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Feds Finalize Offshore Wind Energy Areas, Oregon Responds

Last month, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) announced the final Wind Energy Areas (WEAs) for leasing and development of offshore wind along Oregon's outer coast. The area covers approximately 195,000 acres of ocean and offers the opportunity of 2.4 GW worth of energy development. The areas remained unchanged from the draft WEAs and sparked concerns from many individuals, including Surfrider Foundation's Oregon chapters, which had worked extensively with tribes and ocean stakeholders to recommend smaller areas that would avoid significant impacts to wildlife and ocean users. Nearly a month later, we arrive the end of the line for organizations to file comments on the Environmental Assessment of the final wind energy areas.

Shortly after the announcement, Surfrider Foundation joined various Oregon Tribes, environmental groups and many within the fishing community to formally request an extension on providing feedback and comments on the Environmental Assessment. Oregon's congressional delegation, fisheries experts and Governor's office also chimed in to officially request and extension in order to provide adequate time for Oregonians to evaluate and make recommendations on the assessment. Now just days from the deadline, we still have not heard from BOEM whether they will honor the extension request. As such, Surfrider Foundation is working diligently with other groups to file comments this week, both in collaboration with ocean wildlife organizations and experts but also individually on behalf our Oregon chapters.

Update 03/15: Read Surfrider Foundation's Oregon chapters' comments here and read our broader wildlife coalition comments here.

While Surfrider remains optimistic and supportive of renewable energy efforts, our Oregon chapter network has felt increasingly marginalized by state and federal conversations which has housed key planning conversations and opportunities within labor and inland conservation interests. As coastal residents and ocean users living and working within communities, ports and estuaries which will experience the most significant impacts of offshore development and associated onshoring infrastructure, it's notable that these communities of interest have been left out of state level discussions. Most recently, HB 4080 which passed this year's legislative session plugged a "roadmap" for developing and pursuing  offshore wind - a roadmap developed primarily by Portland and developer interests far from impacted communities.

Oregon Surfrider Chapters have long been engaged in energy development interests off and along the Oregon coast. Our state was ground zero for our national organizations development of a renewable ocean energy policy during the wave energy processes and preliminary leases of 2007. Our users were a key supporter of Oregon's Territorial Sea Plan Part 5, which helped pave the way for nearshore wave energy opportunities, leading mapping of major stakeholder and ocean user interests. We were a strong partner to our state's lead agency, the Department of Land Conservation and Development in much of that process and served for 8 years on Oregon Ocean Policy Advisory Council to advance those efforts. We were a key stakeholder supporting the process to identify PACWave's very first lease area and groundbreaking, just off the coast off Newport. As one of the only user groups (recreation) that sacrificed the closure of a state park and associated access for over a year, we're losing faith from the continued exclusion and interest to sacrifice for offshore wind.  The recent planning efforts, represent a major divergence from those individuals in Oregon that have served and worked hard to partner and find the Oregon way forward for renewable energy development, that history is clear. Sadly many of our members have lost significant trust in the current process and those far from the coast that remain in the driver seat.