Site of the Redwood Marine Terminal

Executives from Crowley Wind are in town to talk to Humboldt County residents about the offshore wind terminal scheduled to be built on the Samoa Peninsula. To that end, a couple dozen residents from Manila, Samoa, Fairhaven and Finntown attended a Peninsula Community Collaborative meeting with Crowley tonight to learn more and share thoughts on what will be a massive industrial development on the spit. While the meeting was heavy on PowerPoint text and short on reassurance, organizers provided a useful opportunity to better understand where we are in the process of swapping out reliance on fossil fuels for renewable energy, as well as what opportunities and pitfalls may exist along the way.

Example of floating wind turbines

Humboldt offshore wind 101

The development of offshore wind in Humboldt has two main components:

  1. The installation and maintenance of a number of turbines across more than 132,000 ocean acres about 20-30 miles offshore Eureka to Trinidad.
  2. The redevelopment of Redwood Marine Terminal, which is next to the Samoa Cookhouse, into a modern facility designed to receive turbine parts delivered by boats to Humboldt Bay, to assemble those parts, and then barge the assembled turbines out to sea via the Humboldt Bay Harbor Entrance.

The area in the ocean is managed by BOEM, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management. BOEM allows private companies to pay to use certain parts of the ocean for oil and mineral extraction, as well as other energy-related commercial purposes such as offshore wind.

The rather decrepit 170-acre Redwood Marine Terminal is owned by the Humboldt Bay Harbor, Conservation and Recreation District (usually known as “The Harbor District” and sometimes as “The Port of Humboldt Bay.”)

In October, the Harbor District signed an agreement allowing Crowley Wind Services, part of a 130-year-old, three-generation-family-owned multi-billion-dollar company, exclusive rights to negotiate to develop and operate the on-land terminal for the offshore wind project.

In December, BOEM agreed to lease the offshore wind area to California North Floating, LLC (a subsidiary of Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners, and RWE Offshore Wind Holdings, LLC, a German multinational energy company).

Crowley will work with California North Floating and the Harbor District to ensure the Redwood Marine Terminal is built to support the offshore project’s needs. According to the executive at tonight’s meeting, the company expects to have a design by the end of March, to sign the final lease with the Harbor District by the end of 2023 and to start building by 2030 or sooner.

So, if I understand correctly, the major legal relationships look like this:

California North Floating (offshore) <–> Crowley Wind <–> Harbor District (onshore)

Of course, other relationships exist, some official, some less so. For example, Crowley is discussing the development of related career paths with Cal Poly Humboldt and College of the Redwoods. The Humboldt County Board of Supervisors has input into how federal funding will be distributed. Our state and federal elected representatives have some influence and oversight, as do a number of state and federal agencies who will oversee permitting and enforcing different elements of the project.

The meeting

Tonight’s meeting was described as an opportunity “to explore how Crowley is thinking about community benefit investments,” but one point made clear is that Crowley’s purpose is to facilitate the development of the marine terminal on behalf of California North Floating while meeting whatever lease requirements placed on it by the Harbor District. The company is not obligated to serve the needs of the local community, although representatives assured the peninsula residents who attended the meeting tonight that they were seeking to do so.

Crowley’s Sustainability Slide

If I understand correctly, the formal “community benefit investments” will come from California Floating North as part of its deal with BOEM. These investments are supposed to help those harmed by the offshore wind project’s development including regional tribes, fishermen and stakeholder groups. As for community improvements and investments, federal money – or a combination of federal and private dollars – should be available for such things, but all that is yet to be determined.

Peninsula residents shared concerns about increased vehicle traffic, the lack of existing infrastructure, the impacts of increased marine traffic on recreational uses within Humboldt Bay and what living next to a huge terminal might mean for the town of Samoa. Other questions that will arise throughout the process will include how to plan for sea level rise, how to balance the dire need for renewable energy projects with the here-and-now wish to protect natural resources, marine life and human interests, etc.

Learn more (an incomplete list)

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