After months of discussions, the Clatsop County Board of Commissioners at its Wednesday meeting adopted amendments to the county’s comprehensive plan for ocean resources off its coast.

The draft amendments to the county’s comprehensive plan are intended to provide county officials guidance as they respond to a parallel set of changes planned to Oregon’s Territorial Sea Plan. The end result will be a newly zoned, 3-mile wide expanse of ocean off the Oregon Coast, parts of which could be used as a staging ground for wave or wind energy devices.

In part, the amendments will consider the cumulative impact of ocean energy resource development, evaluate the impacts on ocean fisheries and minimize the impairment of the ocean’s scenic values, the county says.

But it likely won’t be the end result in what’s already been a long process. State advisory committees continue to discuss amendments to Oregon’s Territorial Sea Plan, in part to delineate areas where wave or wind energy devices could be placed.

“It’s actually going to have more life at the end of the day because (Oregon’s Land Conservation and Development Commission) is making amendments to the Territorial Sea Plan,” said Board Chairman Peter Huhtala.

The county’s plan has also been a lengthy process, culminating in public outreach this spring. On April 10, the process moved forward when the Clatsop County Planning Commission unanimously recommended the adoption of the county’s new policies, known as the “Goal 19 element.”

Public input into the county’s process has been rare.

On April 25, the Board opened a public hearing and performed a first reading of the ordinance. Input into the process was not immediately forthcoming, said the county’s Planning Director Hiller West at Wednesday’s meeting, where there were no public comments.

However, fishermen and crabbers have been critical of the state’s parallel planning process for the territorial sea. They’re concerned the introduction of wave or wind energy devices would put a further squeeze on fishing routes, which are facing down a number of exclusion zones. Others have voiced concerns about viewsheds and ocean health.

Emerging as an area of interest for at least the first-wave of new energy devices off the coast of Clatsop County is Camp Rilea in Warrenton.

Rick Williams, a consultant for the Oregon Military Department, said a feasibility study will be released in late June detailing whether Camp Rilea is a suitable site for wave energy.

The Oregon National Guard training facility has a vested interest in renewable energy generation because of a state initiative calling for all military bases to work toward net-zero energy consumption.

Addressing fishermen’s concerns about the intrusiveness of the devices, Williams said at least two wave energy manufacturers have been working on redesigning prototypes to make them less intrusive.

Camp Rilea considers renewable energy a potential job creator, Williams said. He’s entered into discussions with officials at Clatsop Community College’s Marine and Environmental Research Training Station (MERTS) to institute a training program to create a “career pipeline.”

“If a decision is made to go into the process of developing ocean energy, there would be maintenance and installation costs associated with that,” Williams said. A local workforce would be needed, he added.

Huhtala said the county has positioned itself so that when Oregon finalizes the Territorial Sea Plan the county will be “neatly integrated” with the changes.

“I am happy to see it wrapped up at this point,” Huhtala said, “but I expect us to readdress this as the state moves forward with its process.”

In other Board news:

• George Sabol, executive director of Clatsop Community Action, presented the Board with the first “Ten Year Plan to End Homelessness.”

The plan addresses ways of mobilizing resources to wipe out homelessness in the county. It lays the foundation for ways to increase services in the county.

Having a plan in place is also expected to help attract state and federal pass-through dollars. In recent years, state and federal grant applications have recommended that communities have a plan in place to end homelessness before releasing money.

“We see the writing on the wall,” Sabol said.

•The Board began moving forward with the process of authorizing a 10-year bond or loan to pay off its settlement with Georgia-Pacific over the Wauna Mill property tax dispute.

The county plans to authorize the loan for $2.6 million, which will be paid off over a 10-year period.

At the beginning of the month, the county settled its four-year tax dispute with Georgia-Pacific, the parent company of the paper and pulp mill. The settlement calls for a $2.5 million pay-out from the county’s taxing districts.

Georgia-Pacific claimed the state excessively evaluated the property and raised its tax rate in the wake of a failed attempt by the company to use enterprise zone tax abatements to improve the Wauna Mill.

The extra $100,000 will be used as a contingency against financing and borrowing costs, said Mike Robison, the county’s director of central services. He expects interest rates for the borrowed money to hover around 3 percent.


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