Rogue Reef remains on list of wave energy sites
Written by Jane Stebbins, Pilot staff writer   
January 09, 2013 09:50 am

Despite the protests of people who fish the hugely popular Rogue River and ocean off Gold Beach, the Rogue Reef will remain on the list of proposed places to install a wave energy generating array.

The Oregon Policy Advisory Council’s recommendations, outlined in a meeting last week in North Bend, now go to the state Land and Conservation and Development Board for approval in Salem Jan. 24.

Wave energy is a green technology that uses the tremendous power in ocean waves to generate electricity. This discussion is part of the Territorial Seas Plan update, which the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has agreed to wait for before locating any more energy facilities along the Oregon coast.

If FERC likes the updated Territorial Sea Plan, it might use it as a guideline for wave energy generators in federal waterways, defined as three to 120 miles from shore, said Dave Lacey, the south coast organizer for Our Ocean, a coalition of conservation groups in Oregon.

If Oregon fails to develop a plan, that planning will revert to the FERC and no longer be under local control.

The sea plan is an ecosystem-based management document, outlining economic values – fisheries and tourism among them – and aesthetics, ecology and recreation. Using fishing and crabbing maps, input from polls and numerous meetings, eight sites were originally proposed along the Oregon Coast.

Half of OPAC’s group last week voted to keep the Rogue Reef as one of the potential energy generation sites; half voted against it. This, despite the fact that fishermen, most from Brookings, met last month to protest the proposal and that city officials are vehemently opposed to it.

Gold Beach City Administrator Jodi Fritts wrote to Paul Klarin of the Land Conservation and Development board on behalf of the mayor and city council, saying city officials are “shocked and dismayed” that the reef area was described as having “low-fishing conflict,” and thus suitable for the buoys that capture wave energy and convert it to electricity.

“The only contact the city has had regarding the plan was for its aesthetic view corridor remarks,” Fritts wrote. “No mention was made of a proposed energy generation site off the Rogue River mouth.

“We have been told that the site was suggested in late November by someone from the Coos Bay area; we find it incredulous that an individual not from our area could put forth a location without even consulting the locals,” the letter continues. “The fact that the committee added the site without local input is unacceptable.”

The city will approve a resolution to this effect at its next meeting.

The Rogue Reef site was proposed by fisherman Nick Edwards of Charleston. A site near Langlois – 38 miles from Coos Bay, and 48 from Charleston – was considered an ideal location for wave energy generation, Lacey said. It has high winds that generate lots of energy in the waves – and there is an electrical station in Coos Bay to receive that energy.

Gold Beach, however is 79 miles from the nearest electrical station; the next closest site is in Eureka.

Many fishermen at a Gold Beach meeting in December said Edwards’ suggestion to include Rogue Reef and eliminate the Langlois site  was merely a “Not in my Backyard, or NIMBY” argument.

“The proposed energy site is right where our recreational fishermen fish for rockfish off our coast,” Fritts wrote. “Siting an energy facility at this location would be disastrous for our local tourism economy. Never mind that this spot is essential habitat for birds and sea lions. While we applaud the state for updating the Territorial Sea Plan, we are vehemently opposed to the Rogue Reef site inclusion and respectfully ask that it be removed from consideration.”

“The intention of revising the plan is more than protecting ecological resources, fishing, viewsheds and recreation,” Lacey said. “It is also about finding suitable places for the ocean renewable energy industry to test and develop their products. The Rogue Reef site is definitely not a practical place to do that.”

The first testing facility, set up off the beach near Reedsport two years ago, came apart in the waves – and winter hadn’t even set in. Fritts noted in her letter that the rough shores near Gold Beach, like those near Reedsport, would make installation and maintenance of any infrastructure difficult at best.

Other sites OPAC will recommend pursuing are in Lakeside, Camp Rilea, two near Reedsport and another in north Newport. They voted against inclusion of the Pacific City, Netarts and Langlois sites.

“I am still surprised that OPAC did not remove the Rogue Reef site for further consideration,” Lacey said. “But overall, it seems to be heading in the right track. I am glad that Oregon is working to protect existing uses of state waters through a sensible plan.”

Fishing isn’t the only element taken into consideration, and a viewshed aspect that extends the corridor farther into the territorial sea could end up inadvertently protecting the Rogue Reef from development after all.

Otter Point, three miles north of Gold Beach, received many “points” for its viewshed corridor, and protecting it could end up protecting the reef as well.

Other recommendations OPEC will present at the meeting in Salem is capping the amount of coast that can be used for wave energy at 2 percent, rather than the original 3 percent proposed, and to forward revised plans for Camp Rilea, Lakeside and Reedsport.

“It’s still up in the air,” Lacey said. “These are just OPAC recommendations.”