Oregon Adopts Plan for Marine Renewable Energy
In January 2013, Crag assisted local organizations and coastal communities in cooperation with the State of Oregon to secure protections for culturally and environmentally vital areas of Oregon’s coast and identify areas appropriate for marine renewable energy research and development.
With the passage of Oregon House Bill 3543 in 2007, Oregon set goals to reduce carbon emissions. After years of research into greener energy solutions, the State of Oregon adopted a plan to expand their renewable energy network into the oceans with marine renewable energy development. While wave energy is safer for the climate with little fossil fuel emissions, coastal community members, fishermen, and conservation groups questioned whether the potential for wave energy would disrupt the marine ecosystems and wildlife on the Oregon Coast.
“Oregon’s coastal communities have a tradition and economy built on the ocean: commercial fishing and crabbing, sport fishing, whale watching, and many other endeavors rely on the ocean to succeed. Our coastal waters are home to special and important ecological resources that form the base of these coastal economies and traditions, and which the State of Oregon has pledged to protect.”
-Executive Director and Staff Attorney, Courtney Johnson
When originally established in 1994, the Territorial Sea Plan granted state and federal agencies management of three nautical miles of the Pacific Ocean from the shore. More recently, Oregon’s Territorial Sea Plan officially designated which coastal areas would be used for marine renewable energy development.
Throughout the state’s lengthy stakeholder involvement process, Crag provided legal support to Oregon Shores Conservation Coalition and Our Ocean, a coalition of conservation groups including Oceana, Surfrider, and the Audubon Society of Portland. Throughout the process, we helped our clients push for environmentally protective, unambiguous, and legally enforceable requirements to ensure that our important ocean ecosystems are protected from the impacts of wave energy development.
Specifically, we advocated for higher restrictions for marine renewable energy in especially important areas such as sensitive habitats, fishing grounds, and viewpoints. We also insisted that the plan set forth general requirements for information monitoring and reporting, cumulative impacts analysis, and a phased development approach that incorporates new information as it is gained.
In 2013 the Oregon Land Conservation and Development Commission adopted amendments to the Territorial Sea Plan that included our clients’ recommendations. The amended plan specifically protects identified ecologically important areas and sets standards and criteria for wave energy testing and development. In addition to general requirements for information monitoring and reporting, cumulative impacts analysis, and a phased development approach that incorporates new information as it is gained, the Plan also sets forth specific standards for protecting ecological and fisheries resources, and reducing visual impacts.
This was a win on many fronts. Community members and conservation groups were able to participate in shaping the plan for Oregon’s coast and secure protections for ecological and cultural resources. And the State gained a pathway to explore a renewable energy resource of our shores. The success of this new renewable energy source in Oregon remains to be seen, but thanks to the efforts of all who engaged in this process, we hope that the exploration of wave energy will be in harmony with both the natural ocean ecosystems and the existing ocean users.