“The pressure to exploit offshore wind resources leaves little time to identify knowledge gaps, pursue relevant research, and employ effective protocols and innovative technologies," said California Representative Andrew Johnson. "Given the scale and costs of offshore wind development projects, adaptive management will be difficult after the deployment of these giant structures. Therefore, we must commit to understanding how these structures will affect ocean systems before they are deployed."
Defenders of Wildlife’s California Representative, Andrew Johnson, testified before the Joint Committee on Fisheries and Aquaculture in the California Legislature on May 17. Following the state’s recent entry into offshore wind energy development, the hearing focused on how to best mitigate industrial use impacts on ocean ecosystems.
California legislators expressed a clear commitment to offshore wind energy development as part of the state’s path toward a low-carbon energy future.
In his testimony, Johnson made the following statement:
“How we realize this future has ramifications for California’s treasured wildlife, marine habitats and coastlines. We support the rapid development and deployment of offshore wind energy, but intensive research is critical for understanding the potential impacts to wildlife and ecosystems and for implementing appropriate precautions. Preliminary modeling suggests the potential for consequential impacts on upwelling and other vital processes in the California Current Ecosystem. We could see changes in primary productivity and the disruption of food webs, and wildlife species might have to alter their migratory behavior, foraging ecology, and reproduction strategies. We have to understand what those effects will be.
“The pressure to exploit offshore wind resources leaves little time to identify knowledge gaps, pursue relevant research, and employ effective protocols and innovative technologies. Given the scale and costs of offshore wind development projects, adaptive management will be difficult after the deployment of these giant structures. Therefore, we must commit to understanding how these structures will affect ocean systems before they are deployed.
“The questions about environmental impacts must come to the forefront despite the inherent desire of economic interests to evade them. There will be impacts. The deployment and operation of these massive structures will cause environmental harm—to nutrient flows, hydrodynamics, habitat structures, and wildlife. We know that after-the-fact mitigation—by levying fines, changing procedures, or even ceasing site operations—rarely resolves these harms. In our view, the onus falls to state and federal agencies and the energy industry to fund the necessary science in advance rather than defaulting to programs of compensatory mitigation.”
The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management recently conducted its first lease auction for offshore wind energy development in the Pacific—the first offshore lease of any kind in the state since 1984.
During the Joint Committee on Fisheries and Aquaculture hearing, Johnson advocated for the protection of native species and responsible development of renewable energy. Other speakers included representatives from state, federal, and tribal governments, environmental conservation nonprofits, commercial fisheries and the wind energy industry.