Tribes oppose federal offshore wind projects in Oregon and California

By Roman Battaglia (Jefferson Public Radio)
March 23, 2024 8:10 p.m.
Members of the Yurok Tribe at an offshore wind summit the Tribe hosted in early February 2024. The Tribe recently came out opposed to federal offshore wind projects.

Members of the Yurok Tribe at an offshore wind summit the Tribe hosted in early February 2024. The Tribe recently came out opposed to federal offshore wind projects.

Courtesy of Yurok Tribe

A growing number of tribes in Oregon and California are coming out in opposition to federal offshore wind projects. Some tribes don’t believe there’s been enough research into the impacts on the environment.


At least five tribes along the West Coast have announced their opposition to proposed offshore wind development. Five areas off the California coast were auctioned off in late 2022 to build floating wind turbines. And the federal government is considering sales off the Southern Oregon coast.

Derek Bowman, a council member with the Bear River Band of the Rohnerville Rancheria south of Eureka, California, said the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, or BOEM, hasn’t involved the tribes enough in the process.

“We have a huge amount of traditional ecological knowledge that could assist in a lot of assessments that they’re doing,” Bowman said. “And we’re not really included in it. It feels like we’re just a checkbox that they have to check in order to say, ‘Hey, we talked to the tribes, we’re good to go.’ And we’re not alright with that.”

Related: Federal government finalizes floating offshore wind areas off the Oregon Coast

The Northern Chumash Tribe, which people live in Southern California, expressed concerns about the proposed sale of two offshore wind areas near Morro Bay in 2022 before they were auctioned off. Their opposition wasn’t about offshore wind in general, but because of the sites overlapping with a nearby proposed National Marine Sanctuary.

This year, a number of other tribes came out in formal opposition to the projects. The first was the Confederated Tribes of the Coos, Lower Umpqua and Siuslaw Indians in mid-February.


“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,” said Tribal Council Chair Brad Kneaper in a statement.

More tribes quickly joined in opposition, including the Tolowa Dee-ni’ Nation, the Bear River Band of the Rohnerville Rancheria and California’s largest tribe, the Yurok. All three announced their opposition in early March.

Bowman said that historically, logging and gold mining industries took natural resources and gave little back to tribal communities.

“It’s just hard for us to accept that what’s best for everyone actually means it’s good for us too,” he said. “Because we always suffer when the government comes in to say, ‘This is what’s best for everybody and we need to do it in your area to help people in another area.’ It never works out for us.”

Related: Lacking information, Oregon residents guess at future of offshore wind

Beyond a lack of engagement, Bowman says there hasn’t been enough research into the environmental effects, both on the ocean and on land. Those include possible effects of turbines on fishing and marine animal activities, as well as transmission lines on land that could harm endangered species in the region.

“More importantly, when it comes to overland transmission lines, it’s the potential for fires. They cause fires all over California,” Bowman said. “And now running right through our ancestral territory, there are going to be these very large transmission lines overland.”

In a statement, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management said it agrees that tribes must have a seat at the table.

“We have taken coordinated actions to incorporate Indigenous Knowledge and Tribal input into our decision making process and we are working to help Tribes expand capacity to engage in environmental reviews, work with industry, and develop partnerships,” said BOEM in a statement.

Development of offshore wind farms on the California coast are underway, but turbines won’t be deployed for at least four years. The agency is currently developing its environmental assessment for two offshore wind areas on the Southern Oregon coast.

Related: Oregon agencies support floating offshore wind project, but ask for more federal engagement