The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) yesterday released two Draft Wind Energy Areas (WEAs) off the Oregon Coast and set a 60-day public comment period that will include multiple public meetings and an Oregon Intergovernmental Renewable Energy Task Force meeting.
The announcement of the Draft WEAs follows BOEM's publishing last April of two "Call Areas" off the southern half of the Oregon Coast, designated for their potential for wind energy leases. The two Draft WEAs cover about 220,000 acres within those Call Areas, "with their closest points ranging from approximately 18 – 32 miles off the coast," according to BOEM.
Multiple studies have concluded that the winds off large portions of the Oregon Coast offer world-class potential for energy production – a driving reason for interest in developing an offshore wind industry off the Oregon Coast. But those same areas are also important to many other stakeholders; concerns over the potential impacts of offshore wind development weigh heavily on other ocean users, Tribes, cultural and environmental interests, and coastal communities.
In response to these concerns, federal and state officials have asked BOEM for more opportunities for public input in the leasing process. With the announcement of the Draft WEAs, accompanying establishment of a 60-day comment period, and commitment to multiple public meetings on the Oregon Coast, BOEM appears to address those requests.
The Draft WEAs' publication is just one more step in BOEM's determination of whether ultimately it will issue any leases to wind project developers. BOEM anticipates using the feedback received from the Draft WEAs to identify "Final" WEAs, which would then be subject to environmental review and further public input prior to BOEM's decision whether to propose any lease sales.
BOEM's notice and request for comment are found here. Comments on the Draft WEAs are due by Oct. 16, 2023.
We are continuing to track BOEM's West Coast offshore wind proceedings and will provide additional updates in future posts.
*Special thanks to former DWT Law Clerk Ananya Sreekanth for assistance preparing the background for this advisory.