More Information

Jaime Jahncke, PhD

Email: jjahncke@pointblue.org

California Current Group Director

Report Introduction

The Bureau of Ocean and Energy Management (BOEM) is preparing an Environmental Assessment pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) to assess a proposed Morro Bay Wind Energy Area (MBWEA) for floating offshore wind leasing, and potentially, development activities, in federal jurisdictional waters offshore San Luis Obispo County, California (Figure 1.1). BOEM is considering two options. MBWEA Option 1 includes the original “Call Area” plus an “East Extension” and a “West Extension,” encompassing approximately 255,487 acres (1,034 km2/399 mi2). MBWEA Option 1 is located approximately 27 km (17 mi) at its closest point from shore. MBWEA Option 2 also includes the original “Call Area” and only the “West Extension,” totaling around 240,898 acres (975 km2/376 mi2) and located approximately 32 km (20 mi) at its closest point from shore. The MBWEA lies west of the continental shelf break on the gently sloping shelf in water depths ranging from 800 to 1,300 meters (m; 2,625 to 4,265 feet [ft]). For the purposes of this report when referring to “the MBWEA” and also when its footprint is depicted on the figures, it will encompass the area being considered under Option 1.

Following publication of the Environmental Assessment, BOEM has proposed conducting an offshore wind lease sale in fall 2022 (BOEM 2021). The California Coastal Commission, through its consultation responsibilities under Section 307 of the Coastal Zone Management Act, is to decide whether to concur with the federal consistency determination that will be prepared by BOEM as part of the issuance of the Environmental Assessment and the action to hold a lease sale along with subsequent site characterization assessments. The Coastal Commission will assess and base its decision on whether the consistency determination, as well as other information and data provided, meet the state’s enforceable policies, which are documented in Chapter 3 of the California Coastal Act of 1976.

As part of this process, Point Blue Conservation Science (Point Blue) was tasked with developing a data catalogue and to synthesize the most relevant environmental datasets that are known within the MBWEA or vicinity, including the nearshore coastal areas of San Luis Obispo County. The intent of this report is to identify the best sources of data currently available on California’s marine resources, particularly in and around the proposed wind energy area. An important next step that would enhance this data catalogue effort is to ensure that a single repository for West Coast data includes regular updates of the datasets and a process to ensure that information has been peer-reviewed and verified. One site that has begun to address this data need is the California Offshore Wind Energy Gateway. This gateway was built on the Data Basin platform, which provides open access to biological, physical, and socio-economic datasets (Conservation Biology Institute [CBI] 2022). The California Offshore Wind Energy Gateway includes geospatial information on ocean wind resources, ecological and natural resources, ocean commercial and recreational uses, and community values that are intended to assess the siting of offshore wind energy in federal waters.

This report summarizes certain marine resources and associated datasets that are available for the MBWEA site and vicinity and may not currently be included in the California Offshore Wind Energy Gateway. The report also includes information on potential gaps in the current knowledge base on data associated with identified resources.

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