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Fishermen, residents voice concerns about proposed Morro Bay offshore wind project in virtual meeting

Bureau of Ocean Energy Management

An area of ocean 20 miles from the Cambria shoreline and about 35 miles northeast of Morro Bay could become home to nearly 400 square miles of wind turbines, with the goal of ushering in a new wave of clean energy.

With that in mind, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) hosted a virtual meeting Wednesday to discuss the scope of the proposed project and to allow residents to voice their concerns and questions.

“From where we are today, it’s still several years before you see steel in the water,” said Sara Guiltinan with BOEM.

Guiltinan said the leases for the project are anticipated to go to bid sometime this year.

Until then, how the proposed project would actually look is unknown.

“Until the construction operations plan is submitted to BOEM for approval by the lessee, we don’t have the details of an actual offshore wind energy project," Guiltinan said. "Details like the number of turbines and their layout, how tall they will be, where they will be anchored, etc.”

The virtual meeting was part of the proposed project's environmental review, and several people called in to voice their concerns and questions.

Many, like Cheri Hafer, are concerned the area will prohibit commercial fishing.

“One of our biggest enemies right now is industrialization of the ocean," Hafer said. "Not just to fishermen, but to the marine habitat.”

Larry Thevik, a dungeness crab fisherman, said many fishermen feel like their concerns aren’t being heard and that the impact it may have on the commercial fishing industry isn’t being thoroughly considered.

“It seems that BOEM is prepared to lease first and ask questions later," Thevik said. "And frankly, that’s not going to take us to a good outcome.”

Others, like Paul Hundal, called in for support of the project.

“ There is no doubt that any wind project will have some environmental impacts," Hundal said. "But compare it to the alternative, which is, what is the impact compared to having oil spills?”

BOEM is currently collecting public comment and concerns. More information is available here.

Angel Russell is a former KCBX News reporter who started her career in journalism as a reporter and producer for KREX on Colorado's Western Slope; she later moved to the Central Coast to work for KSBY as weekend anchor and weekday reporter. She holds a BA in journalism from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, and playing guitar and piano.
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