On Thursday, the Department of Interior announced it will publish its proposed sale notice for five leases — three leases in the Morro Bay wind energy area and two leases in the Humboldt Bay wind energy area, totaling 373,268 acres with the potential to generate 4.5 gigawatts of offshore wind energy if fully developed — with the Federal Register on Tuesday. The proposed leases include, among other things, requirements to work with the surrounding tribes and communities to mitigate any adverse impacts as well as incentives to invest in workforce training and enter into community benefit agreements.
“That’s the direction we’ve wanted to go towards for a long time,” Tom Wheeler, executive director of the Environmental Protection Information Center, told The Times-Standard. “We’ll learn more as we go, but the community benefit agreement is going to be useful to us as locals to make this project be meaningful and help deliver benefits to Humboldt County.”
“There’s also an opportunity to use community benefits agreements to get commitments for environmental protection at the outset of a project,” Wheeler said. “That means we don’t need to wait and fight projects further down the development process about what sort of mitigation measures they might include.”
“These lease sales are the first step towards the real work of assessing environmental impacts and how to avoid or mitigate them,” Jen Kalt, director of Humboldt Baykeeper, said in a statement. “Once developers enter into lease agreements, those site assessments will begin and we’ll have a much better understanding of how best to protect wildlife and their habitats as these projects move forward.”