Argument: Wave power is a hazard to migrating fish and whales

Issue Report: Wave power


“Wave-power project gets OK from federal regulators”. Komo News. 20 Dec. 2007 – Carol Bernthal, the marine sanctuary’s superintendent, said officials there must take a careful, skeptical view before granting approval for the project, to ensure it does not harm marine life or the environment.

For example, gray whales that move through the area feed relatively close to shore by scooping sediment from the sea floor – causing potential run-ins with Finavera’s buoys, anchors and power cables.

“There’s a lot of interest in alternative energy right now, so it’s a tough issue,” Bernthal said. “I think it’s a good thing to ask hard questions.”

Some in the crab fishing industry also have raised concerns about the buoy systems. They repeated those worries this fall, when a $2 million Finavera test buoy floating off the Oregon coast sank before it could be retrieved by the company.

Jim Martin. “Wave Energy Projects Threaten North Coast Fisheries”. West Coast Director, Recreational Fishing Alliance. 17 Nov. 2007 – For fishermen, the primary concern is the loss of fishing grounds because most of these devices will take up significant area and will likely be surrounded by an exclusion zone banning all fishing and vessel traffic. Fishermen are supportive of renewable energy in concept but also concerned about the impact of these devices on marine life and the habitat for fish.

Oregon has taken the lead in promoting wave energy plants. Two projects proposed in California, off Eureka and Fort Bragg, have drawn considerable public interest and anger from fishing communities that may be blocked off from their livelihoods by this new technology.

More than twenty pilot project applications have been filed with FERC, and like mining claims they seek to set stakes in the water and lock up promising areas before their market competitors do it first. The often-used analogy describing the wave energy activity as a “gold rush” is not misplaced.

In terms of area, Pacific Gas & Electric’s proposed project off of Fort Bragg is one of the largest, covering sixty-eight square miles in front of Noyo Harbor, from 20 fathoms to 70 fathoms (120-420 feet) deep, ranging from Caspar Point to Westport. If the project area were to be filled with wave energy buoys and closed off from public access, saltwater recreational fishing out of Noyo Harbor would cease to exist.