a public hearing prior to the Commission August 5 vote, “What you are doing to us is taking the food out of our mouths. When the first settlers came to the coast, they didn’t how to feed themselves. Our people showed them how to eat out of the ocean. In my opinion, this was a big mistake.”

Everybody who cares about the health of our oceans and coastal communities should support a full, independent and impartial investigation of the killing of “Jane ” the whale by a NOAA contract boat. At the same time, the MLPA process, rife with conflict of interests, mission creep and corruption of the democratic process, should be immediately suspended.

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MATTHEW PREUSCH, Oregonian.com, August 1, 2009

oregon_fishNewport, Oregon – The fleet that fishes for black cod, perch and other groundfish off the Oregon coast is a shadow of what it once was. And so are the fish stocks that it harvests and hauls into processors like those anchoring the historic waterfront here in Newport.

But new rules are likely to change that. Each fisherman would be given a quota for his or her catch, and no time limit in which to fulfill it.

If it sounds unremarkable, quotas could transform current practice by eliminating fierce competition and the “derby-on-the-sea” phenomenon that has, in the eys of some scientists, helped decimate several fish stocks.

Here in Oregon, it will be the first time the system – called catch shares or individual transferable quotas – has been tried on the West Coast outside of Alaska. And it could provide long-term viability that a $25 million groundfish industry that under a decade ago was declared a federal disaster.

The rules, devised by the Pacific Fisheries Management Council, are supported by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which will wait until next summer to officially adopt them for implementation in 2011.

But the shift in thinking has occurred already.

Studies published last year and as recently as last week in the journal, Science, report bolstered stocks in some fisheries that have taken conservation steps, one of them implementation of individual quotas.

And several voices in Oregon’s fishing community – both for and against – are heard assessing consequence.

“Every pound is going to be accounted for. So if you catch a pound of fish and it’s going to go against your quota, you’re not going to waste that fish,” said Brad Pettinger, director of the Brookings-based Oregon Trawl Commission. “It’s going to make everyone accountable about how they fish.”

“There are a lot of fishermen who don’t want anything to do with this, because life is good for them the way things are,” said Dave Jincks, , an ocean trawler owner and Port of Newport Commissioner who supports catch shares.

Shares will be allocated based primarily on a boat’s performance in the fishery between 1994 and 2003. So if your boat caught a lot of fish relative to others, your allotted share of the catch will be higher.

This could hurt newer boats in the fishery that don’t have a long history of catching lots of fish, but have nonetheless been fishing well in recent years.

While life is good for some fishermen, it’s a mess overall for the ocean trawling industry off Oregon’s coast.

Like scores of ocean fisheries around the world, the groundfish fishery has suffered under the unsustainable equation of too many boats chasing too few fish.

That led to some fish species getting nearly wiped out, prompting sharp and shifting government restrictions on fishing that are onerous to boat owners and fishing businesses seeking some predictability.

The groundfish fishery encompasses over 80 species and is divided into two sectors – non-whiting and whiting – and can include offshore trawlers that land their catch in port, deep ocean catcher-processor boats and mother ship vessels that collect the catch from smaller boats.

The new rules will mean different things for each sector of the fishery, but the basic premise of catch shares is simple enough.

Whereas under old rules each boat in the fleet fought for the biggest piece possible of a total allowable catch for each species, leading to a rush to catch as many fish as possible before the seasonal cap was reached, under catch shares each boat is granted their own share of the total catch.

It amounts to the privatization of a previously public resource.

Catch shares gained greater favor last year after a paper published in Science reported that their implementation “halts, and even reverses, the global trend towards widespread collapse” of ocean fish stocks.

And this year NOAA, led by former Oregon State University professor and oceans expert Jane Lubchenco, convened a task force to make recommendations for applying catch shares to more of the nation’s fisheries.

“It seems like it’s a nexus between conservation and economics,” said Steve Murawski, chief science advisor for NOAA Fisheries.The agency’s report is due out by today.

Despite the current popularity of catch shares, some groups are urging NOAA to proceed with caution in its embrace of the management tool.

For one thing, divvying up the total allowable catch can’t restore fisheries if the total allowable catch is more than the fish stocks can bear.

“Until we have a true commitment to set fishing levels that are sustainable, how you allocate it isn’t going to solve the problem,” said Rebecca M. Bratspies, a fisheries expert at New York’s CUNY School of Law.

And since the individual quotas, or shares, are transferable, companies can buy them up, leading to consolidation in an industry that still allows an individual boat owner to make a living.

For that reason the groundfish catch share program sets limits, generally 3-15% percent, on how much of the total catch any one owner has right to.

They’ll be monitors on each boat to see that its owner doesn’t exceed their quota. If someone goes over their cap, they will have to buy extra quota from another boat. And if they don’t expect to fish to their full quota, they can sell or lease their excess on the open market.

The cost of monitors and other parts of the program once it’s implemented in 2011 is expected to cost between $2.4 and $2.9 million a year, and the fishing boats in the program will bear the brunt of the cost.

And some boat’s quotas may be so small that they choose to simply lease their quota to another boat, leading to a phenomenon called “armchair fisherman,” which the group Ecotrust Canada says have become commonplace in catch share fisheries in British Columbia.

“I’m concerned we will see in the play out of the groundfish fisheries some of the same problems we saw in British Columbia,” said Ed Backus, vice president for fisheries for Ecotrust’s Portland office.

NOAA recently released preliminary figures for what percent of the catch each boat in the program could get. Jim Seavers, who has been fishing out of Newport for three decades, keeps the rows of figures in a small binder, and he’s circled in bright highlighter the percentages and pounds allotted to the three trawlers he owns or manages.

One, the Miss Sue, is set to get about .5% of the traditional groundfish catch, or 313 metric tons, and about 2.7% of the whiting catch, equal to 1,147 tons. This week the Miss Sue loaded up with fuel, ice and provisions before heading out again to fish.

Seavers is hopeful the catch shares program will eliminate waste in the fishery and bring some predictability to the regulations that manage it. But he worries about the extra cost each boat will have to bear to pay for the program.

Seavers had experience in a catch share fishery in Alaska, which he said has overall had positive effects. But he warns the groundfish fleet could face further reductions – it’s down to fewer than 170 boats from close to 500 in the 1990’s – even as it reduces waste.

He’s confident of one thing, though: “It’s going to make it more expensive to fish.”

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MARK CLAYTON, The Christian Science Monitor, April 24, 2009

wave-ocean-blue-sea-water-white-foam-photoThree miles off the craggy, wave-crashing coastline near Humboldt Bay, California, deep ocean swells roll through a swath of ocean that is soon to be the site of the nation’s first major wave energy project.

Like other renewable energy technology, ocean energy generated by waves, tidal currents or steady offshore winds has been considered full of promise yet perennially years from reaching full-blown commercial development.

That’s still true – commercial-scale deployment is at least five years away. Yet there are fresh signs that ocean power is surging. And if all goes well, WaveConnect, the wave energy pilot project at Humboldt that’s being developed by Pacific Gas and Electric Co. (PG&E), could by next year deploy five commercial-scale wave systems, each putting 1 megawatt of ocean-generated power onto the electric grid.

At less than 1% of the capacity of a big coal-fired power plant, that might seem a pittance. Yet studies show that wave energy could one day produce enough power to supply 17% of California’s electric needs – and make a sizable dent in the state’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Nationwide, ocean power’s potential is far larger. Waves alone could produce 10,000 megawatts of power, about 6.5% of US electricity demand – or as much as produced by conventional hydropower dam generators, estimated the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), the research arm of the public utility industry based in Palo Alto, California, in 2007. All together, offshore wind, tidal power, and waves could meet 10% of US electricity needs.

That potential hasn’t gone unnoticed by the Obama administration. After years of jurisdictional bickering, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and the Department of Interior — MMS last month moved to clarify permitting requirements that have long slowed ocean energy development.

While the Bush administration requested zero for its Department of Energy ocean power R&D budget a few years ago, the agency has reversed course and now plans to quadruple funding to $40 million in the next fiscal year.

If the WaveConnect pilot project succeeds, experts say that the Humboldt site, along with another off Mendocino County to the south, could expand to 80 megawatts. Success there could fling open the door to commercial-scale projects not only along California’s surf-pounding coast but prompt a bicoastal US wave power development surge.

“Even without much support, ocean power has proliferated in the last two to three years, with many more companies trying new and different technology,” says George Hagerman, an ocean energy researcher at the Virginia Tech Advanced Research Institute in Arlington, Va.

Wave and tidal current energy are today at about the same stage as land-based wind power was in the early 1980s, he says, but with “a lot more development just waiting to see that first commercial success.”

More than 50 companies worldwide and 17 US-based companies are now developing ocean power prototypes, an EPRI survey shows. As of last fall, FERC tallied 34 tidal power and nine wave power permits with another 20 tidal current, four wave energy, and three ocean current applications pending.

Some of those permits are held by Christopher Sauer’s company, Ocean Renewable Power of Portland, Maine, which expects to deploy an underwater tidal current generator in a channel near Eastport, Maine, later this year.

After testing a prototype since December 2007, Mr. Sauer is now ready to deploy a far more powerful series of turbines using “foils” – not unlike an airplane propeller – to efficiently convert water current that’s around six knots into as much as 100,000 watts of power. To do that requires a series of “stacked” turbines totaling 52 feet wide by 14 feet high.

“This is definitely not a tinkertoy,” Sauer says.

Tidal energy, as demonstrated by Verdant Power’s efforts in New York City’s East River, could one day provide the US with 3,000 megawatts of power, EPRI says. Yet a limited number of appropriate sites with fast current means that wave and offshore wind energy have the largest potential.

“Wave energy technology is still very much in emerging pre-commercial stage,” says Roger Bedard, ocean technology leader for EPRI. “But what we’re seeing with the PG&E WaveConnect is an important project that could have a significant impact.”

Funding is a problem. As with most renewable power, financing for ocean power has been becalmed by the nation’s financial crisis. Some 17 Wall Street finance companies that had funded renewables, including ocean power, are now down to about seven, says John Miller, director of the Marine Renewable Energy Center at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth.

Even so, entrepreneurs like Sauer aren’t close to giving up – and even believe that the funding tide may have turned. Private equity and the state of Maine provided funding at a critical time, he says.

“It’s really been a struggle, particularly since mid-September when Bear Sterns went down,” Sauers says. “We worked without pay for a while, but we made it through.”

Venture capitalists are not involved in ocean energy right now, he admits. Yet he does get his phone calls returned. “They’re not writing checks yet, but they’re talking more,” he says.

When they do start writing checks, it may be to propel devices such as the Pelamis and the PowerBuoy. Makers of those devices, and more than a dozen wave energy companies worldwide, will soon vie to be among five businesses selected to send their machines to the ocean off Humboldt.

One of the major challenges they will face is “survivability” in the face of towering winter waves. By that measure, one of the more successful generators – success defined by time at sea without breaking or sinking – is the Pelamis, a series of red metal cylinders connected by hinges and hydraulic pistons.

Looking a bit like a red bullet train, several of the units were until recently floating on the undulating sea surface off the coast of Portugal. The Pelamis coverts waves to electric power as hydraulic cylinders connecting its floating cylinders expand and contract thereby squeezing fluid through a power unit that extracts energy.

An evaluation of a Pelamis unit installed off the coast of Massachusetts a few years ago found that for $273 million, a wave farm with 206 of the devices could produce energy at a cost of about 13.4 cents a kilowatt hours. Such costs would drop sharply and be competitive with onshore wind energy if the industry settled on a technology and mass-produced it.

“Even with worst-case assumptions, the economics of wave energy compares favorably to wind energy,” the 2004 study conducted for EPRI found.

One US-based contestant for a WaveConnect slot is likely to be the PowerBuoy, a 135-five-foot-long steel cylinder made by Ocean Power Technology (OPT) of Pennington, N.J. Inside the cylinder that is suspended by a float, a pistonlike structure moves up and down with the bobbing of the waves. That drives a generator, sending up to 150 kilowatts of power to a cable on the ocean bottom. A dozen or more buoys tethered to the ocean floor make a power plant.

“Survivability” is a critical concern for all ocean power systems. Constant battering by waves has sunk more than one wave generator. But one of PowerBuoy’s main claims is that its 56-foot-long prototype unit operated continuously for two years before being pulled for inspection.

“The ability to ride out passing huge waves is a very important part of our system,” says Charles Dunleavy, OPT’s chief financial officer. “Right now, the industry is basically just trying to assimilate and deal with many different technologies as well as the cost of putting structures out there in the ocean.”

Beside survivability and economics, though, the critical question of impact on the environment remains.

“We think they’re benign,” EPRI’s Mr. Bedard says. “But we’ve never put large arrays of energy devices in the ocean before. If you make these things big enough, they would have a negative impact.”

Mr. Dunleavy is optimistic that OPT’s technology is “not efficient enough to rob coastlines and their ecosystems of needed waves. A formal evaluation found the company’s PowerBuoy installed near a Navy base in Hawaii as having “no significant impact,” he says.

Gauging the environmental impacts of various systems will be studied closely in the WaveConnect program, along with observations gathered from fishermen, surfers, and coastal-impact groups, says David Eisenhauer, a PG&E spokesman, says.

“There’s definitely good potential for this project,” says Mr. Eisenhauer. “It’s our responsibility to explore any renewable energy we can bring to our customers – but only if it can be done in an economically and environmentally feasible way.”

Offshore wind is getting a boost, too. On April 22, the Obama administration laid out new rules on offshore leases, royalty payments, and easement that are designed to pave the way for investors.

Offshore wind energy is a commercially ready technology, with 10,000 megawatts of wind energy already deployed off European shores. Studies have shown that the US has about 500,000 megawatts of potential offshore energy. Across 10 to 11 East Coast states, offshore wind could supply as much as 20% of the states’ electricity demand without the need for long transmission lines, Hagerman notes.

But development has lagged, thanks to political opposition and regulatory hurdles. So the US remains about five years behind Europe on wave and tidal and farther than that on offshore wind, Bedard says. “They have 10,000 megawatts of offshore wind and we have zero.”

While more costly than land-based wind power, new offshore wind projects have been shown in some studies to have a lower cost of energy than coal projects of the same size and closer to the cost of energy of a new natural-gas fired power plant, Hagerman says.

Offshore wind is the only ocean energy technology ready to be deployed in gigawatt quantities in the next decade, Bedard says. Beyond that, wave and tidal will play important roles.

For offshore wind developers, that means federal efforts to clarify the rules on developing ocean wind energy can’t come soon enough. Burt Hamner plans a hybrid approach to ocean energy – using platforms that produce 10% wave energy and 90% wind energy.

But Mr. Hamner’s dual-power system has run into a bureaucratic tangle – with the Minerals Management Service and FERC both wanting his company to meet widely divergent permit requirements, he says.

“What the public has to understand is that we are faced with a flat-out energy crisis,” Hamner says. “We have to change the regulatory system to develop a structure that’s realistic for what we’re doing.”

To be feasible, costs for offshore wind systems must come down. But even so, a big offshore wind farm with hundreds of turbines might cost $4 billion – while a larger coal-fired power plant is just as much and a nuclear power even more, he contends.

“There is no cheap solution,” Hamner says. “But if we’re successful, the prize could be a big one.”

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SUSAN CHAMBERS, The World, February 3, 2009

Coos Bay — The announcement came as a surprise to everyone.

beachpThe Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s Thursday order issuing a preliminary permit for a 200- to 400-buoy wave energy project off of Newport shocked Ocean Power Technologies leaders as well as the public.

“It’s a project, a site that is not on our priority list right now,” OPT spokesman Len Bergstein said. “It was a little bit of a surprise to us in terms of timing.”

What’s different about this project is that FERC’s approval stirs up a hornet’s nest at the time OPT is trying to work with residents on the South Coast for community approval of two sites: a 10-buoy project off of Gardiner and a 200-buoy project off of the North Spit.

It also calls into question FERC’s intentions of adhering to a memorandum of understanding previously negotiated with Oregon to give the state greater siting power over wave energy projects in the territorial sea.

The approval also seems to be designed for FERC to flex authority over territory traditionally overseen by the U.S. Department of Interior’s Minerals Management Service. Both agencies have claimed the area outside of Oregon’s territorial sea, beyond three nautical miles.

Mixed Messages

As the FERC notice of approval hit residents’ e-mail inboxes late Thursday, outrage began to build.

“My concern is this sends the wrong message,” said Lincoln County District Attorney Rob Bovett. “This is high-value crab grounds, about as valuable as you get.”

OPT applied for the permit in November 2006, but let the application slide. The jurisdictional battle meant the application was going nowhere fast. OPT decided to concentrate its work on the Gardiner and Coos Bay sites, both of which are inside the territorial sea.

Bergstein said as soon as he found out about the approval, he immediately called Lincoln County Commissioner Terry Thompson and other Lincoln County folks, particularly those involved with the Fishermen Involved in Natural Energy group.

“Clearly, we have not been prompting FERC,” Bergstein said.

Bovett, who was involved in the commenting on the original OPT application, said Fishermen Involved has been working with wave energy companies to determine the best sites for development that would have the least impact on the fishing industry and local communities. This, though, was different.

“FINE wasn’t involved in the selection of this box,” Bovett said.

State vs. FERC?

Bovett’s first question was: Does the memorandum of understanding not mean anything?

In March 2008, FERC and Oregon signed a memorandum designed to “coordinate the procedures and schedules for review of wave energy projects.”

Bovett just chuckled.  According to the deal, he said, FERC wasn’t going to issue permits willy nilly. 

Some of the discrepancy over the decision to issue a preliminary permit — which allows OPT to only study the area for feasibility — may be because Oregon hasn’t finished updating its territorial sea plan. The Ocean Policy Advisory Council and the state have been working on it, but the marine reserves issue has dominated the council’s time over the past year.

“This will obviously get everybody’s attention,” Southern Oregon Ocean Resource Coalition Chairman Nick Furman said of FERC’s decision.

That’s putting it lightly.

Whereas the Reedsport and Coos Bay sites are considered by some to be ground zero as far as local communities negotiating with wave energy developers, the Newport site could be ground zero for state vs. federal and agency vs. agency jurisdiction and siting battles.

However, Bovett said, OPT holds the key right now.

The New Jersey-based wave energy developer should withdraw from  the site, he said. Otherwise, years of litigation seem likely — and courts ultimately would have the final say over which agency should be in charge of alternative energy.

“OPT can fix this,” Bovett said. “It’s exactly what they should do.”

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Editors Note:  On May 11, 2009, PG&E pulled-out of Mendocino WaveConnect, read it here: http://tinyurl.com/qwlbg6 . The remains of the $6M are now solely allocated to Humboldt WaveConnect.

MendoCoastCurrent, January 29, 2009

wave-ocean-blue-sea-water-white-foam-photoPG&E caught a major renewable energy wave today as the California Public Utilities Commission approved $4.8 million in funding their centerpiece wave energy project, WaveConnect. The program also received an additional $1.2 million in matching funds from the Department of Energy. PG&E’s WaveConnect, a project already two years in the making, launches with a $6M kitty.

WaveConnect is chartered with exploring wave energy development off the coasts of Mendocino and Humboldt counties in Northern California. The stakeholders in this region are dyed-in-the-wool political activists, living in environmentally-centric coastal communities and have reacted protectively, sounding alarms that PG&E and the Federal government’s wave energy plans may foul, diminish and destroy the Pacific Ocean and marine life.

Over the two years that PG&E and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) advanced WaveConnect, only recently have environmental concerns and study become part of the discussion. The opportunity for Mendocino and Humboldt coastal communities and local governments to embrace wave energy development and connect with WaveConnect has not gone well, especially as the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has disallowed the City of Fort Bragg and local fishermen to be party in the WaveConnect FERC Preliminary Permitting.

Jonathan Marshall, publisher of Next100, a PG&E blog, wrote “PG&E’s first step will be to conduct meetings with local stakeholders and agencies to learn about their issues and concerns. After completing appropriate environmental reviews and permit applications, which could take a couple of years, PG&E then plans to build an undersea infrastructure, including power transmission cables, to support wave energy demonstration projects. The utility will then invite manufacturers of wave energy devices to install them offshore for testing and comparison.”

“The anticipated cost of wave power compares favorably to the early days of solar and wind,” says William Toman, WaveConnect project manager at PG&E. “It will take several stages of design evolution to lower costs and increase reliability.” The CPUC and the DOE are betting on this evolution as in this funding scenario engineered by PG&E, the CPUC awards $4.8M in ratepayer funds while the DOE $1.2M is a matching grant.

Wave energy may become a key source of renewable energy in California. It’s proposed that the 745-mile coastline could produce 1/5th of California’s energy needs if, admittedly a big if, economic, environmental, land use and grid connection issues — and community issues — don’t stand in the way.

Marshall wrote in closing “Making ocean power technology work reliably and at a competitive price will be the first big challenge. Serving offshore installations with power transmission lines will be another economic and engineering hurdle. Finally, ocean power developers must also convince local communities and government regulators that their installations will not destroy marine life, cause boating collisions or navigational hazards, or degrade ocean views.”

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Please Take Action By MONDAY, FEBRUARY 9, 2009 before 2:00 pm!

MendoCoastCurrent, January 29, 2009

ferc_seal1Just a couple of weeks ago, Ann Miles, Director of Hydropower Licensing at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission visited the Mendocino coast.  The centerpiece of her presentation on January 13, 2009 at Fort Bragg Town Hall was to explain the FERC Hydokinetic Licensing process.

For all those present at the meeting, Ms. Miles informed the Mendocino community of the WRONG DATE to file citizen Motions to Intervene in the Green Wave LLC proposed FERC project on the Mendocino village coastline.

FERC has kindly updated the mis-information and has indicated they wish to have the correct date promoted.  This correct date to file Motions to Intervene (directions follow) is now Monday, February 9, 2009 no later than 2:00 P.M. PST.

* * * * * * * *

Here’s a novel and effective way for you, your company and your family to state your position to the Federal Government on Mendocino wave energy development. It’s pretty simple to do, it’s empowering and it’s effective in that each filing can make a difference. Interested? Read on.

This action relates to Green Wave Energy Solutions’ application for a wave energy Preliminary Permit that was recently accepted by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). Since early December 2008, FERC has enabled a process for the public and interested parties to share their views (intervene).  The best way to participate is go online to the FERC web site and use the guide below to share your views on the Green Wave FERC hydrokinetic application.

Click on this HERE for a step-by-step instruction guide authored by Elizabeth Mitchell, FERC Coordinator for Fishermen Interested in Safe Hydrokinetics, FISH.

More about the FERC and Green Wave Energy Solutions Mendocino Wave Energy Permit

An application for a wave energy project in the ocean off Mendocino, California has been filed by Green Wave Energy Solutions, LLC.  Green Wave has made an application to put 10 to 100 wave energy devices in 17 square miles of ocean, between 0.5 and 2.6 miles offshore, running roughly north and south between the Navarro River and Point Cabrillo on the North Coast of California.

On December 9, 2008, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) began the permit process for the project by issuing a “Notice of Preliminary Permit Applications Accepted for Filing and Soliciting Comment, Motions to Intervene, and Competing Applications.”  

The law provides that interested individuals and organizations may become parties to the permit process.  In order to become a party, you and/or your organization(s) must file a “Motion to Intervene.”  The deadline for intervening in the Green Wave Project is Monday, February 9, 2009 by 2:00 P.M. PST.

You may intervene no matter what your current views are on the merits of wave energy.  Intervention gives you a place at the table as a full party to the permit process.  It also enables you to appeal future FERC rulings with respect to the permit. 

Intervening is not difficult, and you do not have to be a lawyer to do it.  If you file your motion to intervene by the Monday, February 9, 2009 deadline, and no one opposes your intervention, you automatically become a party after 15 days.

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Excerpts from article by FRANK HARTZELL, The Mendocino Beacon, December 24, 2008

On January 13, 2009, from 5-7p.m. at Fort Bragg Town Hall, a “top official from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) will appear to explain the agency’s strategy on developing what it calls “hydrokinetic” power as an alterative energy source.

Ann F. Miles, FERC’s director of the Division of Hydropower Licensing, will meet with county and city officials before attending the public meeting in Fort Bragg.

“The FISH Committee is looking forward to FERC’s visit, and welcomes the opportunity to learn about the different FERC licensing processes for wave energy, and how fishermen and other affected people can participate and have their voices heard,” said attorney Elizabeth Mitchell, who represents the Fisherman Involved for Safe Hydrokinetics.

Ocean waters off the Mendocino Coast, from Little River to Cleone, are now claimed under exclusive study permits by two different wave energy developers. GreenWave LLC claims 17 square miles of waters from Little River to Point Cabrillo, while PG&E claims 68 square miles from Point Cabrillo to Cleone.

Preliminary permits granted by FERC give not only exclusive study rights to the claimants, but also licensing priority to develop wave energy upon successful completion of the three-year studies.

Fort Bragg has become ground-zero for wave energy regulation. The federal Minerals Management Service, which is involved in an open feud with FERC over wave energy regulation, has sought to make Fort Bragg its test case.

FERC drew local ire by denying local efforts to intervene in the study process. At one point, protesters carried signs targeting the obscure federal agency with messages such as “Don’t FERC with us.”

One FERC insider said commissioners had complained that more fuss had been made in tiny Fort Bragg than the entire rest of the nation.

FERC later relented and on appeal granted intervener status to Mendocino County, for the PG&E project. The period to intervene and comment on GreenWave’s permit closes Friday, Feb. 6. As yet, nobody has filed anything with FERC, according to its Website.

“The commission’s existing procedures are well-established and well-suited to address this expansion of conventional hydropower with new technologies,” Miles told Congress last year, “and we are prepared to learn from experience in this rapidly evolving area and to make whatever regulatory adjustments are appropriate in order to help realize the potential of this renewable energy resource.”

FERC expanded its domain into all tidal, wave, river flow and ocean current study and licensing with its novel concept of a unified “hydrokinetic” regulation.

From the Yukon River in Alaska to the ocean currents off the Florida Keys, FERC has grown its regulatory territory dramatically since the start of the Bush administration. The agency is now explaining how dam regulation and wave energy innovation can go together. FERC recently granted the first hydrokinetic plant permit for production of energy in the Mississippi River in the state of Minnesota.

The independent agency has moved quickly with Neo-Con era disdain for regulation, eschewing calls from fellow federal and state agencies for a conventional rulemaking process. Instead FERC has adjusted its process as it goes along.

In her presentation to Congress, Miles focused on wave energy, not the more prevalent river current energy plans. She said wave energy projects will likely occur close to shore, not far out in federal waters.

“The cumulative costs of development … make it advantageous to locate projects nearer to the shore,” Miles told Congress.

Locals have complained that FERC has no intelligible process for public input. Governments and critics of FERC have been frustrated in efforts to get details.

FERC is a uniquely independent federal agency. It is under the Department of Energy but does not report to DOE, a structure that was created during the Great Depression. The president appoints FERC commissioners.

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JOHN DRISCOLL, The Times-Standard, December 15, 2008

A white paper commissioned by the state of California says that tapping the ocean for power should be done carefully.

The report for the California Energy Commission and the Ocean Protection Council looked at the possible socio-economic and environmental effects of the infant industry, including what it might mean for fisheries and coastal habitat.

It also made recommendations on what research should be done to address those potential effects.

The waters remain murky in regard to what type of technology wave energy projects might use, and the scope of necessary development. The study finds that it will be key to fill in that missing information to determine what impacts they might have.

“Site selection and project scale are critical factors in anticipating these potential effects,” the report reads.

Depending on their size and location, the study reads, commercial and sport fisheries might be impacted, but new projects would yield construction and operations jobs for nearby communities.

But projects could also interfere with wave shoaling and beach building by stripping some energy out of waves, and that in turn could affect species from the high tide line out to the continental shelf.

The buoys or other structures designed to convert wave power to electricity are also likely to act like artificial reefs where reef-related fish would congregate, the report reads, a change from what would typically occur in the open ocean.

Birds and marine mammals may also be affected, but likely to a small degree, the study found.

Still, the report concludes that there aren’t any dramatic impacts expected, and recommends that the push to develop projects proceed carefully, listing a slew of research that should be done to help understand the potential for problems.

Greg Crawford, an oceanographer with Humboldt State University and an author of the paper, said that much depends on what type of wave projects are employed.

“This stuff needs to be approached holistically,” Crawford said.

While some wave energy projects are beginning to be used around the world, there is little information on how durable they are over the long term.

As Crawford pointed out, they are deployed in particularly difficult and treacherous environments.

The report recommends starting small, both in the laboratory and with small-scale projects to help begin to understand the effects they might have when deployed on an industrial scale.

The Pacific Gas and Electric Co. has won authorization from the federal government to study several areas off the Humboldt and Mendocino coasts, but the company recently ran into what appears to be an insurmountable obstacle from state utilities regulators on another project off Trinidad. In October, the California Public Utilities Commission denied the first wave power project it has ever considered, on the grounds that the Trinidad Head proposal isn’t viable, and the contract price to sell the power is too expensive.

A feud of sorts over final jurisdiction on wave energy projects persists between the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and the U.S. Mines and Minerals Service (MMS). And it’s not clear exactly what agency would make the determination of whether the costs of projects outweigh their benefits, said HSU economist Steve Hackett, another author of the study.

“I think it’s a very daunting situation for the public utilities or a power company to take on,” Hackett said.

While environmental issues will be hashed out in an environmental analysis, economic effects should also be considered, Hackett said. That includes the detriments to a struggling fishing fleet and the upside of jobs from energy projects, he said.

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TED NESI, Providence Business News, December 5, 2008

riThe list of suitors lining up to develop renewable energy projects off Rhode Island’s coastal waters is getting longer.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has begun reviewing a permit application from Grays Harbor Ocean Energy Co., a year-old company based in Seattle, to build 100 large towers that would generate electricity from wave energy and wind turbines. The towers, which Grays Harbor says would use the same support technology as offshore oil platforms, would be located in a 96-square-mile area of federal waters 12 to 25 miles to the south of Block Island. Wind turbines could be placed on top of the towers, although that would require a separate application process. The company estimates the total cost of the project would be between $400 million and $600 million.

Grays Harbor asserts that the structures, known as Oscillating Water Columns, “will be visible from shore for only a few days a year under extremely clear visibility conditions.”

The company also says it will not need to utilize the entire 96 square miles designated in its federal permit. Instead, it will determine which section of that area would be the most conducive to wind-energy generation.

News of the proposed project comes as state officials continue work on an Ocean Special Area Management Plan (SAMP) for the coastal waters off Rhode Island – a project undertaken in part to facilitate permitting of a $1.5-billion offshore wind farm backed by Gov. Donald L. Carcieri. However, the project proposed by Grays Harbor is outside the area to be covered by the Ocean SAMP.

Rhode Island officials said the company’s application took them by surprise: Grover Fugate, executive director of the R.I. Coastal Resources Management Council, found out about it when the U.S. Minerals Management Service (MMS) forwarded a copy of the document to him as a courtesy.

“It was news to us, when we heard from MMS,” said Laura Ricketson-Dwyer, spokeswoman for CRMC. “But that’s not totally uncommon,” since the CRMC does not have jurisdiction over federal waters. “FERC did not have to notify us.”

The electricity would be transmitted from the converters into an offshore substation, and then the power would be sent to Block Island via a single transmission cable buried about three feet beneath the sea floor. Part of that energy would be used on Block Island, which has some of the highest electricity costs in the country, and the rest would be transmitted to the mainland, coming ashore in the Narragansett village of Jerusalem.

Grays Harbor says it is already in negotiations “with a consortium of local utilities and companies” for them to purchase electricity from the project, and says existing overhead cables could handle the additional load it creates.

Although local officials have doubts about the prospects for wave energy here, Grays Harbor says prior research has given the company confidence it could work in the area. “The site proposed therefore is not speculative,” Grays Harbor president W. Burton Hamner wrote in a letter to FERC Secretary Magalie Salas. “It is the best place for the only technology package we believe will work in that region.” Hamner’s company cites a 2004 study published by the Electric Power Research Institute that said a 100-megawatt wave energy project would be competitive with a 100-megawatt wind farm. But that study looked at wave-energy resources in Massachusetts, not Rhode Island, and Grays Harbor acknowledges in its permit that “Rhode Island wave energy is less than [in] Massachusetts.”

Grays Harbor is specifically applying for a preliminary permit from FERC, which would allow the company to do in-depth research on the project for three years. From there, the company would apply for a pilot project permit, which would allow it to build a 5-megawatt demonstration version of the project. If the pilot project is successful, the company would apply for a standard 30-year FERC permit to build the full-scale development. If all were to go as Grays Harbor hopes, the company expects to have the 5-megawatt demonstration project up and running in 2011, with the full project to follow in 2016.

Grays Harbor cited two issues that could hamper the project: One is the structures’ possible impact on navigation lanes, although the company downplayed the likelihood of that being a problem. The other is the project’s possible impact on fishermen.

“There is no question that where there are wave-energy systems, recreational and commercial fishing will be affected,” the company says in its application. “This is unavoidable because of the conflicting use of the ocean space.” To reduce the project’s impact on fisheries, Grays Harbor said it is considering turning the wave structures into “artificial reefs … that can support fish and other marine organisms.”

The public has until January 28, 2009 to comment on the proposal at the commission’s web site.  The permit application for the Rhode Island offshore wave energy project was filed by Grays Harbor on October 22 and processed by FERC on November 28.

On the same day it submitted its application to develop the Block Island project, Grays Harbor filed applications for nearly identical projects off Cape Cod, New York, New Jersey, Hawaii, and San Francisco and Ventura, Calif.

And in July, the company was granted a preliminary FERC permit for a similar project in Washington state. “Our intention in applying for nearly identical projects in several sites is to achieve significant economics of scale in site evaluation and to help federal agencies develop effective agreements regarding management of ocean renewable-energy projects,” Hamner wrote in his letter to Salas.

But all the projects depend in part on the outcome of a bureaucratic turf war between two federal agencies:

  • The MMS, which was granted jurisdiction over most offshore energy projects by a 2005 federal energy law to the MMS, but which is still completing its final regulations for offshore projects.
  • And the FERC, which already has jurisdiction over inland hydroelectric projects, and this fall asserted its right to review and permit wave-energy projects as well.

Unsurprisingly, Grays Harbor has sided with FERC and agreed that the commission has authority over wave-energy projects. But the company also said the MMS still has jurisdiction over leasing the area in question – an issue the FERC has promised to work out.

In its permit application, Grays Harbor promised to work closely with state and local authorities. The company raised the prospect of establishing public development authorities with area communities to establish co-ownership of the project, and also says it “will develop a Settlement Agreement with stakeholders.”

Grays Harbor also pledged to hire local workers for the project, if possible. “The Providence area has capabilities for manufacturing wave energy converters and every attempt will be made to locally construct the machinery needed for the project,” the company says in its application.

Ricketson-Dwyer, the CRMC spokeswoman, said she is not surprised to see more companies moving quickly to develop ocean-energy projects. “People are – no pun intended – entering the waters here and getting into this.”

The CRMC plans to keep an eye on what happens over the next few weeks, she said, adding: “It’s really to early for us to even know if we have any role in any of this.” Meanwhile, Ricketson-Dwyer said, the proposal underlines the need to finish the state’s Ocean SAMP, in order to streamline the permitting process for offshore energy projects.

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MendoCoastCurrent, October 16, 2008

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) claimed that it has jurisdiction over hydroelectric projects located on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS), pointing to laws that define its role.

FERC addressed the jurisdictional question, raised by the U.S. Department of the Interior, Mineral Management Service (MMS), in the context of a rehearing order on two preliminary permits issued to PG&E to study the feasibility of developing wave energy projects in the OCS off the California coast. The projects are the Humboldt Project off the coast of the Samoa Peninsula in Humboldt County near Eureka, and the Mendocino Project off the coast of Fort Bragg in Mendocino County.

Commissioner Philip Moeller said the development of viable hydrokinetic resources needs a streamlined process like FERC’s. “It is indisputable that renewable energy is a valuable resource and hydrokinetic projects could harness a vast resource of new hydropower,” he said. “Instead of legal battles, my preference, and this Commission’s, has been to reach out to federal agencies and states to work in a cooperative manner to the same goal: timely development of a new renewable power resource in a responsible manner after input from all affected stakeholders.”

MMS has asserted that FERC only has jurisdiction to issue licenses and preliminary permits for projects within state waters, which for most states is defined as extending three miles offshore. Projects beyond state waters are considered to be located in the OCS.

But FERC says the Federal Power Act (FPA) gives it two bases of authority to issue preliminary permits and licensees for hydroelectric projects located on the OCS. First, the law expressly grants FERC jurisdiction to license in “navigable waters” without limitation as well as in “streams or other bodies of water over which Congress has jurisdiction.” 

The second authority is for those projects located on “reservations” of the United States. FERC concludes that the OCS is land owned by the United States, qualifying it to be a “reservation” under the FPA. “The Supreme Court of the United States has consistently held that the United States owns the submerged lands off its shores, beginning from the low-water mark,” FERC said.

Finally, FERC addressed comments by MMS about the meaning of the Federal Energy Policy Act of 2005 (EPAct 2005) as it relates to the jurisdiction question for hydroelectric projects located on the OCS. MMS asserted that EPAct 2005 intended for MMS to be the lead federal regulatory authority over wave and ocean current energy projects in the OCS.

In this order, FERC notes that EPAct 2005 does not limit the scope of its authority over hydroelectric power or withdraw FERC jurisdiction over projects in the OCS. “To the contrary, Congress expressly preserved the Commission’s comprehensive hydroelectric licensing authority under the FPA by including two saving clauses….,” FERC said.

FERC Chairman Kelliher stressed today that FERC recognizes the role of Interior, which through the Minerals Management Service (MMS) manages lands on the OCS. There is no conflict with FERC’s role as the licensing agency, he said.

“We have proposed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with MMS that carefully delineates the roles of the two agencies in a manner that respects both our licensing, and Interior’s resource, roles,” Kelliher said. “We stand ready to enter into the MOU to clarify those roles.”

A preliminary permit gives the holder of a permit priority over the site for three years while the holder studies the feasibility of developing the site. It does not authorize construction of any kind. A license authorizes construction and operation of a hydroelectric facility.

FERC’s order also finds that although two local governments, the City of Fort Bragg and Mendocino County, asserted that they did not receive personal notification from FERC of the filing of the preliminary permit applications, only Mendocino County acted in a timely manner once it received actual notice of the application in order to preserve its right to intervene. As a result, Mendocino County’s request for late intervention is granted. However, the order finds that Mendocino has not provided grounds for the Commission to revoke the Mendocino Project permit or to reopen that proceeding. The order also denies motions for late intervention in both proceedings by FISH Committee.

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KATE GALBRAITH, The New York Times, September 23, 2008

For years, technological visionaries have painted a seductive vision of using ocean tides and waves to produce power. They foresee large installations off the coast and in tidal estuaries that could provide as much as 10% of the nation’s electricity.

But the technical difficulties of making such systems work are proving formidable. Last year, a wave-power machine sank off the Oregon coast. Blades have broken off experimental tidal turbines in New York’s turbulent East River. Problems with offshore moorings have slowed the deployment of snakelike generating machines in the ocean off Portugal.

Years of such problems have discouraged ocean-power visionaries, but have not stopped them. Lately, spurred by rising costs for electricity and for the coal and other fossil fuels used to produce it, they are making a new push to overcome the barriers blocking this type of renewable energy.

The Scottish company Pelamis Wave Power plans to turn on a small wave-energy farm — the world’s first — off the coast of Portugal by year’s end, after fixing the broken moorings. Finavera Renewables, a Canadian company that recently salvaged its sunken, $2.5 million Oregon wave-power machine, has signed an agreement with Pacific Gas & Electric to produce power off the California coast by 2012. And in the East River, just off Manhattan, two newly placed turbines with tougher blades and rotors are feeding electricity into a grocery store and parking garage on Roosevelt Island.

“It’s frustrating sometimes as an ocean energy company to say, yeah, your device sank,” said Jason Bak, chief executive of Finavera. “But that is technology development.”

Roughly 100 small companies around the world are working on converting the sea’s power to electricity. Many operate in Europe, where governments have pumped money into the industry. Companies and governments alike are betting that over time, costs will come down. Right now, however, little electricity is being generated from the ocean except at scattered test sites around the world.

The East River — despite its name, it is really a tidal strait with powerful currents — is the site of the most advanced test project in the United States.

Verdant Power, the company that operates it, was forced to spend several years and millions of dollars mired in a slow permit process, even before its turbine blades broke off in the currents. The company believes it is getting a handle on the problems. Verdant is trying to perfect its turbines and then install 30 of them in the East River, starting no later than spring 2010, and to develop other sites in Canada and on the West Coast.

Plenty of other start-ups also plan commercial ocean-power plants, at offshore sites such as Portugal, Oregon and Wales, but none have been built.

Ocean-power technology splits into two broad categories, tidal and wave power. Wave power, of the sort Finavera is pursuing, entails using the up and down motions of the waves to generate electricity. Tidal power — Verdant’s province — involves harnessing the action of the tides with underwater turbines, which twirl like wind machines.

(Decades-old tidal technologies in France and Canada use barrage systems that trap water at high tide; they are far larger and more obtrusive than the new, below-waterline technologies.)

A third type of power, called ocean thermal, aims to exploit temperature differences between the surface and deep ocean, mainly applicable in the tropics.

Ocean power has more potential than wind power because water is about 850 times denser than air, and therefore packs far more energy. The ocean’s waves, tides and currents are also more predictable than the wind.

The drawback is that seawater can batter and corrode machinery, and costly undersea cables may be needed to bring the power to shore. And the machines are expensive to build: Pelamis has had to raise the equivalent of $77 million.

Many solar start-ups, by contrast, need as little as $5 million to build a prototype, said Martin Lagod, co-founder of Firelake Capital Management, a Silicon Valley investment firm. Mr. Lagod looked at investing in ocean power a few years ago and decided against it because of the long time horizons and large capital requirements.

General Electric, which builds wind turbines, solar panels and other equipment for virtually every other type of energy, has stayed clear of ocean energy. “At this time, these sources do not appear to be competitive with more scalable alternatives like wind and solar,” said Daniel Nelson, a G.E. spokesman, in an e-mail message. (An arm of G.E. has made a small investment in Pelamis.)

Worldwide, venture capital going to ocean-power companies has risen from $8 million in 2005 to $82 million last year, according to the Cleantech Group, a research firm. However, that is a tiny fraction of the money pouring into solar energy and biofuels.

This month the Energy Department doled out its first major Congressionally-funded grants since 1992 to ocean-power companies, including Verdant and Lockheed Martin, which is studying ocean thermal approaches.

Assuming that commercial ocean-power farms are eventually built, the power is likely to be costly, especially in the near term. A recent study commissioned by the San Francisco Public Utility Commission put the cost of harnessing the Golden Gate’s tides at 85 cents to $1.40 a kilowatt-hour, or roughly 10 times the cost of wind power. San Francisco plans to forge ahead regardless.

Other hurdles abound, including sticky environmental and aesthetic questions. In Oregon, crabbers worry that the wave farm proposed by Ocean Power Technologies, a New Jersey company, would interfere with their prime crabbing grounds.

“It’s right where every year we deploy 115,000 to 120,000 crab pots off the coast for an eight-month period to harvest crab,” said Nick Furman, executive director of the Oregon Dungeness Crab Commission. The commission wants to support renewable energy, but “we’re kind of struggling with that,” Mr. Furman said

George Taylor, chief executive of Ocean Power Technologies, said he did not expect “there will be a problem with the crabs.”

In Washington State, where a utility is studying the possibility of installing tidal power at the Admiralty Inlet entrance to Puget Sound, scuba divers are worried, even as they recognize the need for clean power.

Said Mike Racine, president of the Washington Scuba Alliance: “We don’t want to be dodging turbine blades, right?”

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MendoCoastCurrent, September 9, 2008

Fort Bragg, California City Council has filed a lawsuit against the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) in the Washington D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Concerns escalated last August when FERC denied Fort Bragg’s second request for a rehearing on FERC’s national licensing policies for wave energy or hydrokinetic energy projects. The community stakeholders, Fort Bragg, Mendocino County, Lincoln County (Oregon) and Fishermen Interested in Safe Hydrokinetics (FISH), were also denied rehearing by FERC. Under the Federal Power Act, there are no administrative appeals left and the only recourse is a lawsuit.

Fort Bragg contests FERC’s energy development process for national licensing of wave energy projects, including the proposed Pacific Gas & Electric wave energy pilot project off the coast of Fort Bragg.

The contested policies were established in two informal documents issued by FERC in April 2008 entitled Staff Guidance on Hydrokinetic Pilot Procedures” and “Staff FAQs on Conditional Licenses.”

Fort Bragg contends that FERC established these policies without complying with a number of federal laws including the Coastal Zone Management Act, Clean Water Act, National Environmental Policy Act and the Administrative Procedure Act.

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TERRY DILLMAN, Newport News-Times, July 25, 2008

It sank to the bottom in 150 feet of water just one day before its planned retrieval. After nine months of waiting for the right weather and ocean conditions, divers and salvage vessels are currently on site to assist in the rebirth of a 75-foot, 40-ton wave energy buoy.

Developed by Finavera Renewables based in Vancouver, British Columbia, and built by Portland-based Oregon Iron Works, the Sept. 6, 2007 deployment of the Aquabuoy 2.0 wave energy converter – the first-ever wave energy test device off the Oregon coast – generated enthusiasm that has never waned, despite the Oct. 28 plunge into the ocean’s nether land. At the time, Finavera spokesman Myke Clark said engineers had gleaned plenty of data via wireless and satellite technology from onboard diagnostic equipment powered by solar panels and small wind turbines on the buoy.

“It performed exactly as we thought it would perform,” he noted.

Except for the sinking, the cause of which remains uncertain. The buoy began taking on water, and the bilge pump failed just one day before engineers were set to tow it back to shore. Finavera crews removed the anchor, mooring lines, tackle, and related paraphernalia, but had to leave the $2 million piece of technology itself resting on the ocean floor beneath the surface of the Oregon State University (OSU) wave energy test site located about 2.5 miles off the shores of Agate Beach.

Harsh weather and ocean conditions wiped out any hope of retrieving the buoy until now, despite everyone’s best efforts to recover it sooner.

Finavera officials notified everyone concerned as soon as they discovered the buoy’s disappearance, including Fishermen Involved in Natural Energy (FINE), a local advisory panel established in February 2007 by the Lincoln County commissioners. This panel played a key role in the wave energy test site selection process.

A week after the buoy sank, FINE members, county leaders, and others asked Finavera to explore any and all options to remove the buoy as soon as possible. At the time, Kevin Banister, Finavera’s vice president of business development, ocean energy, said they “pledged to explore” the options.

“We’re just as eager to get it out of the water as anybody,” he told the News-Times. “But we can’t make any guarantees.”

Even in good weather and calm waters, any ocean operation is tricky business. The Salvage Chief and related vessels began operations last week, with divers removing sand, cutting chain, and preparing the buoy for recovery. Banister told the News-Times the buoy “hasn’t moved” when discussing the situation earlier this week.

“It’s a complex operation,” he added. “It will take some time – as much as a week – to complete.”

That estimate is already off. Originally, salvage managers said they could tow the buoy in between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. Wednesday. The first of the two pieces – the 10-foot buoy that bobs above the ocean surface – was towed into Yaquina Bay at about 2 a.m. Thursday, along with a Coast Guard escort, and taken to a shipyard about four miles upriver to await later transport to the company’s facilities. Salvage crews are working on getting the second piece to the surface and back to port.

Clark said the buoy’s collision with the seafloor at the end of its 150-foot drop damaged it, forcing divers to “cut the supports (of the accelerator tube) to make it easier to bring up.”

Kaety Hildenbrand from OSU’s Oregon Sea Grant Marine Fisheries Extension Service said the Coast Guard “is putting a 500-yard restriction on the vessels while they are towing.” Finavera and Salvage Chief officials ask that everyone steer clear of the work site.

Finavera developers said they would use the data gleaned from the buoy before its demise to “move forward with technological development” and create “the next generation” device – one as unsinkable as they can make it.

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MADDALENA JACKSON with MendoCoastCurrent edit, The Sacramento Bee, August 11, 2008

Oil companies, some politicians and commuters paying $4 for a gallon of gas might look at California’s coast and think of crude oil pooled below the sea floor.

California’s North Coast, however, holds promise of another energy bounty.

In less time than it would take to fire up new offshore oil drills, waters off our coast could host undulating buoys driven by waves, producing abundant electricity for a power-thirsty state.

The Electric Power Research Institute estimates enough wave power can be extracted from coastal waters to account for about 15% of California’s electricity production.

Offshore wave technology is promising, but it’s untried. They also raise concerns about potential damage to the coast’s prized vistas and fish industry.

One proposal that’s progressing is to draw electricity from waves off the Mendocino coast already has generated problems for developers, government agencies and coastal residents.

Moreover, the potential for waves depends on someone building transmission lines to connect offshore power to the state’s grid.

Northern California’s biggest utility company, Pacific Gas and Electric Co., may be that someone.

Out at sea, the ocean’s surface ripples rhythmically, and the up-and-down motion can be harnessed to produce electrical energy, via bobbing buoys, jointed snakes and undulating tubes.

PG&E plans to capture some of that potential. It has preliminary permits for two projects – one off Fort Bragg in Mendocino County and one off Eureka.

The Fort Bragg project, expected to yield 40 megawatts of electricity, would be “an undersea power plug,” said PG&E project manager Bill Toman. It “would provide about 20% of electricity consumption of Mendocino County.”

PG&E would build the expensive transmission lines. The utility would select three or four developers to test their power generators.

Results will lead to “a decision about whether we would build our own wave energy farm,” he said.

Mendocino coast residents are examining PG&E’s plans with cautious concern.

“Wave energy sounds like a good idea, as long as it doesn’t harm the environment,” said Bruce Lewis, a nature photographer and volunteer light-keeper at the Point Cabrillo Light Station. “Using the power of the waves seems like a better way of generating power than building oil platforms off the coast.”

Others are wary. “When you first hear about it, you think, ‘That’s a great idea!’ ” said Jim Martin, director of the Recreational Fishing Alliance.

He’s concerned wave power may interfere with fisheries. He wonders if electrical signatures from the devices also might disturb fish.

His biggest complaint right now, however, is that local fishermen and residents have had no say in the planning.

Martin is also associated with Fishermen Interested in Safe Hydrokinetics, or FISH. With local lawyer Elizabeth Mitchell, FISH is battling for a role in the planning.

A federal deadline has passed for gaining an official voice in the legal planning for the wave projects, alongside PG&E and federal energy regulators.

Mitchell has filed a request for a belated entree with the Federal Electric Regulatory Commission. She argues that an isolated community, with limited high-speed Internet service, and few residents who even know what FERC is, could not have met the deadline.

Mitchell said she’s concerned that permits have been granted without environmental analysis or even identified technology. “We are guinea pigs for a worldwide science experiment without any rational planning.”

PG&E’s permit comes from FERC. But there is a question over wave power jurisdiction. The federal Minerals Management Service has jurisdiction from three to 200 miles offshore, and by years end hopes to have rules in place for alternative energy leases, said spokesman John Romero.

FERC, however, oversees onshore hydropower applications and has claimed jurisdiction for wave technology up to 12 miles offshore, based on its reading of legal documents.

“It’s a problem for anyone in charge of proposing a project,” PG&E’s Toman said. “At some point, it will hold things up.”

A delay would be welcome, Martin said. “A huge reason people come up here is to look at the ocean, and to reconnect with nature.”

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RACHEL THOMSON, The Daily World, August 5, 2008

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has issued a preliminary permit to grant the Grays Harbor Ocean Energy Co. the exclusive right to conduct a feasibility study for generating power from wind and wave energy on a 28-mile stretch of the Pacific Coast from Ocean Shores to Grayland over the next three years. The permit, issued August 1, 2008, does not authorize any construction.

The project foresees as many as 90 260-foot tall steel wind turbines, as well as wave energy converters to convert ocean waves and wind into a renewable source of energy and could supply enough energy to power the entire Olympic Peninsula and make Grays Harbor one of the largest producers of renewable energy in the world, according to Burton Hamner, president of Hydrovolts, Inc.—the creator of the Grays Harbor Energy Co. Hamner also said the project has the potential to create numerous jobs within the county because the renewable energy equipment would be manufactured locally.

“The ocean off of Washington has the potential to provide all the electricity needed for the western half of the state by 2025,” Hamner said. “We are leading the investigation how to make this a reality and encourage everyone interested in locally-generated clean power to learn more about the possibilities.”

The feasibility study will seek to find out if the turbines would affect gray whale migration patterns and flight patterns of birds, according to Hamner. Hamner said the study will also examine whether or not the locations of the turbines could limit the areas in which fisherman can fish.

Hamner said a cost for completing the project has not been determined, but the feasibility study could cost upward of $500,000. Funding would come from state and federal grants as well as from the Bonneville Power Administration, he said.

Even after the feasibility study is completed, it would take about four years to begin construction, Hamner said.

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JOHN DRISCOLL, The Times-Standard, July 24, 2008

The Pacific Gas and Electric Co. has cleared another hurdle toward developing wave energy projects off the Humboldt and Mendocino county coasts.

Recently the U.S. Minerals Management Service announced that it would go forward with analyzing limited leases for alternative energy projects on the outer continental shelf. It follows a decision by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to grant preliminary permits to PG&E for the project, which envisions eight to 200 wave energy devices somewhere from two to 10 miles offshore.

FERC oversees such projects within three miles of the coast, while the Minerals Management Service has jurisdiction beyond that.

The process for issuing limited leases under an interim policy formed in November 2007 will entail “thorough environmental analysis under the National Environmental Policy Act and related laws, as well as close consultation with federal, state and local government agencies,” the service said in a press release.

The Pacific Fisheries Management Council wrote to the Minerals Management Service in June expressing concern that multiple wave test projects could have cumulative effects on sea life and the commercial fishing fleet. The potential effects should be evaluated at an “ecosystem scale” before projects are installed, the letter reads.

The Mineral Management Service leases will allow PG&E to collect information for potential commercial projects in the future.

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MendoCoastCurrent, July 23, 2008

If the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities agrees next month to build offshore wind turbines, then projects covering as much as 40 square miles of the Atlantic Ocean could be built locally over the next several years.

Plans on file in the state BPU office here show most of the proposals favor building the projects in southern New Jersey – anywhere from three to 20 miles offshore, visible from most of the region’s beaches.

The state is seeking to get as much as 350 megawatts of power from the projects. By comparison, the B.L. England power plant in Upper Township produces about 214 megawatts. The proposals are meant to take stress off the grid that gets much of its energy from out of state, while replacing energy sources that emit thousands of tons of pollutants each year.

The Committee includes members from the state BPU, Department of Environmental Protection, NJ Governor’s Office, U.S. Department of Energy and the recently disbanded state Commerce Commission. But NJ officials refused to say who would be making recommendations for the $1 billion project.

While four of the projects would use wind turbines similar to those at the Atlantic County Utilities Authority site, one builder proposed a revolutionary design. Instead of spinning like a pinwheel, New York City’s Environmental Technologies LLC’s windmills would spin like a blender, the multiple long, flat blades rotating around a central pillar inside of an open, boxy enclosure. By placing them somewhere off Seaside Park, Ocean County, the plans say that 225 ‘blenders’ would generate 337.5 megawatts of power. Because they do not have giant spinning arms, each taking up about one acre, whereas traditional wind turbines use about 23 acres.

Three other plans would place wind turbines in sprawling rectangular zones.

Planners seek similar sites off Cape May and Atlantic counties. While the ocean seems limitless, plans show builders are boxed in by constraints that include shipping lanes, flight patterns, transatlantic cables, shipwrecks, fisheries, water depths and proximity to the shore.

The plan by Cape May’s Fishermen’s Energy of New Jersey seeks to alleviate fishing concerns. Opposition by fishing groups undercut an unrelated proposal by the Long Island Power Authority.

Cape May’s Fishermen’s Energy wrote they would investigate whether special measures should be taken to conserve fish species. While the structures could overrun some habitat, the company did not expect long-term, negative effects.

The plan would put eight wind turbines about three miles off Absecon Island approximately between the foot of the Atlantic City Expressway and the Margate/Longport border, in hopes of rallying the region behind the project. The application noted the project would add to the Atlantic City skyline.

The second phase would put 66 wind turbines of twice the capacity about seven miles east from the Great Egg Harbor Inlet. They would all be operational in 2014. The plan also calls for creating a pair of nonprofit energy collectives to seek federal funds.

Garden State Offshore Energy, a joint effort by PSEG Renewable Generation and Winergy Power Holdings, would put their farm about 20 miles dead east of Avalon, generating 345.6 megawatts. The 96 turbines would be in an area 3.5 miles by 5.5 miles, but barely visible.

The plan said it could build in water up to 110 feet deep because of groundbreaking technology the company did not share in the public proposal. The company seeks $4 million, with $400,000 for development and $3.6 million for environmental monitoring. The company was one of the few to reveal the overall cost, $1.07 billion.

A fourth plan by Hoboken’s BluewaterWind would put 116 wind turbines 16 miles southeast of Atlantic City, generating 348 megawatts. The project would cover about 40 square miles, but outside of a 33-foot safety zone around the turbines, the firm said there would be no exclusionary zone around them. Like several other plans, it could be operational by the end of 2013. The plan touts the firm’s experience, saying team members helped construct wind turbines that generate 1,120 of the 1,193 megawatts generated worldwide.

It also said it is developing a 450 megawatt wind farm about 11 miles east of Rehoboth, Del., and was the financial advisor and manager of the ACUA’s wind park. The firm seeks $19 million from the state’s Clean Energy Program, paid over five years, based on the electricity delivered to the grid.

The BPU committee is expected to recommend one of the five plans at its Aug. 20 board meeting. The BPU allows groups filing proposals to redact certain sensitive information, typically involving financing, private agreements or aspects that could compromise the company’s financial standing.

Cuts have to be justified using the confidentiality claim. Only one firm, Fishermen’s Energy of New Jersey, was the only company since March to justify their redactions. BPU Board secretary Kristi Izzo said she would ask the other firms to explain redactions in the coming days.

A final proposal by Bayonne’s Occidental Development & Equities, LLC, said it would generate 160 megawatts after a 578-day project. But the 22-page filing didn’t say how many windmills, how tall or in what arrangement. The company plan mentions two sites, but only specified they would be “off the coast within territorial waters.” The file raised more questions about the company than it answered. The company redacted information about the firm’s expertise. Satellite photos seem to indicate the company’s mailing address was in a Bayonne, Hudson County, residential neighborhood, and its state incorporation records do not exist.

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April 1, 2008

Interesting reading…A Request for Rehearing has been filed related to FERC’s Denial of FISH’s Motions to Intervene in PG&E’s Mendocino and Humboldt Wave Energy Projects (read Filing : fish-request-for-rehearing.pdf).

FISH, Fishermen Interested in Safe Hydrokinetics, has become a steering committee led by Mendocino coast locals, John Innes and Jim Martin, as Co-Coordinators and Elizabeth Mitchell as FERC Coordinator.

FISH has polled the fishing community for much of the information in this Request for Rehearing, and it is clear that there is substantial, if not total, overlap between the fishing grounds and the proposed wave energy project areas.

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Susan Chambers, The World Link, March 21, 2008

REEDSPORT — Fishermen and port officials talked of trust Wednesday night at the Port of Umpqua commission meeting.

The meeting was an impromptu first battleground over what fishermen see as a violation of trust and wave energy company Ocean Power Technologies see as a business decision.

OPT filed a preliminary application document for a 200-buoy wave energy park off the North Spit on March 7 — 180 buoys more than promised when OPT representative Steve Kopf met with the Charleston fishing fleet in January.

The 200-buoy concept is not new. It’s what OPT proposed when it filed its permit request with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in 2006. FERC granted the permit in early 2007.

“The bottom line is that as we started putting the PAD together, the CEO said fishermen are not worried so much about the small projects; they’re worried about the big things,” Kopf said on March 7. “So instead, (OPT) decided to face this head on.”

In February, Port of Umpqua commissioners considered sending a letter to federal lawmakers and agencies in support of OPT receiving federal energy funds to develop new technology. Commissioners postponed approval until they could talk with Kopf again to determine the status of ongoing talks with local commercial Dungeness crab fishermen.

The change in the number of buoys for North Spit wave facility — and the consternation it caused among the fleet — made discussions about the letter difficult. Kopf ultimately asked to have consideration of the letter postponed.

Kopf said Wednesday the number of buoys at the Reedsport wave park would remain the same, 10, enough for a test site to ensure the buoys work as planned and energy can be transmitted to the grid as planned. It also would give the company a chance to study the effects of the buoys on the environment and surrounding wildlife.

Still, the overriding concerns Wednesday were of trust and ongoing discussions that have not been resolved, namely the use of prime crabbing grounds for what fishermen say is unproven technology.

Unlike the 1/4- to 1/2-square-mile footprint at Reedsport, the North Spit site would encompass a roughly 300-yards-wide by 5-mile-long footprint, parallel to the beach. OPT also planned to try to place the buoys deeper, nearer 40 fathoms, than the depth in which it plans to place buoys at the Reedsport facility.

“That’s something we heard at the Reedsport meetings,” Kopf said.

The 200-buoy facility also would be broken into four sections — another result of what OPT representatives heard during Reedsport discussions — so as to benefit fishermen and OPT maintenance crews.

The North Spit park likely would not be developed for several years, Kopf said.

That didn’t sit well with fishermen.

“It shocked me that it happened so quickly,” Charleston fisherman Jeff Reeves said.

Winchester Bay crabber Stuart Schuttpelz put it even more bluntly: “This community doesn’t need to be lied to,” he said.

Kopf acknowledged their comments with aplomb.

“We definitely violated the trust with this group when we made that last-minute change,” Kopf said. “But from our perspective, we need to figure out technically, economically, if this works.”

Kopf also noted that the federal funding — part of a fiscal year 2009 budget request — would go to offset the costs of doing environmental studies. And sure, he said, funneling that money through independent Oregon universities or other businesses for the benefit of the wave energy industry overall is a viable option.

Mike Gaul, speaking on behalf of the Oregon Public Ports Association, suggested the neutral third-party option earlier in the evening, noting that he was uncomfortable with supporting federal funds going to a private company. Gaul, who’s the Oregon International Port of Coos Bay’s deputy director, also spoke Thursday night before the Coos Bay port commission. He told port commissioners he felt Kopf misled them by filing an application for a full-scale project.

“To date, OPT has not shown they are willing to work with the fishermen and Port of Coos Bay,” he said.

Kopf planned to meet with local officials today (Friday) in Coos Bay to continue to discuss the issue of moving ahead with 200 buoys — a project that could be granted a 50-year FERC license — instead of 20.

But fishermen and port officials warned more work must be done — still.

The 273-page PAD has some of the same errors in it that OPT made when it filed a preliminary application for the Reedsport site — errors Oregon Dungeness Crab Commission spokesman Hugh Link pointed out in earlier discussions with OPT.

“The Tri-state Commercial Crab Committee closely regulates harvest. The committee conducts annual reviews of crab populations and limits permits, timing and take in order to maintain the important Dungeness crab resource for both commercial and recreational take,” the application reads in one part.

But in reality, each state, Washington, Oregon and California, manages and regulates its own fleet and crab resource.

Kopf said there still is work to be done and planned to continue OPT’s commitment to working with fishermen.

“We’re committed to continuing the dialogue,” he said.

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Susan Chambers Staff Writer The World January 18, 2008

REEDSPORT — It’s all about balance in a growing debate about marine reserves and, to a lesser extent, wave energy.

Chip Terhune, Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski’s chief of staff, opened the Reedsport marine reserves and wave energy discussion with about 75 people Thursday night at the Port of Umpqua with comments about his previous meetings with coastal residents. Terhune was following up on discussions fishermen had with Kulongoski in November.

“Folks feel strongly and folks feel differently,” Terhune said of the different communities he’d visited on the North and Central coasts, but they all had one thing in common. “People are passionate about their communities.”

That passion soon was evident Thursday night.

Commercial fisherman Jeff Mulkey has been vocal during discussions about placing wave energy-generating buoys in prime crabbing grounds off Gardiner.

“I really believe there are better and cheaper ways to develop renewable energy,” Mulkey said.

And off-limits areas of the ocean — marine reserves — would deal a second blow to fishermen already dealing with increasing federal regulations and other closed areas in federal waters, he said.

“There is no science that tells us we need reserves,” Mulkey said. “Let’s do one and see how it goes.”

Terhune said he could understand Mulkey’s point of view — and others, who echoed the same sentiments — and that he’d be sure and take those comments back to the governor. At the same time, there is an increasing scientific push for marine reserves and wave energy, he said.

“The decibel level on these issues is going to get higher and higher,” Terhune said. He also noted ongoing efforts to establish marine protected areas — areas that have flexible uses, as opposed to the complete closed areas of marine reserves — in California, Washington and nationwide.

It’s that huge push that often has fishermen lined up on one side of issue and environmental and conservation groups lined up on the other. Fishermen, particularly in Oregon, see increasing regulations and more fish — fish they’re not allowed to catch due to regulations. Environmental and conservation groups have poured millions of dollars into the effort to advance the advocacy and establishment of marine reserves.

Commercial fisherman Peter Keyes said he’s fished in California, Gold Beach, Port Orford and other parts of the Oregon Coast and also worked in the oil and gas industry, driving supply boats. In California, the establishment of marine protected areas and marine reserves has been a touchy issue.

“I haven’t met a single (California commercial fisherman) who’s happy about marine reserves,” Keyes said.

Winchester Bay commercial fisherman Barry Nelson referred to some of the groups pushing marine reserves as “over-the-top” environmental groups who want to take the extreme conservation policies applied to the land and apply them to the ocean.

“They’re never happy,” he said.

A few environmental groups did send out press releases to reporters and provide talking points for their members so participants could testify in support of marine reserves during Terhune’s meetings. In Reedsport, though, the supporters in the audience who have been outspoken at federal fishery management meetings and state meetings said nothing to Terhune. Only sport and commercial fishermen and tribal representatives made comments.

Charleston salmon troller Shawn Ryan, who routinely fishes in California, said fishermen there have been hit hard by closed areas and that environmental groups have dumped lots of money into the marine protected areas process.

“It’s crazy,” he said.

The Oregon Ocean Policy Advisory Council is scheduled to make a recommendation about marine reserves to the governor in November but has heard similar concerns. The governor’s nomination process would allow anyone from Oregon — even representatives or members of out-of-state conservation groups — to make recommendations about which areas to close in the ocean.

Science should come first, Nelson said.

“Study it to see what you need,” he said. “The public knows less than anyone (about the ocean) and you’re asking them to nominate sites?

“The process is way out of whack.”

Terhune, patient and open to comments, took a lot of notes and asked lots of questions during the hour-and-a-half meeting. He also noted that both short-term and long-term issues must be considered in relation to marine reserves and wave energy.

And balance.

“We’ve got to figure out how to do this the Oregon way,” Terhune said.

The Oregon way is through OPAC, he added.

The council already is in the process of creating outreach meetings to help the public understand what marine reserves are, how the nomination process works and to seek input. Those meetings will be held before November.

“Tell them what you told me,” Terhune said. “They need to hear your voice. … It sounds like we’ve got a lot more work to do than we thought.”

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Susan Chambers The World April 10, 2007

A wave breaks off the southern Oregon Coast as wind blows some of the surf backward. That wave attraction is attracting power producers. To date, seven projects are proposed for the Oregon Coast, to tether power-generating buoys to the ocean floor to ride ocean swells. World File Photo

 

CHARLESTON – Commercial fishermen are accustomed to dealing with waves, but not the wave of tidal energy project proposals.

Several crabbers, salmon trollers and beach trawlers met Monday at the Charleston Marina RV Park recreation center to learn about what many viewed as the next threat to their livelihood.

“It kind of feels like a gold rush,” Oregon Coastal Zone Management Association Executive Director Onno Husing, said.

Husing was one of the organizers of the meeting, designed as an informal get-together to learn about two potential wave-energy parks proposed for ocean areas off Coos County, one in the Reedsport area and others.

To date, seven projects are proposed for the Oregon Coast. Each would consist of buoys tethered to the ocean floor that ride ocean swells. Internally, each buoy would have elements that would harness a portion of the swells’ energy, convert it to electricity and transmit it to shore. Some proposals call for up to 200 buoys in a single area, up to about 5 square miles. All must be approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

Rumors abound about other projects proposed but that haven’t been officially filed with FERC.

The bottom line, Husing started to say, phrasing it more as a question, is that one or two areas may be OK.

No, Charleston salmon troller Paul Merz said, interrupting Husing. Those ocean areas already have an existing use, from border to border, he added.

“They should be coming to us,” Merz continued, noting that the companies or organizations moving ahead with the wave energy parks should be talking to existing users of the ocean: commercial fishermen, recreational fishermen, commercial shippers.

Commercial Dungeness crabbers could see the most change in their fishing patterns. The placement of the buoy arrays matches prime crab ground: depths of between 20 and 40 fathoms on expanses of sandy ocean bottom.

Salmon trollers also traverse the areas while seeking Chinook and beach trawlers find sources of some flatfish.

Salmon and crab fisherman Tim Smith, who fishes the Irish Miss out of Winchester Bay, picked up on the gold rush idea.

“They’re claim jumping,” Smith said. “They’re taking that (area) away.”

Projects already under way

Wave energy companies most often go through a two-step process to get approval from FERC , but not always. They can skip applying for a preliminary permit and simply apply for a license – as Finavera Renewables did when it applied for a project in Washington.

FERC already has approved three preliminary permits, giving three entities approval to test sites for the feasibility of operating more than one or two buoys at a site (see sidebar). Only one license is pending approval.

Ocean Power Technologies, with U.S. offices in New Jersey, plans to have the first buoy in the water off Reedsport this summer.

Some of the companies applying for permits to operate wave energy parks in the U.S. are foreign-owned, with offices in North America. Several companies already have demonstrated the value of tidal energy technology in Europe. Finavera Renewables, for example, is an Irish firm but has offices in Canada and the U.S. It has applied for a permit to study the feasibility of a park near Bandon.

Fishermen weren’t happy about the overseas component of wave energy. If the companies get subsidized to build here, where do the profits go, several asked – do they stay in the United States or go overseas?

Furthermore, they said, the issue of fishing grounds is the main issue, and the state and federal involvement in accepting energy parks that could displace the fleet.

For instance, “crabbers,” Smith said. “(They’re) going to push us aside for foreign money?”

Charleston fisherman Daryl Bogardus questioned the economic importance of the parks, too.

“I don’t think the wave-generation buoys would generate as much (money) as crab fishing,” Bogardus said.

Most fishermen agreed that somehow, some way, they should be compensated for the loss of fishing grounds and that indeed, the fleet needs to be an integral part of the process.

Already, crabbers in the Reedsport and Winchester Bay areas have been included in ongoing talks with Ocean Power Technologies about the park impacts there.

Husing proposed establishing a statewide committee with representatives from the fishing fleet in each port to stay up-to-date on wave energy developments.

It also needs to be pro-active, he said, by obtaining legal advice, finding experts on FERC processes, doing socioeconomic studies, working with the state’s Congressional delegation and working with other state and federal agencies.

“As a group, as an industry, we need to assert ourselves that there already is a use here,” Merz agreed.

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Finavera had been collecting data before the buoy took on water and bilge pump fails

LORI TOBIAS, The Oregonia, November 1, 2007

NEWPORT — The first wave energy test buoy deployed off the Oregon coast has sunk.

Engineers with the Canadian energy developer Finavera Renewables learned the $2 million buoy plunged to the ocean floor only a day before they were to remove the 72-foot tall device, Finavera spokesman Mike Clark said Wednesday.

Aquabuoy 2.0 was built by Oregon Iron Works in Portland and deployed Sept. 6 about 2.5 miles off Agate Beach.

Since then, Finavera has been collecting data from the buoy by computer. But late last week the buoy began taking on water, and the bilge pump failed.

“The bilge pump is monitored, and we knew that there was something going on from the data,” Clark said. Engineers visited the buoy to prepare to retrieve it, but when they returned Saturday, it had sank.

The buoy is about 150 feet below the ocean’s surface. The firm plans to recover it, Clark said, but will have to wait until spring when ocean conditions are calmer.

Meanwhile, the buoy shouldn’t cause any problems, he said.

“I know there may be concerns about environmental impacts, but part of the benefit of the design of the device is there are no hydraulic oils,” Clark said. “There is little if any environmental impact from having this down there. Basically it is metal with a piece of rubber hose in it.”

But the fishing community isn’t so sure it’s harmless.

“This validates our concerns,” said Al Pazar, chairman of the Oregon Dungeness Crab Commission. “We’ve got a big chunk of iron laying at the bottom of the ocean which will probably gobble up a bunch of crab gear. It’s just another place for things to collect and make a big mess. There is a learning curve here, and we are way at the bottom of it.”

Despite the sinking, Clark called the test run a success, and the information gathered will be used to develop the next buoy.

“From our perspective it doesn’t hamper the development of the technology at all. This device was going to be broken down anyway and was not going to be put back out in the water. But the end result a day before we were to get it out of the water was not something we would have wished for.”

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Sonoma County Press Release, November 5, 2007

Santa Rosa, CA– The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors will consider taking action to secure and protect local control of offshore wave energy projects at their regular board meeting on Tuesday, November 6, 2007. If approved, the board would direct staff of the Sonoma County Water Agency to file an application with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) for a preliminary permit to conduct feasibility testing of hydrokinetic energy projects in the Pacific Ocean off of the Sonoma Coast.

“We’ll be taking a hard look at this proposal on Tuesday,” said Mike Reilly, Sonoma County Supervisor and former chair of the Coastal Commission. “I will be looking for assurance that our actions work toward protection of our marine resources and that we don’t cede local control of our coastline to business interests or federal regulators in far-away places.” Reilly added. The proposed board action would direct Agency staff to file an application with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for a preliminary permit to conduct feasibility studies and testing of technologies to develop wave energy resources, also known as hydrokinetic energy. The preliminary permit area encompasses the entire Sonoma Coast out to 12 miles offshore. The application contemplates development of hydrokinetic energy technologies demonstration projects capable of generating from 2 to 5 megawatts of power.

“We don’t know at this time if the project will prove to be feasible but we do know that if we don’t pursue this, someone else will. We have to take a serious look at this proposal. I believe it would be better for the Agency to secure this permit and develop the resource because it gives us local control over the future of our coastline.” said Sonoma County Supervisor, Tim Smith.

The Sonoma County Water Agency, the largest electric power user in the North Bay region, has been aggressively developing and acquiring renewable energy sources to serve its needs. Currently the Agency holds 2 megawatts of solar photovoltaic power supply and has access to 6 megawatts of landfill biogas power. The Agency’s peak power demand is about 12 megawatts. The Agency is the primary water supplier for 600,000 people in Sonoma and Marin Counties. “We are well on the way to becoming the first major water supplier in California to use 100% renewable power. That’s our goal and the project we are looking at today could be the one that pushes us over the top,” said Smith.

Advocates for marine sanctuaries and for local commercial fishing organizations have been closely following plans to develop wave energy projects in northern California particularly along the Sonoma Coast.

“We’re intrigued by wave energy generation as ‘green’ replacement power to enable removal of antiquated, fish-killing hydro dams,” commented Zeke Grader, Executive Director of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations. “But these offshore facilities must be carefully placed so as not to obstruct fishing, shipping and recreation. That’s why it’s so important local government take the lead and not leave wave energy development to the whims of power companies.”

“Large industrial wave arrays may or may not represent significant energy potential, but the resulting displacement of our valuable fishing grounds and adverse impacts on sensitive marine ecosystems could irreparably damage our coastal-dependent economy unless such projects are done with extreme care.” said Richard Charter with Defenders of Wildlife, “We are unfortunately faced with a lawless land rush situation in our offshore waters right now, and either we wait for Chevron or a utility giant to take control of the Sonoma Coast, as has recently been happening in Mendocino and Humboldt Counties, or our own Board of Supervisors acts proactively to assert local control.”

If approved by the Board, Agency staff would submit an application to FERC for a preliminary permit that would allow the Agency to begin feasibility studies of wave energy projects for the Sonoma Coast. Staff estimate that about $1.75 million in grant funding and Agency funds will be required to fund these studies and would return to the Board at a future date for approval of a financial plan.

Hydrokinetic energy permit applications have already been filed with FERC for ocean tracts in Mendocino and Humboldt counties. Mendocino County reportedly filed a motion to intervene in a FERC permit application submitted by Pacific Gas & Electric Corporation to develop wave energy resources offshore from the City of Fort Bragg. Two other wave energy applications are under consideration offshore from Humboldt County.

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