WatchSonoma Watch

North Coast marine sanctuary expansion praised at hearing


BODEGA BAY — No contrary words were heard at a public meeting that filled Bodega Bay’s Grange Hall with about 70 citizens, federal officials and fishing industry representatives Thursday night concerning a plan to protect an additional 2,770 square miles of the ocean off the rugged North Coast.

“There’s celebration in the air,” said Sonoma County Supervisor Efren Carrillo, who attended the first of three hearings on the proposed expansion of two national marine sanctuaries that have been in place since the 1980s.

Cameron Gonzales skim boards at North Salmon Creek Beach, north of Bodega Bay, on Thursday, Dec. 20, 2012. (PD File)

“It was great,” said Norma Jellison of Bodega Bay, who sat at one of five tables where residents gave feedback to sanctuary officials.

Jellison said she’d like to see sanctuary officials establish an office in Sonoma County, possibly at the Bodega Marine Lab. “The sanctuary office in San Francisco is kind of far away.”

All the comments at her table were supportive of the proposed expansion, which will move the sanctuaries’ northern border from Bodega Bay more than 60 miles north to Alder Creek, near Point Arena in southern Mendocino County.

Oil, gas and mineral development are prohibited within the sanctuaries, which are managed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The expansion plan, announced last month, brings to an apparent end the four-decade battle to preserve the Sonoma Coast from offshore oil drilling.

Sanctuary officials said they expect to complete the approval process by July 2014.

Former Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D-Petaluma, who retired this month after 20 years in Congress, got hearty applause and credit for establishing the coastal protection she had sought since 2004.

“We want to protect our fishing industry and we want to protect our environment. That’s it in a nutshell,” Woolsey said.

Woolsey said that late last year it seemed the action would never come because it “was impossible to get it through the House and Senate.”

But the White House advised her that “we will take care it; we promise you it will happen,” Woolsey said.

Dan Howard, superintendent of the Gulf of the Farallones marine sanctuary, said the proposed expansion would afford protection for the entire system, known as the Point Arena upwelling, that sends cold, nutrient-laden ocean water south from Point Arena, pushed by the California Current to the biologically rich Cordell Bank off the Sonoma-Marin coast.

Cordell Bank is a “phenomenally productive area” that supports seabirds, marine mammals and fish.

Sanctuaries do not regulate fishing, said Maria Brown, superintendent of the Cordell Bank sanctuary, noting that trawling would be allowed.

Zeke Grader, executive director of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations, said in an interview that his industry already has “a good set of regulations” promulgated by the National Marine Fisheries agency.

The proposed expansion covers an important commercial fishing area for salmon, crab and rockfish, he said.

Grader said he wants to know if sustainable energy development, such as wind and wave energy generators, would be allowed in the expansion area.

“We fully support renewable energy, we just don’t think it belongs in these waters,” Grader said. Onshore development would be needed to support such a system, he said.

Brown said that existing sanctuary regulations prevent renewable energy development, but the government wants to know if there is local interest in it. “We need to hear from the public,” she said.

Two more public hearings on the sanctuary expansion plan are scheduled, at Point Arena on Feb. 12 and Gualala on Feb. 13, and written comments will be accepted through March 1.

You can reach Staff Writer Guy Kovner at 521-5457 or guy.kovner@pressdemocrat.com.

7 Responses to “North Coast marine sanctuary expansion praised at hearing”

  1. MOCKINGBIRD says:

    There was a time I could walk out on the rocks at low tide and pick those abalone off the rocks. We loved the white meat ones because the taste was devine. The sea urchins are all over the rocks. Now you need diving gear to get abalone and the sea urchins are few.

    I would have a moratorium for 10 years on fishing and abalone and sea urchin picking to bring back the numbers. It would also help with scarcer fish populations that used to be plentiful like ling cod and cabezone that used to be considered throw away fish by the salmon boat fisherman when I was a child. They would give us those fish for free.

    We humans are a voracious and selfish bunch. The fisheries need to be protected or we humans will lose.

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  2. James Bennett says:

    Aside from socially engineering our freedoms away, coercing us into high density transit oriented human settlements. Here’s a big pill of treason to swallow as to what “Open Space” shenanigans really represent.

    Your “public servants” are more than complicit.


    Thumb up 14 Thumb down 2

  3. Snarky says:

    Troll Spotting:

    What people might have a problem with is your silly attitude.

    Ever hear of freedom of expression?

    Look it up.

    Other people have differing opinions than you. So long as they don’t dictate to us like the out of control and corrupt local governments within Sonoma County, I’m fine with their statements.

    Thumb up 17 Thumb down 1

  4. Troll spotting says:

    Once again, total paranoid nonsense from our local website trolls.

    This wonderful Marine Sanctuary expansion is to preserve and strengthen fish populations and prevent oil drilling on our coasts. Forever. Got a problem with that?

    Thumb up 2 Thumb down 21

  5. Steveguy says:

    Put up a sign ” No Humans Allowed”.

    That is EXACTLY what they are doing. Remember the two crazy foreigners that were on a quest to ride personal watercraft from the Canadian border to the Mexican border ?

    Well, they got stopped at ” The Sanctuary ” off our coast and had to trailer around, never mind that fishing boats go there all the time.

    And what does “forever” mean ? It means forever until we change our minds. This whole thing is a ruse. If our grandkids want to try for some local natural gas, they will. They will not care about what you so proudly and self-aggrandizing proclaimed. Not a wit. Whit?

    In reality this is an expansion of Federal Control over an ever-expanding area. With an expansion of ‘public servants’ that go with it and then add the consultants and supposed ‘non=profits’ get out of this.

    There was no way that oil or nat gas drilling was going to happen, this scheme is deeper than our beloved ocean. Look deeper, read the document, please. Oh what political contributions can do. Millions out of thousands. Politicians are way too cheap to buy. Alas

    Really, it’s do-gooders doing nothing for something. period. And I guess that I am proud to say that I spot the really creepy modern day doomsday brought to you by inane and enriching ploys to garner grant funding.

    Follow the money. The story behind the story is lost here. It can be found. Really

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  6. James Bennett says:

    Marine Sanctuary, Historical District, Wilderness Corridor, View Shed, Water Shed, Conservation Easement, etc..

    Sounds so benign. Gives us a warm ‘n fuzzy feeling.

    Whenever you hear those terms, someone’s property rights or livelihood are going away.

    Yes, I think we should preserve one of the most beautiful places anywhere.

    However, the public should know the full implications/ramifications of what these word really mean.

    Thumb up 23 Thumb down 4

  7. John Pendergast says:

    Where is the human sanctuary?

    Thumb up 17 Thumb down 4

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