The Morro Bay City Council, in comments to federal authorities discussing offshore wind farms, is sticking up for the fishing industry and local communities.
In a Jan. 6, 2022 letter addressed to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management or BOEM, the agency handling leasing of offshore wind farms in federal waters (past 3 miles out to sea), Morro Bay Mayor John Headding said, “With Morro Bay at the epicenter of the California Central Coast offshore wind [OSW] effort, foremost among the City’s concerns continue to be how offshore wind energy projects will impact our local commercial and recreational fishing industries and local communities. These fishing industries are a core part of our community, history and economy, and provides important food sources locally, regionally, and across our state and nation.”
The City is pushing for a “legally binding non-profit mutual benefit organization based on the Central Coast Joint Cable-Fisheries Liaison Committee model is the best approach and have the greatest degree of success and support of the fishing industries, OSW industry and Federal, State and local regulators and agencies.”
The Cable Committee was formed in August 1999 in response to telecommunications companies seeking to lay undersea fiber optic communication cables running mainly from Montaña de Oro State Park, across the Pacific Ocean to points in Asia and Australia. Cables were laid starting in Grover Beach as well.
The cable companies wanted to ensure the fishermen didn’t drag trawl nets across and potentially break their cables, so they agreed to pay trawlers to stay away from the cable routes, as they run through the Continental Shelf.
The Cable Committee issues annual grants in support of the fishing industry.
Mayor Headding called it a proven, effective model. “The spirit and basics of such a model,” he wrote, “are currently engendered in the benefit agreement between Morro Bay and Port San Luis commercial fishing organizations and Castle Wind, one of the Morro Bay OSW proponents.”
The City asks that such an agreement be required by all companies that bid in BOEM’s upcoming lease auction, tentatively scheduled for sometime this summer.
The city believes that type of agreement and organization, with a representative board, would provide a level of local control over expenditures and would, “Provide for fishing industry and community support by dispersing revenues in a manner that will enhance and assist the commercial and recreational fishing industries and communities affected by OSW, as the Cable Committee model currently does and not just revolve around compensation for direct fishing losses. Such a model will have the greatest effect on fishing industry and community resiliency.”
The letter also calls for local communities to have a voice in BOEM’s decisions. “Because, we are the people who will be most impacted by the results of BOEM’s decisions for decades.”