Stories From The Field

Evaluating Potential Impacts of Ocean Energy Projects in California

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Issue

As interest in ocean energy projects off the coast of California increases, it is important to balance the benefits of harnessing wave energy with potential impacts to ecological resources. Proposed projects need to be evaluated to determine potential effects to important resources, such as threatened- and endangered-species habitat.

Process

NOAA Fisheries’ Habitat Conservation Division in Santa Rosa, California, is using the MarineCadastre.gov National Viewer to support the review of ocean energy license applications and preliminary permits. For example, in evaluating the license application for a project in Northern California, the division used the national viewer to determine the proximity of the proposed project to a variety of marine species and habitats. The agency found that the project would impact many salmonid species and marine mammal species protected under the Endangered Species Act; would be located within a designated essential fish habitat (EFH) and an associated habitat area of particular concern; and would be situated within the migration corridor for several important species that are part of the West Coast commercial salmon fishery.

Impact

As a result of the findings, the division created a variety of maps using the Marine Cadastre-supported information, and four conservation divisions worked cooperatively to provide comments and recommendations in response to the application.

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