The following opinion column was submitted by Lonyx Landry, a Humboldt County planning commissioner and a leader of CORE Hub. —Ed.


Offshore wind development in Humboldt County has the potential to revolutionize our economy and materially improve the well-being of our communities. But it’s not that simple. As a member of the Nor Rel Muk Wintu Nation, a Cal Poly Humboldt educator, and a leader in the Redwood Region Climate and Community Resilience Hub (CORE Hub)’s Offshore Wind Community Benefits Network, I believe that Northern California renewable energy development must go hand in hand with investments in Tribal communities and industries such as aquaculture and mariculture; and that it requires strong community benefits like workforce development, education, healthcare and housing.

In 2024, developers like Crowley and local and state governments will be working together to solidify multi-million dollar offshore wind deals and projects, and will need to ensure that communities are not left out of the conversation.

Nurturing a just future in Humboldt County means that those who seek to profit from offshore wind development need to codify their promises to our community in legally binding agreements. In Humboldt, we have a history of extractive industries taking advantage of our rich supply of natural resources. In the 1800s and 1900s, our county served as an epicenter for the Gold Rush and logging, the negative effects of which can still be seen today. Former mill sites continue to threaten the drinking water of our 88,000 Humboldt County residents. We consistently rank as one of the five poorest counties in California, and our region has one of the highest rates of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Peoples (MMIP) in the nation.

Tribal communities in Humboldt, especially, have endured the brunt of environmental degradation, resource exploitation, and social inequity. Our lands have been taken and our natural resources destroyed, our culture outlawed, and our voices marginalized.

Offshore wind development in Humboldt needs to flip the script by ensuring that our local communities reap the benefits of clean energy and economic development, without causing more harm. A Community Benefits Agreement is one accountable way to ensure a truly equitable clean energy transition.

An established community agreement can ensure workplace training and educational opportunities tailored to our communities’ unique needs, creating good jobs that are accessible to Indigenous people as well as students and young people, and families living on low incomes and in rural, disconnected parts of Humboldt. Training and employment programs that prioritize historically oppressed communities, fair wages and safe working conditions, can help bridge economic disparities. Beyond construction and engineering jobs at the wind farms and the port in Humboldt Bay, there are also a wealth of possibilities for good-paying, career-path jobs in environmental science, air and water quality, and other fields. Offshore wind companies should design internships, research collaborations, and entry-level jobs to provide training and skills to local students and workers who have been historically excluded from these opportunities.

Legally-binding community agreements can also ensure that offshore wind projects respect the sacred sites and cultural heritage of Indigenous communities, including preserving and avoiding impacts to Tuluwat Island, which has been restored to the Wiyot Tribe after an egregiously painful history. Consulting with Native American people and respecting our input is a crucial step towards investing in our economic future in a way that protects our natural resources and respects our stewardship of the land. We need offshore wind companies to provide startup funding and to make space for dialogue and shared decision-making with Tribal and local communities, centering local science, lived experience and traditional ecological knowledge.

For the past two years, more than two dozen community advocates and stakeholders involved in the CORE Hub have developed community benefits terms including these workforce training and Indigenous stewardship proposals. We have also specified our needs for commitments and funding for our local fisheries, mariculture, and aquaculture industries, as well as services like public transportation, outdoor recreation, childcare, and electrification and zero-emissions infrastructure. We’ve also detailed our need for safeguards to prevent MMIP, human trafficking, and sexual violence. The CORE Hub has discussed these community protective measures in depth with Crowley, Humboldt Harbor Commissioners and district staff, the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors, and state government agencies.

If offshore wind projects are to move forward in 2024, vague promises and verbal commitments to “help the community” are no longer enough. We need transparency and accountability from our government and corporate America. Community benefits can realistically protect Humboldt communities’ rich and diverse cultural, natural, and human resources, as we host the first-ever offshore wind farms on the Pacific coast. In this new year, we will continue to fight for economic development that puts people, flora, and fauna before profits.


Lonyx B. Landry is a STEM advisor at Cal Poly Humboldt in the Indian Natural Resources, Science, and Engineering Program (INRSEP), a member of the Nor Rel Muk Wintu Nation, and leader and supporter of the Redwood Region Climate and Community Resilience Hub (CORE Hub). He is also Council Member to the Northern California Indian Development Council (NCIDC). Lonyx was born and raised in Eureka and has extensive experience working at the intersections of biology, higher education, and natural resource protection in Northern California.