Offshore wind projects bring gale-force concerns

April 24, 2023

Julie Tacker


If you’ve lived on the Central Coast for a length of time, you’ll remember the seismic testing project proposed in 2012 for PG&E’s Diablo Canyon license extension. Just as the project was winding its way through the San Luis Obispo County and California Coastal Commission permitting process, San Luis Bay made worldwide news when five 50 foot long 60,000 pound humpback whales swam into the bay to feast on a swirling “bait ball” of fish that also drew thousands of diving sea birds and a colony of sea lions.

This real-time nature show brought tens of thousands of sea-watching humans to the region to further enjoy the hotels, restaurants, and other amenities our county has to offer.

CalCoastNews, in an April 21 article, referenced the fast-tracked legislation SB 286 (McGuire) and the Central Coast Emerging Industries Waterfront Siting and Infrastructure Study commissioned by the Regional Economic Action Coalition (REACH). The study was funded by the County of San Luis Obispo, the County of Santa Barbara and the City of Morro Bay.

The resulting report paints a rosy picture of industrializing not only Port San Luis Harbor, but also Morro Bay and possibly the scenic shore along the south side of Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant in SLO County.

The study laughingly references Ellwood Pier near the Baccara hotel, and the tourist-popular Stearns Warf in Santa Barbara County for potential offshore wind support facilities but does not go into the specifics of onshore impacts.  These project impacts are incalculable affecting local businesses and tourism, requiring widening roads and piers, grading hillsides for larger beaches, underwater blasting and beefing-up infrastructure that will likely change the character of our charming coastal communities.

This legislation SB 286, authorizing consolidated Coastal Development Permits for offshore wind projects, strips the communities most affected of the ability to vet the on and offshore components.

If signed into law, the bill would eliminate hearings before the local advisory councils, the Planning Commissions and City Councils or Board of Supervisors who represent the affected communities and their environments.

“Consolidated Permitting” is planning code for expedited “Automatic Approval.” Both local agencies and the Coastal Commission cry “staffing shortages” the projects would likely get short shrift review and “poof,” they’re approved.

Examples include, the $167 million Morro Bay wastewater treatment plant, the $93 million Pismo Beach Central Coast Blue and the Oceano Airport’s $2 million pilot campground projects are just a few consolidated permits that missed, or will miss, out on local input.

By engaging all stakeholders for projects that raise public policy issues – local governments and organizations, businesses, residents, and communities – we deepen democracy and ensure that people have a say over the decisions that impact their everyday lives.  If the people don’t participate, how are the decision makers supposed to know what to approve and what not to approve.

Community engagement is a public process, and it keeps decision-makers accountable. The community deserves to have transparency over the decision-making process and should feel that their input was considered. It also gives individuals in the community the opportunity to understand how a perspective or need which was different from their own had to be acknowledged, giving them a better understanding and acceptance of a final decision or outcome.

The report explains underwater blasting is a serious matter, it is often conducted close to different types of structures such as quay walls (underwater retaining walls for large boats to park along), breakwaters and harbor buildings.

Ground vibration, which is the energy from the blast transmitted through the rock or ground, can occur from the blasting. These vibrations are determined by various factors such as quantity of charges, characteristics of the rock and distance from the blast.

The blasting contractor performs test blasts to determine the quantity of explosives that can be fired to accomplish the breakage and removal of materials without injuries to persons, and aquatic wildlife or other natural resources, or damage to personal or public property.

The proposed blasting of the ocean quashed the Diablo Canyon seismic testing project in 2012, did our leaders forget this in just 10 short years?  We elect leaders to find creative solutions to our energy demands, not turn to industrializing our communities and damaging our ocean for benefits that may, or may not, materialize.

We have a $2 billion dollar visitor-serving economy, and few people are talking about the potential adverse impacts to that industry. Where are our county supervisors, Assemblywoman and state senator?  Likewise, where are the environmental organizations including Surfrider, Sierra Club and the League of Women Voters?

This cannot be a fait accompli.

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I cannot understand how people who are “we must save the earth” types are willing to allow whales, birds, wildlife in general, to be killed. The natural beauty of the earth to be destroyed, while at the same time demanding these same things be saved from mankind’s destruction. I’m sure the answer is: kill some whales now or they’ll all boils to death in 5 years due to global warming anyway!! Probably not.

Politicians that do this, contradict their own narratives, are driven by money. Some citizens are simply to ignorant to recognize their own hypocrisy.

It’s a fascinating discussion our whole area’s energy issue, isnt it? It turns out, the cleanest, most useful, and least impactful is the power plant we already have.

Once again, I challenge anyone to provide evidence that whales will be killed by offshore wind farms. While this issue continues to be studied, so far there is no evidence that whales are heavily impacted. Originally, it was put forth that whales could have a problem navigating through the cables that would moor the platforms to the ocean. A study done by Bureau of Ocean Management shows little to no impact on humpback whales (a primary species along the Pacific Coast). See link below.

If anyone has definitive studies that whales will be killed, please provide links. I believe that what Senator McGuire has done (SB286) is to put forth a framework bringing together stakeholders (including indigenous groups who absolutely were never consulted when oil companies began drilling all across California) and scientists to expedite the building of these wind farms which will eventually replace carbon spewing fossil fuels and a nuclear plant that sits above several earthquake faults.

Just as I thought. Crickets from Ms. Tacker or Ms. Bolognini.

I believe that as a watchdog, Tacker is an important cog reviewing local government, but she needs to bring actual facts to the table, rather than simple innuendo and half-truths, which appears to be her MO.