Fishermen join forces amid Humboldt County offshore wind development – ​​Times-Standard

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A recently formed association seeks to offer some protection to fishermen who will lose access to fishing grounds as the state and country shifts to exploiting renewable energy like offshore wind.

Earlier this year, commercial fishermen in Humboldt County joined other members of their industry on the North Shore, from Crescent City to San Francisco, to form the California Fishermen’s Resiliency Association. The association is a point of contact for offshore wind developers, with whom the association wishes to develop cross-industry contracts called Fishing Community Benefit Agreements that will ensure that damage to California’s community fishing areas is minimized and mitigated. .

“Fishermen are not opposed to renewable energy,” Ken Bates, board member of the Humboldt Fishermen’s Marketing Association and representative of the California Fishermen’s Resiliency Association, told the California Coastal Commission earlier this year in April. “But fishermen are opposed to industrialization and the loss of California’s fishing grounds.”

There are already numerous restrictions on when and where commercial fishing can take place along the California coast and fishermen have said the installation of offshore wind turbines will further limit their access. The two leases sold about 20 miles off the coast of Humboldt County total 132,369 acres. The total is 373,268 acres including the three leases offered at Morro Bay.

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management partly requires and partly encourages developers to work with local communities if they obtain one or more of the leases. The proposed notice of sale with preliminary details on offshore wind leases and the auction process includes proposed incentives that would be given to developers who engage in community benefit agreements.

Community Benefits Agreements are agreements between community benefit groups and developers in which the former agrees to support a project, which typically requires several public hearings, in exchange for a developer’s commitment to fund or to provide some benefit to the local region or industry. These benefits can range from providing labor training programs to helping fund road repairs.

Years before BOEM’s offshore wind lease process began, developer Castle Wind and Central Coast Fishermen’s Associations were negotiating a comprehensive fishing community benefits agreement that pledged to avoid, minimize and mitigate damage to commercial fishing from the development of offshore wind farms in the state’s fishing community. lands.

This set the bar high for industry-to-industry agreements and the Fishermen’s Resilience Association is pushing for a statewide fishing community benefits agreement, the provisions of which would be administered locally by the association’s regional management committees.

The association is made up of seven Northern California Harbor Commercial Fishermen’s Associations, including the ports of Crescent City, Trinidad Bay, Humboldt Bay, Shelter Cove, Fort Bragg or Noyo, Bodega Bay and San Francisco. The association also plans to expand membership in the Port of California Fishermen’s Associations of Central and Southern California.

Dr. Erin Baker is a professor of industrial engineering and operations research and faculty director of the Energy Transition Institute at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She said commercial fishers and wind developers on the East Coast face similar challenges and it’s good that the fishers are trying to work with the developers.

“It’s really important that the wind farms work with the fishermen and that the fishermen try to build trust for the wind farms,” ​​Baker said. “There are a lot of challenges to fishing and although wind farms present a small challenge, they are fighting climate change. Climate change also poses many challenges to fishermen.

Human-caused climate change is having disastrous effects on the world’s oceans, making them warmer and more acidic. The ocean has absorbed 93% of the excess heat generated by greenhouse gas emissions since the 1970s and marine heat waves have increased by 50% in the past 30 years, according to the Marine Stewardship Council non-profit.

A marine heat wave along the west coast that lasted from 2014 to 2016, better known as a ‘blob’, devastated local species and climatologists expect such events only increase in the future without immediate intervention.

“When I first started studying climate change, it was somewhere in the future,” Baker said. “…It’s very different now. We really see and feel the impacts of climate change everywhere. »

Society must stop operating on fossil fuels, which generate heat-trapping greenhouse gas emissions, Baker said.

“There’s a whole portfolio that we can use,” Baker said. “Nuclear is also carbon free, in some cases we might want to use carbon capture, and there are a few other types of technologies like geothermal.”

The cost of low-carbon energy sources like wind and solar have fallen over the past decade, making them an attractive alternative, she said.

It’s always a balancing act, Baker said. Locally, there would be benefits like cables connecting offshore wind farms to shore creating artificial reefs that could serve as habitat and increase marine life. At the same time, Baker said they could interfere with whale migrations.

“We constantly have to balance the huge global benefits of wind and solar against some local environmental costs,” Baker said. “But many of those environmental costs are really overwhelmed by climate change.”

Society’s continued reliance on fossil fuels will lead to the loss of entire species, and the damage caused by fossil fuels is difficult to calculate, she said. Meanwhile, Baker said offshore wind reduces emissions and the cost of meeting climate goals, which could translate into billions or trillions of dollars in earned climate value.

Sonia Waraich can be reached at 707-441-0504.

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