Morro Bay proposed initiative seeks to block industrialization

May 30, 2023


Morro Bay residents are moving forward with a plan to stop the industrialization of their waterfront, while several local and state officials are also focusing on the proposed transformation of Port San Luis in rural Avila Beach.

Citizens for Estero Bay Preservation, a group of Morro Bay residents focused on preserving the city’s coastline for the community and tourists, is collecting signatures for a citizens initiative to block the construction of a battery storage facility near the old power plant.

Vistra, a Texas-based energy company, has plans to replace the Morro Bay power plant with a battery energy storage facility.

During the 2022 campaign season, former Morro Bay Mayor John Headding supported building the battery storage facility near the coastline and the construction of off-shore wind farms while his opponent Carla Wixom voiced concerns over the location of the battery storage facility and the impact the wind farms could have on the community.

As mayor, Headding signed a memorandum of understanding with Vistra. Wixom then won the mayor seat in a landslide.

Even though the city has a land use plan that defines zoning for every parcel, members of the community have voiced concerns that the city council could vote for projects that change zoning.

After looking at the best way to stop the industrialization of Morro Bay, Barry Branin, a member of the preservation group, hired an attorney to help write an initiative to reaffirm the city’s land use plan, Branin said. A voter initiative cannot be overturned by the city council, and if it passes, will require a vote by the residents to change land designations in the coastal area.

The purpose of the proposed initiative is to “preserve Morro Bay as a world-renowned tourist designation.”

On Thursday, members of Citizens for Estero Bay Preservation began collecting signatures. The group is asking voters to go to the Morro Bay Community Center to sign their petition on June 4 at 3 p.m.

After they collect at least 800 signatures, the Morro Bay clerk will validate the voter names, and the initiative will go on a ballot.

While many residents are not opposed to the off-shore wind farm, they are concerned that on-shore support systems could negatively impact the community and tourism. The initiative would also likely curtail any plans to build an industrial wharf in Morro Bay.

Last year, the federal government auctioned off three offshore wind energy sites located between 20 and 30 miles off the coast near Morro Bay.

While the wind farm components will be manufactured out of area, multiple agencies are working to identify the best ports to assemble the parts, after which the windmills will be towed out to sea. Dock sizes at the proposed ports range from 30 to 400 acres.

Two agencies, Reach Central Coast and the California State Lands Commission, released reports in the past six months identifying Port San Luis as the best option, with Morro Bay the second choice.

Even so, the U.S. Department of the Interior Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s Dec. 2022 report says Port San Luis is not a good candidate. The report identifies three good candidates for assembly sites: Port of Humboldt, Port of Long Beach and Port of Los Angeles.

However, the federal report identifies both Port San Luis and Morro Bay as good sites to conduct operations and maintenance. Studies have shown a decline in property values and tourism near industrialized ports.

CalCoastNew recently hosted a round table with a group of stakeholders and community leaders to provide a variety of viewpoints, concerns and possible solutions regarding the proposed industrialization of Port San Luis.

Avila Beach Port San Luis Windfarm Discussion – short version

Avila Beach Port San Luis Windfarm Discussion- full discussion

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Be very careful what you ask for, Morro Bay. Lithium battery fires cannot be put out. They burn at 2,000 degrees and the smoke they emit is fatal. And the over-green knuckleheads want to put the world’s largest battery facility in your front yard. Wow! That’s a move you may not live to regret…

Though I’ve been against the windmill project from it’s inception, this article made me smile for a whole different reason. All the people who were so convinced that the power plant and stacks would be demolished here really soon by the developer of the battery storage facility, should now realize that if the project is cancelled that they will be looking at the stacks for another 10 years easy. The owner of the power plant will just keep kicking that can down the road, rather than have to pay to clean up the site. I myself think the stacks should be declared a historical landmark.

I’ve vacationed in Morro Bay since 97 and lived there between 2009 and 2018. The power plant was there long before that. I don’t understand how keeping that property for the same use that has been established for decades harms the nature of the city or waterfront. I do understand the concern about the windmills and the impact on ocean life.

As always thanks Karen for the informative reporting. Hats off to Mr. Branin for spearheading the initiative. The good people of Morro Bay should be deciding to stop this absolute disaster to the way life they know. Morro Bay is a pristine Jewell on the California coast. Send this to Long Beach/ Los Angeles

Wow, it’s the trifecta in Morro Bay. We are all for natural energy, but those windmills are going to destroy morro bay ambiance. The storage of this natural energy, batteries, needs to be somewhere else. Let’s not provide the iinfrastructure on the coast/harbor to support natural energy.

We really do like tourism, except for those 5000+ people who just came to morro bay for Ironman.

Speaketh out of both sides of mouth?

We need to fix our existing aging systems, climate changers cry about us destroying the planet but when it comes down to money for big business and government it’s build baby build It should be quit giving Billions to other countries use it here to get us back on top again!! Good Lord we owe Trillions to China already get a grip on reality