In 2006, Finavera Renewables filed an application for a FERC license to construct, maintain, and operate an array of four 250kW AquaBuOY wave energy converters in the waters of Makah Bay, along with a subsea transmission cable to bring power to an onshore substation. The devices would have provided enough power for 150 homes located in Neah Bay, WA. The FERC license was granted in 2007, and all preliminary environmental assessments were completed and approved. However, construction on the project never began as the developer surrendered the license application and and cancelled the project in 2009, due to concerns about economic feasibility and project financing.
Makah Bay - near Neah Bay, Washington, USA
The Makah Bay Pilot Project was granted a conditional, 5-year FERC license in 2007 under the streamlined Alternative Licensing Process (ALP). This process combined the pre-filling consultation and environmental review processes under NEPA. The license was conditioned upon monitoring of environmental impacts. FERC could revoke the licence at any time if the project was found to “unacceptably affect” the local environment.
A full list of the documents included in the licensing process, including various consultations and Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs) is available at elibrary.ferc.gov, under docket P-12751.
2001 – Project initiated. Beginning of consultations with environmental groups, fisherman’s associations, and commercial and recreational users of Makah Bay. Formation of partnerships with the Makah Indian Nation, Clallam County PUD, Washington State University, Bonneville Power Administration, and the Clallam County Economic Development Council.
November 2006 – submitted application for FERC license and preliminary draft environmental assessment (PDEA)
May 2007 – Environmental Assessment completed
December 2007 – FERC license received (FERC No. 12751)
February 2009 – license application surrendered, all plans for project cancelled
Key Environmental Issues
The Environmental Assessment, completed by a Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) qualified assessor, concluded the project would have “no significant environmental effects” on the oceanographic, geophysical and biological conditions of the Makah Bay. A full description of the anticipated environmental effects and proposed mitigation measures are described in the Environmental Assessment and summarized in the Baseline Assessment table below.
Papers, Reports, Research Studies
- AquaEnergy Group, Ltd. (2006). Makah Bay Offshore Wave Energy Pilot Project: Application for Minor License and Preliminary Draft Environmental Assessment (FERC Docket No. DI02-3-002).
- Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (2007). Makah Bay Offshore Wave Energy Pilot Project: Environmental Assessment for Hydropower License (Project No. 12751).
- Thales GeoSolutions, Inc. (2002). Environmental Assessment Seabed Survey: Makah Bay (Report No. TGP-2577-RPT-01-00).
- Evans-Hamilton, Inc. (2006). Makah Bay Offshore Wave Energy Pilot Project: Current Measurements (EHI Job #5294).
Technical device information:
Baseline Assessment: Makah Bay Offshore Wave Pilot Project
|Receptor||Study Description||Design and Methods||Results||Status|
|Marine Mammals||Environmental assessment - marine mammals||Review of species in the area and expected impacts. Includes planned mitigation measures.||We find that licensing the project would not affect the blue whale, fin whale, sei whale, sperm whale; and may adversely affect the humpback whale, killer whale, and steller sea lion. |
We recommend several measures that would minimize adverse effects on these species: using a marine observer during installation operations to alert the vessel operator of marine mammals in the vicinity of the moving vessel; scheduling construction in the summer to avoid gray whale migration; clearing derelict fishing gear and marine debris from the buoy and cable area prior to installation; biannual monitoring to ensure the integrity of the project components and to remove any fishing gear and debris caught on the anchor and mooring lines; installation of a cone barrier to prevent an AquaBuOY from being used as a haulout for seals and sea lions; installation of pingers to alert killer whales to the AquaBuOY and mooring lines; and acoustic monitoring to verify that noise from project operations is not adversely affecting marine mammal behavior.
A few individuals of the following marine mammals may be subject to level B harassment (under the MMPA) associated with ship noise and HDD and ship movements during construction: gray whale, killer whale (southern resident and transient stocks), harbor porpoise, California sea lion, stellar sea lion, harbor seal, and northern sea otter. Operational noise is not expected to rise to a level that results in harassment; monitoring would verify potential impacts. Consequently, an incidental harassment authorization will be required for construction of the project under the MMPA.
Because of the low level of vessel traffic and slow speeds that would occur during construction, the likelihood of a ship strike with marine mammals is low. Exposure to ship strikes and construction disturbance would be short-term in nature.
Because of the small area occupied by the project relative to vastness of the open ocean, we believe that the potential for marine mammals to encounter the buoy array is small, unless there is a particular attraction such as a food source, in which case, the whale or dolphin may detect the anchor lines and avoid collision. We also suspect that because the project’s cables would be similar in size and type to anchoring systems associated with navigation buoys, the potential for collisions and injury is low.
|Fish||Environmental assessment - fish||Characterization of the fish community in the region surrounding the project site and review of expected impacts to fish species.||Species in the area are described. The EA finds that this project would likely adversely effect essential fish habitat for 38 rockfish species and 3 salmonid species. Salmonids migrating past and feeding at the site of the submarine transmission line and buoy array during construction and installation activities would likely be exposed to disturbances such as increased turbidities, boat traffic, noise, and vibrations. Once the buoy mooring cables would be installed, the potential would exist for abandoned commercial or recreational fishing gear to become entangled around the cables. Such entangled gear would continue to fish without human control and potentially result in the unintended catch and subsequent mortality of salmon, steelhead, and trout. Although development and implementation of plans to diligently remove derelict fishing gear from the mooring lines and exclude fishing from the immediate project area would minimize the effect, incidental take of at least a very few salmon, steelhead, and trout would be unavoidable. Consultation with NMFS will be initiated. ||Completed|
|Birds||Environmental assessment - birds||Review of impacts to short-tailed albatross, bald eagle, brown pelican, and marbled murrelet. ||Short-tailed albatross would not be affected by the project. The project may affect but would not be likely to adversely affect bald eagle and brown pelican. The marbled murrelet may be adversely impacted during cable laying.||Completed|
|Invertebrates||Environmental assessment - invertebrates||Characterization of invertebrate community at the project site and review of impacts.||Effects will be limited to slow-moving organisms in the path of the cable or footprint of device.||Completed|
|Physical Environment||Environmental assessment - physical environment||Seabed survey (Thales Geosolutions, Inc. 2002) and sediment sampling (Evans-Hamilton 2006) ||85% of the transmission line would rest on finegrained sand and silt habitat, 14% on hard substrates, and 1% on or around isolated rocks less than 10 m in diameter. This equates to about 0.25 acres of sand and silt habitat, 0.042 acres of rock habitat, and a minimal area of isolated large rocks that would be affected by cable presence and installation. |
The area of disturbance from anchor installation would be confined to the buoy array’s footprint on the ocean floor (450 feet by 625 feet or about 6.5 acres).
|Ecosystem Processes||Environmental assessment - ecosystem processes||Sediment transport modeling.||Existing wave conditions and storm events would likely result in erosion throughout the entire project area. While shifting sands can occur to a great depth, substantial changes in bathymetry are unlikely at depths greater than the closure depth, because, beyond this depth, cross-shore processes cease to modify the bottom profile. While some resuspension of sediment in the buoy anchor area would occur due to ocean currents, substantial changes in bathymetry would not likely result because the anchors would be located in waters deeper than the closure depth (56 feet). |
The buoy array would have no potential to affect the movement of sediment along the shore or dampen nearshore waves due to its extremely small size and distance from shore. Unutilized wave energy would pass through the buoy array and wave energy from adjacent waters would move into the lower energy water to the lee of the buoys by diffraction, thereby negating any effect.
|Human Dimensions, Social & Economic Data||Environmental assessments - cultural resources||Review of cultural and historic impacts in consultation with the Makah Tribe.||We conclude that: (1) the proposed project would not have an effect on historic properties on the Makah Indian Reservation provided that a tribal monitor be present during ground-disturbing activities to insure that no archeological sites would be affected by this project; and (2) the proposed project would not have an effect on historic properties in the offshore portion of the project site.||Completed|