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Oceans: Feds eye expansion of California marine sanctuaries

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California marine sanctuaries to be expanded.

Input sought on changes to protected areas off northern California coast

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — A biodiversity hotpot off the coast of California could soon be expanded, as NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries begins a process to review the boundaries of the Farallones and Cordell Bank national marine sanctuaries.

The sanctuaries already protect about 2,000 square miles of ocean near the coast of San Francisco. The proposed expansion area is north of the existing sanctuaries and extends from Bodega Bay in Sonoma County to Alder Creek in Mendocino County. This area encompasses Point Arena — North America’s most intense “upwelling” site — which is home to diverse species and a productive ecosystem.

“The waters off the northern California coast are incredibly nutrient-rich and drive the entire natural system and, for almost a decade, local communities have been petitioning their elected officials to expand sanctuary protection to these areas,” said Daniel J. Basta, director of the NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries.

NOAA’s review will help determine if an expansion is beneficial. If so, the agency will will prepare a draft environmental impact statement to assess expansion alternatives.

The potential expanion was spurred by a 2008 review, when NOAA was urged to facilitate a public process to ensure that sanctuary boundaries were inclusive of the surrounding area’s natural resources and ecological qualities. Senator Barbara Boxer and Representative Lynn Woolsey have also introduced legislation in every Congress since 2003 to expand the sanctuaries’ boundaries.

Three scoping meetings are planned for the public to learn more about the proposal and submit comments. Public meetings will be held on the following dates, locations, and times:

  • Bodega Bay Grange Hall, Bodega Bay, Calif., Jan. 24, 6:00 p.m.
  • Point Arena High School, Point Arena, Calif., Feb. 12, 6:00 p.m.
  • Gualala Community Center, Gualala, Calif., Feb. 13, 6:00 p.m.

Comments on the proposed boundary expansion may also be submitted by March 1, 2013 via:

  • Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. Submit electronic comments via the Federal eRulemaking Portal with Docket Number NOAA-NOS-2012-0228
  • Mail: Maria Brown, Sanctuary Superintendent, Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary, 991 Marine Drive, The Presidio San Francisco, CA 94129

Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary, designated in 1981, and Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary, designated in 1989, both contribute greatly to ocean and coastal management by engaging in public outreach and education to promote stewardship, conducting scientific and applied research initiatives, and developing and supporting programs that strengthen resource protection for the long-term health of the region.

Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary encompasses nearly 1,300 square miles of ocean and coastal waters beyond California’s Golden Gate Bridge. The sanctuary supports an abundance of species including the largest breeding seabird rookery in the contiguous United States, and other species such as whales and white sharks. Visit http://www.farallones.noaa.gov.

Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary, located 42 miles north of San Francisco, is a destination feeding area for local and migratory marine life. The sanctuary’s productive waters and unique undersea topography provide the foundation for a rich and diverse marine community. Visit http://www.cordellbank.noaa.gov.

 

On the Web:
Sanctuaries Expansion Information

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