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    Interior Department Proposed Rule: Pacific Wind Lease Sale 1 for Commercial Leasing for Wind Power on Outer Continental Shelf in California


    June 1, 2022 - Targeted News Service

     

      WASHINGTON, June 1 -- The U.S. Department of Interior's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management has issued a notice, published in the Federal Register on May 31, 2022, entitled "Pacific Wind Lease Sale 1 (PACW-1) for Commercial Leasing for Wind Power on the Outer Continental Shelf in California-Proposed Sale Notice".

      The notice was issued by Director Amanda Lefton.

      DATES: Comments should be submitted electronically or postmarked no later than August 1, 2022. For prospective bidders who want to participate in this lease sale: Unless you have received confirmation from BOEM that you are qualified to participate in a California lease sale, your qualification materials must be submitted during the comment period and must be submitted electronically or postmarked no later than August 1, 2022.

      FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Sara Guiltinan, Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Pacific Regional Office, Mail Stop CM 102, 760 Paseo Camarillo (Suite 102), Camarillo, California 93010-6002, (805) 384-6345, or sara.guiltinan@boem.gov.

      * * *

      This document is the proposed sale notice (PSN) for the sale of commercial wind energy leases on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) in the Humboldt Wind Energy Area (WEA) and Morro Bay WEA offshore California.

      The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) proposes to offer multiple lease areas (Lease Areas) for sale in each WEA and to conduct simultaneous auctions for Lease Areas within each WEA using a multiple-factor bidding auction format.

      The PSN contains information pertaining to the areas available for leasing, certain provisions and conditions of the lease, auction details, lease forms, criteria for evaluating competing bids, award procedures, appeal procedures, and lease execution procedures.

      The issuance of any lease resulting from this sale would not constitute approval of project-specific plans to develop offshore wind energy.

      Such plans, if submitted by the Lessee, would be subject to subsequent environmental, technical, and public reviews prior to a BOEM decision on whether the proposed development should be authorized.

      SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

      I. Background

      a. Call for Information and Nominations: On October 19, 2018, BOEM published a call for information and nominations in the Federal Register (83 FR 53096) ("2018 Call") that identified three geographically distinct Call Areas on the OCS offshore California, delineated as the Humboldt Call Area offshore the north coast and the Morro Bay Call Area and the Diablo Canyon Call Area offshore the central coast. Following the 2018 Call, the Morro Bay and Diablo Canyon Call Areas were initially assessed as incompatible for wind energy development by the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD). However, after the initial assessment, BOEM, the State of California, various California elected officials, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA's) Office of National Marine Sanctuaries (ONMS), and DoD continued to have discussions and conduct stakeholder outreach in efforts to accommodate offshore wind development within and adjacent to the Morro Bay Call Area and DoD's mission requirements. More information and results of these meetings and outreach can be viewed at: https://www.boem.gov/renewable-energy/state-activities/public-information-meetings-and-outreach-efforts.

      In May 2021, the White House, the Department of the Interior, DoD, and the State of California announced an agreement to advance an area, known as the "Morro Bay 399 Area," that could support approximately three gigawatts of offshore wind on roughly 399 square miles (255,487 acres) off California's central coast within and adjacent to the initial 2018 Morro Bay Call Area ( https://www.doi.gov/pressreleases/biden-harris-administration-advances-offshore-wind-pacific ).

      On July 29, 2021, BOEM delineated the two extensions in the identified Morro Bay 399Area, known as the East and West Extensions, in a published Call for Information and Nominations in the Federal Register (86 FR 40869) ("2021 Call") to solicit public input and industry interest in the extensions.

      In response to the 2018 Call and 2021 Call, BOEM received over 180 comments from the general public, representatives of fishing organizations and interests, offshore wind developers, other ocean industry groups, non-governmental organizations, universities, Tribal governments, local governments, Federal and State agencies, and other stakeholders. In addition to the comments received in response to the 2018 Call and 2021 Call, BOEM received input during outreach and engagement with Tribal governments, the State of California, and public stakeholders in over 80 meetings. The outreach effort and input received are documented in a California Offshore Wind Energy Planning Outreach Summary Report published in September 2018 ( https://www.boem.gov/renewable-energy/california-outreach-summary-report ) and an Outreach Summary Report Addendum published in June 2021 ( https://www.boem.gov/renewable-energy/state-activities/offshore-wind-outreach-addendum ).

      A total of 23 offshore wind developers submitted nominations in response to the 2018 Call and 2021 Call with 10 nominations for the Humboldt Call Area and 17 nominations for the Morro Bay Call Area.

      b. Area Identification: After the close of the 2018 Call and the 2021 Call comment periods, BOEM initiated the Area identification (Area ID) process. Through the Area ID process, BOEM considered information sources, such as: Comments and nominations received on the 2018 Call and 2021 Call; information from the BOEM California Intergovernmental Renewable Energy Task Force; input from California State and Federal agencies; input received via consultation meetings and written comment from federally recognized Tribes; input received via Tribal outreach meetings with federally and non-federally recognized Tribes; the California Offshore Wind Energy Planning Outreach Summary Report and Addendum; California Offshore Wind Energy Gateway data and information ( https://caoffshorewind.databasin.org/ ); outreach meetings and comments received under the California Energy Commission Notice of Availability of Outreach on Additional Considerations for Offshore Wind Energy off the Central Coast; comments from relevant stakeholders and ocean users, including the maritime community, environmental non-governmental organizations, offshore wind developers, and the commercial fishing industry; State and local renewable energy goals; and domestic and global offshore wind market and technological trends.

      BOEM also considered multiple existing uses of the California coast in developing the Call Areas and WEAs. BOEM found that existing uses and resources with the highest potential to be affected by offshore wind energy development activities in the Call Areas, relative to other uses and resources, include: (i) Commercial and recreational fishing; (ii) avian species; (iii) marine mammals; (iv) maritime navigation; (v) historic properties; (vi) visual impacts; (vii) DoD activities; (viii) places and resources of importance to Tribes; and (ix) other infrastructure. BOEM announced the Area ID by identifying within the Call Areas the Humboldt WEA on July 28, 2021, and the Morro Bay WEA on November 12, 2021. The Area ID announcements and maps of the WEAs are available at: https://www.boem.gov/renewable-energy/state-activities/california.

      c. Environmental Reviews: On July 28, 2021, BOEM announced its intent to prepare an environmental assessment (EA) to consider potential environmental impacts from site characterization activities ( i.e., biological, archaeological, geological, and geophysical surveys and core samples) and site assessment activities ( i.e., installation of meteorological buoys) associated with issuing any wind energy leases in the Humboldt WEA. As part of the EA process, BOEM sought comments on the issues and alternatives that should inform the EA and received 52 comments. The written comments, comment summaries, and public meeting recordings and transcripts are available at: https://www.boem.gov/renewable-energy/state-activities/humboldt-wind-energy-area. BOEM announced the availability of the draft Humboldt EA on January 11, 2022, and initiated a 30-day public comment period. BOEM received 43 comments on the draft Humboldt EA. Written comments are available at http://www.regulations.gov/ , under Docket No. BOEM-2021-0085. Public meeting recordings and summaries are available at: https://www.boem.gov/renewable-energy/state-activities/humboldt-wind-energy-area. The EA was subsequently revised based on comments received during the comment period and public meetings. The revised EA and the finding of no significant impact were published on May 5, 2022, and are available at: https://www.boem.gov/renewable-energy/state-activities/humboldt-wind-energy-final-ea.

      Concurrently with its preparation of the Humboldt EA, BOEM conducted a consistency review under the Coastal Zone Management Act. The California Coastal Commission implements the Coastal Zone Management Act in California. BOEM submitted a consistency determination to the California Coastal Commission on January 24, 2022; Commission staff filed a Staff Report recommending conditional concurrence with BOEM's consistency determination on March 17, 2022 (see Staff Report at https://documents.coastal.ca.gov/reports/2022/4/Th8a/Th8a-4-2022%20staffreport.pdf ); and, on April 7, 2022, the Commission unanimously concurred with the staff's conditional consistency recommendation. BOEM will update lease conditions to ensure that the activities authorized under the lease are consistent with the conditional concurrence of the Commission.

      On November 12, 2021, BOEM announced its intent to prepare an EA to consider potential environmental impacts from site characterization activities ( i.e., biological, archaeological, geological, and geophysical surveys and core samples) and site assessment activities ( i.e., installation of meteorological buoys) associated with issuing any wind energy leases in the Morro Bay WEA. As part of the EA process, BOEM sought comments on the issues and alternatives that should inform the EA and received 88 unique comments. Written comments are available at http://www.regulations.gov/, under Docket No. BOEM-2021-0044. Public meeting recordings and summaries are available at: https://www.boem.gov/renewable-energy/state-activities/morro-bay-wind-energy-area. BOEM announced the availability of the draft Morro Bay EA on April 6, 2022, and initiated a 30-day public comment period. On May 4, 2022, BOEM announced the extension of the comment period by 10 days in response to stakeholder request.

      Concurrently with its preparation of the Morro Bay EA, BOEM conducted a consistency review under the Coastal Zone Management Act. BOEM submitted a consistency determination to the California Coastal Commission on April 15, 2022.

      The Morro Bay EA will be concluded before and inform BOEM's decision whether to proceed with the final sale notice (FSN).

      BOEM prepared and executed a programmatic agreement (PA) to guide its consultations under section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act. The PA provides for consultations to continue through BOEM's decision-making process regarding the issuance of leases, right-of-way grants, and right-of-use and easement grants on the OCS offshore California. The PA also includes BOEM's phased identification and evaluation of historic properties. BOEM is conducting consultations under the Endangered Species Act and the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act regarding potential impacts to listed species, designated critical habitat, and essential fish habitat. BOEM will continue to engage as required with Tribal governments throughout the wind energy authorization process, including through Government-to-Government consultation with federally recognized Tribes.

      II. Area Proposed for Leasing

      The areas available for sale are proposed to be auctioned as multiple leases within two California regions as listed in the table below.

      View table here: https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2022/05/31/2022-11537/pacific-wind-lease-sale-1-pacw-1-for-commercial-leasing-for-wind-power-on-the-outer-continental

      The proposed Lease Areas include the entirety of the Humboldt and Morro Bay WEAs. The WEAs were subdivided so that each proposed Lease Area:

      * Is of roughly equal power generation potential and geographical size;

      * is delineated in a manner to maximize energy generation; and

      * facilitates fair return to the Federal Government pursuant to the OCS Lands Act through competition for commercially viable Lease Areas.

      The Morro Bay WEA has been divided into three Lease Areas and the Humboldt WEA has been divided into two Lease Areas. The Lease Area delineations are based on findings of a National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) study called "Assessment of Offshore Wind Energy Leasing Areas for Humboldt and Morro Bay Wind Energy Areas, California," available at: https://www.nrel.gov/docs/fy22osti/82341.pdf. The designation of final Lease Areas in the FSN will be informed by comments received in this PSN and other relevant data.

      BOEM is aware of the proposed designation of the Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary, an area comprising approximately 7,000 square miles off the central coast of California adjacent to the Morro Bay WEA. BOEM does not have authority under the OCS Lands Act to issue leases, right-of-way grants, or right-of-use and easement grants within any unit of the National Marine Sanctuary System. Potential bidders should note that future designation of a National Marine Sanctuary adjacent to a Lease Area may have implications for development of OCS leases for commercial wind energy. BOEM is coordinating closely with the NOAA Office of National Marine Sanctuaries to advance offshore wind energy projects and conservation and restoration of ocean and coastal habitats. More information on the proposed designation of Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary is available at: https://sanctuaries.noaa.gov/chumash-heritage/.

      BOEM is also aware that the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) is conducting a Port Access Route Study on the Pacific Coast from Washington to California (PACPARS) to evaluate safe access routes for the movement of vessel traffic proceeding to or from ports along the western seaboard, and, specifically, to determine whether a Shipping Safety Fairway and/or routing measures should be established, adjusted, or modified. BOEM is coordinating closely with the USCG to address potential maritime impacts from any future offshore wind development in the Lease Areas. More information on the PACPARS is available at http://www.regulations.gov/ , under Docket No. USCG-2021-0345.

      BOEM is aware of two planned submarine cable systems that are scheduled for installation in cable corridors that overlap the proposed Lease Areas. A planned submarine telecommunications cable system, known as BIFROST, is expected to be installed in 2023 in a cable corridor that would overlap with the southern portion of the proposed Morro Bay E Lease Area. A planned telecommunications cable, known as ECHO, is expected to be installed in Eureka, California, in 2023 and would overlap with both proposed Humboldt Lease Areas.

      A description of the proposed Lease Areas can be found in Addendum "A" of the proposed lease, which BOEM has made available with this notice on its website at: https://www.boem.gov/renewable-energy/state-activities/california.

      a. Map of the Areas Proposed for Leasing: A map of the Lease Areas and GIS spatial files X, Y (eastings, northings) UTM Zone 18, NAD83 Datum, and geographic X, Y (longitude, latitude), NAD83 Datum can be found on BOEM's website at: https://www.boem.gov/renewable-energy/state-activities/california.

      b. Potential Future Restrictions to Ensure Navigational Safety:

      i. USCG Navigational Safety Measures: Potential bidders should note that the USCG is conducting a PACPARS to evaluate safe access routes for the movement of vessel traffic proceeding to or from ports or places along the western seaboard of the United States and to determine whether a Shipping Safety Fairway and/or routing measures should be established, adjusted, or modified. The PACPARS will evaluate the continued applicability of, and the need for modifications to, current vessel routing measures. The data gathered during the PACPARS may result in the establishment of one or more new vessel routing measures, modification of existing routing measures, or disestablishment of existing routing measures off the Pacific Coast between Washington and California. BOEM may require mitigation measures in the construction and operations plan (COP) once the Lessee's site-specific navigational safety risk assessment is available to inform BOEM's decision-making. The PACPARS may result in additional navigational mitigation measures at the COP review stage.

      ii. Measures for Vessel Transit: The information currently available does not indicate that vessel routing mitigation measures are warranted, but BOEM may nonetheless consider designating portions of the proposed Lease Areas as areas of no surface occupancy to facilitate vessel transit and continuance of existing uses. Vessels cross the Morro Bay WEA to enter the USCG Recommended Tracks within the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary and traffic lanes outside the San Francisco Bay. Bidders should be aware that a lease stipulation may be included in the FSN that addresses vessel routing measures, depending on the outcome of additional discussions with the USCG, ocean users, and stakeholders, and consideration of comments submitted in response to this PSN.

      c. Potential Future Restrictions to Mitigate Potential Conflicts with Department of Defense Activities: In 2018, DoD reviewed the Humboldt and Morro Bay Call Areas (83 FR 53096) in support of BOEM's efforts to deconflict potential wind energy development in the areas in northern and central California, respectively. DoD provided its assessment of the California Offshore Planning Areas, and the 2018 DoD assessment indicated that its mission activities along most of the central coast, including the Morro Bay Call Area, are incompatible with wind energy development. DoD determined that the Humboldt Call Area, located off the coast of northern California, was DoD-mission compatible, with site-specific stipulations.

      On May 25, 2021, the Departments of the Interior and Defense and the State of California announced an agreement to accelerate wind energy offshore the central and northern coasts of California. The Department of the Interior, in cooperation with DoD and the State of California, identified the Morro Bay 399 Area that could support approximately three gigawatts of offshore wind on roughly 399 square miles off California's central coast, northwest of Morro Bay. The announcement also acknowledged the critical nature of current and future military testing, training, and operations in the central coast and noted the parties' commitment to ensuring long-term protection of military testing, training, and operations in the area while pursuing new domestic clean energy resources. This announcement came after years of collaboration between the Departments of the Interior and Defense to find areas offshore the central coast of California that are compatible with DoD's training and testing operations. The proposed Lease Areas offshore Morro Bay are all located within the Morro Bay 399 Area and have been determined by DoD to be suitable for development, with site-specific stipulations.

      Prospective bidders should be aware that site specific stipulations may be required in consultation with DoD for development within the Lease Areas. For example, the North American Aerospace Defense Command mission may be affected by the development of the Lease Areas. BOEM will coordinate with DoD and the Lessee to deconflict these potential impacts throughout the project review stage. Mitigation measures or terms and conditions of a plan approval may result from this coordination effort.

      The document was published in the Federal Register: https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2022/05/31/2022-11537/pacific-wind-lease-sale-1-pacw-1-for-commercial-leasing-for-wind-power-on-the-outer-continental

      TARGETED NEWS SERVICE (founded 2004) features non-partisan 'edited journalism' news briefs and information for news organizations, public policy groups and individuals; as well as 'gathered' public policy information, including news releases, reports, speeches. For more information contact MYRON STRUCK, editor, editor@targetednews.com, Springfield, Virginia; 703/304-1897; https://targetednews.com

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