The Astoria City Council and the Port of Astoria Commission want to slow down the process of developing offshore wind energy to understand the impact on fisheries, marine life and the economies of coastal communities.

In letters to the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management and the Oregon Department of Energy, the city and the Port recommended a small demonstration to test offshore wind technology. The letters also urged the bureau to conduct environmental impact statements before leases are granted.

Wind

Offshore wind turbines are shown near Block Island, Rhode Island.

The letters are a reaction to federal and state interest in offshore wind energy development on the Oregon Coast.

Under legislation approved in 2021, the state Department of Energy will develop a report identifying the benefits and challenges of integrating 3 gigawatts of floating offshore wind by 2030.

In April, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management announced that it identified two call areas — places that could potentially be leased for wind energy development — on the Oregon Coast as part of the Biden administration’s goal to deploy 30 gigawatts of offshore wind energy by 2030.

The call areas, identified as Coos Bay and Brookings, total over a million acres.

Offshore wind energy development in those areas could coincide with fishing activities, sparking concerns that fisheries could face displacement, increased competition and financial impacts.

Lori Steele, the executive director of the West Coast Seafood Processors Association, said offshore wind energy development in southern Oregon would affect Astoria’s fishing activities.

“Most fishermen, when they head out to go fishing, love to take a left turn and head south,” she said. “Some of those fishing grounds that are in those two call areas are our prime fishing grounds for a number of fisheries.”

The Port Commission voted unanimously on Tuesday to send the letter.

Commissioner Robert Stevens said offshore wind energy development could impact the navigation of ships. “If you catch fish, deliver fish, sell fish, buy fish, buy it or eat it, you should be concerned,” he said.

Steele said the goal is not to oppose offshore wind development, but to support a deliberative process that evaluates environmental and economic impacts.

The city recommended moving all Oregon call areas outside of a 1,300-meter depth to avoid displacing fishery activities.

At the Astoria City Council on Monday, the resolution triggered a debate over the value of offshore wind energy.

City Councilor Tom Hilton questioned whether offshore wind energy is an important component of Oregon’s transition to cleaner fuel.

“I don’t think we should have one of those off our coast at all,” he said. “The privatization of the ocean is what we’re looking at. It will definitely devastate commercial fishing.”

City Councilor Thomas Brownson said the development needs to happen with consideration to fisheries and other stakeholders.

“Climate change — it’s not my opinion,” he said. “As far as I’m concerned, it’s for real, and we need to, as societies, do everything possible to mitigate that.”

Brownson abstained on the City Council vote in favor of sending the letter.