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Feds propose huge expansion of protected CA coastal waters

On December 20, federal officials proposed the expansion of federal protection of the Northern California coastal waters from offshore oil drilling, seabed mining, and ocean dumping. According to the L.A. Times:

The proposal would more than double the size of the national marine sanctuaries around the Cordell Bank and the Farallon Islands. When combined with the massive Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, the newly expanded system would protect more than a third of California’s offshore waters from oil drilling, from Cambria in San Luis Obispo County to Point Arena in Mendocino County.

“This area is a national treasure,” said Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-Petaluma). “It needs and deserves permanent protection from oil and gas exploration.”

Representative Woolsey is retiring after having represented the North Coast of California for 20 years. Woolsey and Democratic Senator from California, Barbara Boxer, tried for eight years to get Congress to approve the expansion of the protected area, but were repeatedly BLOCKED by Republican “leadership” (an oxymoron? 😉 ) in the House of Representatives or Republican senators who threatened to filibuster.

(Do you notice a kind of “trend” here? 😉 )

California’s congressional delegation, last month, petitioned President Obama to use his power to protect the boundaries of existing sanctuaries by declaring them National Monuments. (This use of the American Antiquities Act of 1906 is a time-honored tradition first used by President Theodore Roosevelt, a Republican. Republicans were very different back then! :-) )

President George W. Bush, impatient with government procedures, invoked the Antiquities Act to create the nation’s largest marine protected areas, surrounding the Northwest Hawaiian Islands and the Northern Marianas Islands.

Although congressional Republicans didn’t challenge Bush, they have repeatedly warned the Obama administration against such a tactic — particularly those lawmakers still fuming over President Clinton’s designation of Utah’s Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and others in his final days of office.

So… maybe the “weirding out” of Republicans is even more recent than I remembered! 😉

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced that it will follow standard procedures under the National Marine Sanctuaries Act to adjust the sanctuary boundaries. David Kennedy, an assistant administrator with NOAA announced that public hearings will be held in January, and that he expects the process to be completed within two years.

The approval by Congress is NOT required.

National marine sanctuaries, unlike the marine reserves in California state waters, typically place no restrictions on fishing. The L.A. Times says:

If the Cordell Bank and Gulf of the Farallones sanctuaries add the 2,770 square miles as Woolsey has proposed, the new protections would include three areas with seabed oil reserves that then-Interior Secretary James Watt tried to open for drilling in 1981, said Richard Charter, a Bodega Bay-based senior fellow with the Ocean Foundation. Those undersea oil fields are off Sea Ranch and Bodega Head in Sonoma County and Point Arena in Mendocino County.

“This is the antidote to James Watt,” Charter said. “It just took a while to get here.”

-Bill at

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