Under the Energy Policy Act of 2005 the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE) is responsible for leasing renewable energy activities on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS). Included among these activities are offshore data collection devices, wind turbines and marine hydrokinetic (MHK) facilities, such as wave and current generators. As with any federal action or undertaking, an assessment of potential impacts to the environment, including cultural resources, is required. This paper provides an introduction to BOEMRE's offshore renewable energy program and the protection of underwater cultural heritage on the Pacific OCS. Included is a summary of energy activities on the Pacific OCS and BOEMRE environmental studies designed to provide information for compliance reviews under Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act.
Acquisition of offshore energy and mineral resources has occurred in the federal waters of the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) for over sixty years. For most of that time, the focus has been primarily on exploration and development of hydrocarbon resources (e.g., oil and gas). Oversight of these activities on the OCS currently lies with the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE). In addition to oil and gas activities, BOEMRE is responsible for granting access to OCS sand and gravel for coastal restoration projects. With passage of the 2005 Energy Policy Act, BOEMRE's responsibility also now includes offshore renewable energy, with a focus on wind and marine hydrokinetic (MHK) projects. As interest in renewable energy on the OCS takes shape, the technologies to harness wind and MHK energy continue to improve. Likewise, regulations to ensure environmentally safe development of these resources are also advancing.
Offshore oil drilling in the U.S. began off the California coast near Santa Barbara in 1896, when a drilling rig was erected on a pier that extended approximately 300 feet from shore. Fifty-one years later, in 1947, the first offshore well was completed out of site of land by Kerr-McGee off the Louisiana coast. Since that time, the offshore oil and gas industry has grown, and today development is concentrated primarily on hydrocarbon resources in the Gulf of Mexico (Austin et al., 2004).
On the Pacific OCS, oil and gas development has been limited not only by congressional moratoria, which were in place from 1982 through 2008, but also as a result of state and local opposition to offshore oil and gas development along the West Coast. However, production continues in this region on leases issued prior to 1984. Currently, there are 49 active oil and gas leases on the Pacific OCS, located roughly between Huntington Beach and Pismo Beach, along the southern California coast.