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Ahead of election, Morro Bay's mayoral candidates reflect on city's renewable energy future

Morro Bay
Gabriela Fernandez
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The view from Morro Bay's State Park Museum of Natural History overlooking Morro Rock and the three iconic smokestacks from afar.

The November general election is tomorrow, and residents of Morro Bay are considering two candidates for mayor.

Renewable energy has become one of the main topics in the campaign, as the city faces multiple large-scale projects that could transform the town.

Right now, there are two renewable energy projects proposed for Morro Bay that could lead to major development in the city: a proposal to put floating offshore wind turbines in the waters off the coast, and another one to build what could be the largest battery storage facility in the world.

With these projects in mind, the city’s mayoral candidates are asking themselves, do we want to develop these large-scale energy projects in this small beach town, or not?

One candidate is more hesitant than the other. This year, local restaurant owner Carla Wixom is running against Morro Bay’s current Mayor, John Headding.

Wixom said if elected, she would like to try to keep Morro Bay as the small beach town it is today.

“I support renewable energy, I think we all do and recognize those needs as we move forward, but it's, ‘How does that fit in our community? How does that balance the quality of life we have here with our estuary, with our fishing industry, with our tourism?’” Wixom said.

She said she does not support the battery storage facility in its proposed location near the ocean, where the city’s three iconic smokestacks now stand.

As for offshore wind, Wixom said she is concerned with potential issues like the projects’ impact on the local fishing industry. Some Morro Bay residents and organizations like the Morro Bay Commercial Fishermen's Organization worry that construction and operation of the wind turbines could hurt their livelihood by lowering local fish populations.

“My concern obviously is for [the] commercial fishing industry up and down the West Coast and how that's going to limit their access, as well as environmental concerns,” Wixom said.

Morro Bay offshore wind meeting
US House of Representatives
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Congressional subcommittee comes to SLO County to hold a field hearing on the offshore wind project proposed off the coast of Morro Bay.

The current mayor, John Headding, said he has similar concerns and would hope to mitigate those impacts with financial mitigation for Morro Bay's commercial fishing industry.

Headding has also been outspoken in his support for offshore wind and touts the potential benefits its clean energy production could bring to both Morro Bay and the rest of California.

“Hopefully in the future you'll have three lease sites of a hundred or so windmills that are producing enough energy to be able to provide electricity for about two million homes in California, which is significant," Headding said.

"So [I'm] very supportive of it, [but] concerned about our fishing industry andn the impacts there. But we've worked to help develop a plan to offer them financial mitigation,” Headding said.

As for the battery storage facility, Headding said because of his position as mayor, he has no official stance on it. He said he and the rest of the council have to go through the proposal’s formal review process before they can make official recommendations.

Headding has been mayor since 2018, and joined the council in 2014.

Wixom has been a restaurant owner in Morro Bay for about 35 years and served as a city council member from 2008 to 2012.

Tomorrow, polls are open from 7a.m. to 8.m. Voters can visit SLO County's website to find the closest polling place, and you can visit the city of Morro Bay’s website for information on the mayor and city council candidates.

Gabriela Fernandez is a general assignment reporter at KCBX News. She graduated from Sacramento State with a BA in Political Science. During her senior year, she interned at CapRadio in their podcast department, and later worked for them as an Associate Producer on the TahoeLand podcast.
Benjamin Purper came to KCBX in May of 2021 from California’s Inland Empire, where he spent three years as a reporter and Morning Edition host at KVCR in San Bernardino. Dozens of his stories have aired on KQED’s California Report, and his work has broadcast on NPR's news magazines, as well. In addition to radio, Ben has worked as a newspaper reporter and freelance writer.