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Mixed reaction to offshore wind development near Morro Bay

Offshore wind
Posted at 7:00 PM, May 26, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-27 00:39:00-04

There’s mixed reaction to Tuesday’s announcement that the government is opening up a section of the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Morro Bay for wind energy development.

A nearly 400 square mile area off the coast of Morro Bay will be opening up for offshore wind development, which could generate enough electricity to power more 1.6 million homes.

Officials said they expect to finalize the private company that will lease the area for the project from the federal government by mid-2022.

They say Morro Bay has some of the best wind in California and they’re looking forward to harnessing that power.

Jillian Montgomery, a Morro Bay homeowner, said she was worried about “the impact on the marine life, sound pollution.”

Tom Hafer, President of the Morro Bay Commercial Fishing Organization said, “399 square miles is a pretty big chunk of fishing grounds.”

Officials said it should bring in a minimum of 3 gigawatts of new energy. It will be built about 17 to 40 miles offshore.

“We have gorgeous views here and I definitely don’t like the sight of oil rigs off the coast and all that but honestly, windmills have a different feel to them and if I know it’s making a positive impact on our environment, then I’m all for it,” Montgomery said.

Rep. Salud Carbajal, who represents much of the Central Coast, said the goal was to “develop these facilities to ensure we are addressing climate change, producing good-paying jobs, and producing renewable energy.”

The congressman explained the switch to renewable energy will help California reach its goals to decarbonize by 2045. But he did say as much they will try to reduce them, there will be impacts.

Hafer worried that fishermen will have less area to cover, which could lead to overfishing in other places, and that it could affect animals’ breeding and feeding grounds as well as migratory patterns.

One environmental expert said renewable energy is worth the risk as long as they research and avoid disrupting wildlife as best they can.

Garry George, Director of the Clean Energy Initiative of the National Audubon Society said, “Climate change is the biggest impact to the North American birds.”

The next steps are an environmental review and the public comment period. Those timelines haven’t been announced yet.

The estimated length to complete the whole project is between five to ten years.

The environmental review has to happen before finalizing the lease.

Officials said they have a short list of private companies that would be considered to take on the project.