Corvallis Business: PacWave Picks Gerding for Wave Energy Build-Out, Lee Shuts Lebanon Express, Knight Vision Conflict-of-Interest Redux, Yee Concerned

City Council president Tracey Yee has some tough questions about a homeless services contract, and the prospect of using Corvallis based Knight Vision Security as a vendor –  all of which became quite public at last week’s council meeting. 

Here’s what’s happened: Benton County chose to contract Faith Hope & Charity, or FHC, for some services in the area’s homeless population, and county officials are in turn asking the city for a grant to offset the costs. FHC plans to use Knight Vision Security for safety services at almost $40 hourly.  

FHC is a nonprofit, Knight Vision is for-profit, and Yee questions that one individual, Fred Edwards, is president of both. City consideration for the funding is on hold for the moment. 

Not the First Time: Edwards also appeared to have a conflict of interest in 2014, As vice-president of the Downtown Corvallis Association, he responded to questions from The Advocate about a fairly new homeless shelter, saying, ““I think it’s going to be very good. It’s going to be okay. I’m going to have the confidence to say that I think it will.” 

But at the same time, he also marked the reduction of the Corvallis Police Department’s TAP-9 patrols, which most people saw as a response to the shelter’s presence downtown, with an email to Downtown Corvallis Association members, asking, ““Is undesirable and illegal behavior negatively impacting your business?”  

The email then continued on to explain that Edwards had heard the merchants concerns during association meetings, and  that Knight Vision’s uniformed security personnel can provide “a visible, welcoming presence in Downtown Corvallis.” 

Mid-Valley Media Closure: After 136 years, The Lebanon Express published its final issue last Wednesday. The paper was owned by Lee Enterprises, an Iowa based company that also owns the Corvallis Gazette-Times and Albany Democrat Herald.  

The paper’s front page statement read, “As our industry evolves, we need to focus our news resources on complete coverage of the entire region, which we will continue to do as part of the Albany Democrat-Herald.”  The statement went on to offer the Albany paper’s web address.  

Along with the closure, longtime newsroom staffers Andy Cripe and Kyle Odegard were laid-off. 

Lee Enterprises is the nation’s sixth largest newspaper chain, and has recently been the subject of a class action lawsuit for transferring the personal information of subscribers to a social media company. The company also recently received a NASDAQ letter of non-compliance. 

Producing Ethical Business Graduates:  Study International sees the ascendancy of ethical business practice as a continuing trend, and earlier this month they pointed to the University of Oregon’s Lundquist College of Business as one of four American universities producing especially ethical graduates.  

In their post, they point out “Businesses that behave more honourably have been found to gain more trust from stakeholders, increase profit, build better reputation, improve employee loyalty and spark higher levels of customer happiness.”  

When it came to the UO program, Study International was impressed with the school’s focus on learning by doing. 

Mt. Bachelor Lawsuit Spurs Legislation: A new bipartisan bill would mean those liability waivers folks sign at fitness and recreation businesses would, in fact, become clearly enforceable in the state of Oregon.  

Enforceability has been in question since a 2006 lawsuit, the action was brought after an 18 year old man sustained paralyzing injuries from an attempted jump at Mt. Bachelor.  

In 2014, the Oregon Supreme Court ruled the waiver that resort guests sign was unenforceable. Bill 754 would reverse that decision. 

“We firmly believe this legislation is needed to restore the balance between the responsibilities of recreation and fitness organizations and the responsibility of individuals participating in sports and fitness activities that involve inherent risks,” said Mount Bachelor President John McLeod in a statement released last Thursday. 

Gerding Selected to Build Wave Energy Facility: The last major pieces of the contract to build the wave energy test facility, PacWave South, have been executed, paving the way for the completion of the Oregon State University-led facility off the coast of Newport. 

Corvallis-based contractor Gerding Builders has been selected to construct the shoreside facility; work on that piece of the project is expected to begin in the spring of 2023, said PacWave Deputy Director Dan Hellin. 

PacWave South will be the first utility-scale, grid-connected wave energy test site in the United States. The facility will offer wave energy developers the opportunity to try different technologies for harnessing the power of ocean waves and transmitting that energy to the local electrical grid. 

PacWave project leaders recently authorized the procurement of more than 80 kilometers of cable that will deliver wave-generated energy to a shoreside facility where it can be fed to the local electrical grid. They also just finalized the contract for construction of the shoreside facility, said Burke Hales, PacWave’s chief scientist and a professor in the OSU College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences.  

“These are the last two major pieces of the project,” Hales said. “The cable manufacturing and installation is the most technically challenging aspect. Authorization of the manufacturing is a huge milestone for PacWave and is critical to its success.” 

The ocean test site will be located on a sandy-bottomed stretch of the Pacific Ocean away from popular commercial and recreational fishing reefs about seven miles off the coast of Newport. The site will have four different test “berths,” which combined can accommodate up to 20 wave energy devices at any one time. 

Power and data cables buried below the seafloor will connect the ocean test site to the shoreside facility in Seal Rock, south of Newport. Louisiana-based industrial electrical services contractor R.T. Casey is overseeing the procurement, construction and installation of the cable for PacWave. The cables will be manufactured in Norway by the Paris-based firm Nexans, which also has facilities in the U.S. 

“This good news adds up to a significant step forward for OSU’s world-renowned research into the marine energy that will play such a key role in the energy mix of the future,” said U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden. “I’m proud to have teamed up with OSU to support the purchase of subsea cables and begin construction. And I’ll keep battling to ensure OSU continues to secure the resources it’s earned to continue generating jobs and conducting groundbreaking research right here in Oregon.” 

The cable manufacturing process is expected to begin soon and will take about a year. The goal is for the cables to arrive in the Pacific Northwest in the spring of 2024 for installation in the summer of 2024, Hales said. 

Once installed, the subsea cables will come ashore at the Driftwood Beach State Recreation Site, where they will connect to terrestrial cables in an underground vault. The terrestrial cables will connect to the shoreside facility – which will be built by Gerding –  the site is on Northwest Wenger Lane, just off Highway 101 in Seal Rock. 

With key support from Wyden, Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley and Oregon Rep. Suzanne Bonamici, the recently enacted federal fiscal year 2023 omnibus appropriations legislation provides for an additional $22 million in funds to continue construction of the PacWave project. 

“As we transition to clean energy, we must look to innovative solutions and bold new technologies like marine energy,” Bonamici said. “Harnessing the power of the ocean has tremendous potential, and researchers at Oregon State University have led the development of this promising industry. The new funding secured for the PacWave test facility to begin construction of its shoreside facility is an exciting step toward tapping the vast renewable energy potential of our ocean. I look forward to seeing the completed project and will continue to be a champion for climate action, including marine energy, in this and future Congresses.” 

In 2022, crews completed the installation of underground conduits that will house the subsea and terrestrial cables that will carry wave-generated energy from the devices to the shoreside facility. To install the more than 6 miles of conduit, crews used horizontal directional drilling to make four offshore bores that were each more than a mile long, Hellin said. 

At the shoreside facility, which operates similar to a power substation, the wave-generated power can be connected to the local power grid, which is operated by the Central Lincoln People’s Utility District. PacWave South’s connection to the power grid will provide wave energy developers with the ability to test the efficacy of their devices as well as mechanisms for turning the energy they capture into a commodity with value on the energy market. 

Based on current timelines, PacWave could be operational in 2025. The U.S. Department of Energy has already identified and provided funding to a slate of wave energy developers who will begin testing their devices once the PacWave facility is completed, Hales said. 

“It’s really great that this pipeline of developers is already in place,” he said. “We have also had a number of other companies reaching out to see when we might be ready for them to use the testing facilities. There are a lot of developers working on alternative energy development and interest in wave energy is really picking up.” 

Oregon State has pursued development of a wave energy test facility for more than a decade to accelerate the development of this industry. There currently is no U.S. facility for developers to measure the electrical and environmental performance of their devices at this scale. 

PacWave South is supported by grants from the U.S. Department of Energy, the state of Oregon and other public and private entities. Oregon State’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences is managing the construction and operation of the more than $80 million facility. 

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