The overarching goal of this West Coast Environmental Protocols Framework is to describe a clear, consistent process for regulators and industry to follow when designing environmental baseline and post-installation monitoring studies for proposed wave, tidal and offshore wind projects along the U.S West Coast, thus reducing time and uncertainty associated with project development. The use of the term environmental in the context of this report refers specifically to natural resources and ecological issues, not to human resources or socioeconomic or cultural issues. The project will describe a step-wise approach to identify monitoring protocols for developing wave, tidal and offshore wind ocean renewable energy projects. Common protocols will provide clarity and consistency in study requirements, which presently differ substantially between projects and regions. The specific objectives of the project are to:
- Identify and prioritize potential environmental issues to be monitored;
- Develop a screening tool (the protocols framework) for renewable ocean energy projects that can be used to identify baseline and effects information and protocols needed to collect that information;
- Address environmental thresholds, both scientific and regulatory, and related criteria in the framework;
- Screen the environmental issues and design the protocols framework, focusing on the California Current Large Marine Ecosystem (LME) and with intended portability to other LMEs;
- Obtain and consider information on emerging environmental monitoring protocols for ocean renewable energy development from Europe;
- Verify the proof of concept for the framework through case studies of wave, offshore wind and tidal projects on the U.S. West Coast;
- Vet the resulting products and process with a broad stakeholder group representing industry, regulators, scientists, environmental nongovernmental organizations, and industry; and
- Provide process recommendations for the possible adoption of this work into the state and federal regulatory processes to allow for consistency.
The protocols framework may be used to identify protocols that are applicable to a specific project and areas where additional protocol development is likely needed. The protocols framework may serve as a point of departure for discussions between ocean energy industry proponents and regulatory agencies.