Federal government finalizes floating offshore wind areas off the Oregon Coast

By Monica Samayoa (OPB)
Feb. 13, 2024 10:33 p.m. Updated: Feb. 14, 2024 12:50 a.m.

Oregon’s southern coast is one step closer to producing floating offshore wind.

The U.S. Department of Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management announced Tuesday two final floating offshore wind energy areas off the coast of Coos Bay and Brookings. The two areas cover approximately 195,000 acres, about 25,000 acres less than what was stated in a proposal brought forth to the public last August.


BOEM, the federal agency charged with identifying, proposing and leasing the ocean areas needed, said in a press release that the two areas were identified after extensive feedback and input from federal government partners, state, tribal, and local residents. The results are based on “reducing potential conflicts of ocean users, particularly on commercial fishing.”

“BOEM values its close coordination with the State of Oregon as we continue to work together to maintain a robust and transparent offshore wind planning process,” BOEM Director Elizabeth Klein said in the release. “We will continue to work closely with Tribal governments, federal and state government agencies, ocean users, coastal communities and all interested stakeholders as we move forward with our environmental review.”

Coos Bay Harbor Entrance Viewpoint, near the Charleston Marina. Proposed turbines would be 18 or more miles offshore from this location. Photographed on Dec. 7, 2023

FILE-Coos Bay Harbor Entrance Viewpoint, near the Charleston Marina on Dec. 7, 2023. Offshore wind turbines could potentially be seen from this site if they are developed along the Southern Oregon coast.

Monica Samayoa / OPB

The announcement was accompanied by a statement from Oregon’s governor acknowledging the opportunities floating offshore wind could bring to the state. But the fishing industry and tribes along the coast responded by saying concerns they have about offshore wind energy developments have still not been addressed.

In her statement, Oregon Gov. Tina Kotek said floating offshore wind is likely to play an important role in meeting the state’s renewable energy goals by 2040. She said it also provides an economic opportunity for the Oregon Coast.

Last year, Kotek, along with several state agencies, called on the federal government for more research on cultural, environmental, and marine and land species impacts. She said the state is committed to developing a roadmap to inform offshore wind opportunities that will ensure communities and tribal nations are consulted throughout the process.

“We will continue to promote active engagement with Tribal nations, local communities, and other ocean users in the state,” she said in a statement. “We will ensure that all decisions are transparent and based upon the best available science and knowledge.”

As a crucial climate benchmark in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and transitioning to renewable energy inches closer, offshore wind development has come as a top contender in helping the state achieve its climate goals.

But the federal government’s announcement of the potential of floating offshore wind off the Southern Oregon coast prompted pushback from local community members, tribal members and the fishing industry last year. People from those groups called for a pause to better understand environmental impacts. They also felt that the federal government was not providing them with the answers they were seeking or opportunities for meaningful public engagement.

Now, Oregon lawmakers have put forward House Bill 4080, which would require the state to develop a roadmap defining standards for offshore wind energy. It would also support state policy to include extensive engagement between impacted communities and tribes as well as developing labor standards.

Nicole Hughes, director of advocacy group Renewable Northwest, said HB 4080 would also allow the Oregon Department of Land Conservation and Development to oversee broader stakeholder input.


“We feel like those are important things to establish before this process gets going,” she said. “Our desire is for that bill to pass and for the DLCD to start working on the road map so that we can have those conversations concurrent to the BOEM process.”

Hughes said she’s feeling excited that the governor is focused on putting resources toward developing a roadmap. But she said the state will need more funding and she hopes to see some support from the federal government as the process could take years before any steel makes it to the ocean.

“Oregon is looking at a diversity of different ways to decarbonize our electricity system, which is what we’ve been pushing for,” she said, referring to a shift from generating electricity from fossil fuel emitting sources like coal or natural gas to renewable energy, like wind and solar, that does not contribute to climate change.

“Oregon recognizes it has a very robust, viable offshore wind resource that could help us decarbonize. It also means that Oregon wants to do this the right way. Oregon wants to do this in a thoughtful manner, which includes stakeholder input, bring tribes into the conversation and make sure that they benefit from this directly.”

But the Confederated Tribes of Coos, Lower Umpqua and Siuslaw Indians said in a statement they are “extremely disappointed” in BOEM’s announcement.

The tribes have provided written and verbal comments to BOEM expressing their concerns that the height and potential placement of floating wind turbines could destroy culturally significant viewpoints.

Last October, the tribes passed a resolution opposing BOEM’s draft wind areas, saying the federal agency repeatedly failed to consult with the tribes.

Tribal council chair Brad Kneaper said the tribes only learned about the federal government’s decision through the Oregon governor’s office on Monday night.

“BOEM’s press release states that it has ‘engaged’ with the Tribe, but that engagement has amounted to listening to the Tribe’s concerns and ignoring them and providing promises that they may be dealt with at some later stage of the process,” Kneaper said in a statement. “BOEM has failed to recognize that wind development has impacted the Tribe and has failed to assure that wind energy development will do good and not harm the Tribe, its members, and the greater coastal community. The Tribe will not stand by while a project is developed that causes it more harm than good – this is simply green colonialism.”

Kneaper said the tribe will explore all options to ensure its concerns are addressed during this process.

Groups within the fishing industry are also disappointed with BOEM’s decision.

Heather Mann, director of Midwater Trawlers Cooperative, said in a statement that the final wind draft areas “remained unchanged” from earlier drafts, despite much opposition from the fishing industry, local communities and tribes.

Mann said authentic engagement with BOEM has been “non-existent” and Oregon’s seafood industry and coastal communities are going to be negatively impacted.

“The final wind energy areas are in prime fishing grounds where millions of pounds of sustainable seafood have been harvested,” she said in the statement. “The areas are prime habitat for marine mammals and include nursery grounds for important fish species. BOEM is pitting renewable energy against sustainable food production.”

BOEM will publish a notice of finalized offshore wind energy areas in the Federal Register on Wednesday, announcing the agency’s intent to begin an environmental assessment of potential impacts. The notice will also initiate a 30-day public comment period.

After the end of the public comment period, the federal agency will release the environmental assessment for further public comment, as well as a proposed sale notice indicating to interested companies the potential lease of the area.