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Monday, May 11, 2009
Thursday, May 21, 2009

As noted in the previous blog, this truly is crunch time. I just finished sitting in on the Science Advisory Team webinar and below is my latest MLPA news story on the recent Fish and Game Commission meeting. What I didn't put in the story, but feel is most important, is the commissioners all made a strong showing of support for the MLPA, but also made statements of principle. They also showed unison by having Richard Rogers be the one to recommend removing the popular Sea Lion Cove abalone diving access spots from the preferred alternative. Dan Richards made a point of noting that while he wants financial accountability, he staunchly behind the MLPA process.  Nothing may come of it, but God bless Jim Kellogg for saying the needs of the people of California come first and maybe state government should take a look at whether the Central Coast, North Coast and Channel Islands closures are enough for the time being.

Meanwhile the SAT came up with some good work, although a bit confusing. The proposed military closures seem to have low enough levels of impact to count towards the MLPA goals, but lots of good, and most importantly, different habitat remains to the outside of the closures. But the SAT analysis show high levels of impact in the areas that contain those habitats at San Clemente Island. The areas at Nic all score about the same, with the proposed area actually scoring a bit lower because of missile debris. How this gets interpreted by the Blue Ribbon Task Force in their teleconferences Monday and Tuesday morning (May 18 and 19) is huge in how the South Coast project develops. I would say the data indicates credit should go to the military closures at San Clemente, with no new MPAs, but the habitats they don't encompass need to be captured elsewhere, but that's just a guess. All signs point to an MPA at San Nicolas other than the Alpha closure. "They" really want the kelp forest and otter nursery just below that.

You can find out by showing up at the Doubletree in Santa Ana Tuesday afternoon about 1 p.m. and sitting in on the stakeholders as they get briefed. Then you get a chance to comment at 7 p.m.  Remember, the Thursday May 21 is the end of round two and there are only three rounds. If you think this thing is slowing down, read the story below. At this point, it's all about what the governor wants.

Huge public turnout splits between 2XA and IPA

Commission, BRTF press on with MLPA closures
despite the state’s dire financial circumstances

WON Staff Writer

SACRAMENTO — The same day Governor Schwarzenegger announced the layoff of 5,000 state workers and the suspension of healthcare to 225,000 children, officials on both the Fish and Game Commission and Blue Ribbon Task Force declared the Marine Life Protection Act Initiative would continue to move forward despite estimated annual costs of $40 million a year.

The occasion was the second day of a Fish and Game Commission meeting which included an agenda item that served as the second official public comment period for regulatory approval of the new array of marine reserves (no-take fishing closures) along the North Central Coast. An overflow crowd seemed fairly evenly split between support of two of the four proposals on the table, with local communities, recreational anglers and commercial fishermen strongly in favor of proposal 2XA and the environmental community equally adamant in support of the IPA proposal.

The commission is expected to hear final comments and make a decision during its August meeting, but the IPA has to go back to notice because of a mistake when the southern boundary of a reserve in the Salt Point area was drawn a half-minute south of where it was meant to be. In what could potentially be a victory for local interests, the commissioners, as proposed by Commissioner Richard Rogers, also asked that a separate IPA alternative go to notice that would leave out the Sea Lion Cove area, but that means many access points for abalone divers  would still be closed as opposed to the 2XA proposal for the same area and the local economy will take a big hit.

The process takes 45 days, which normally would leave ample time for the review to be done before the August deadline. But these are not normal times in state government, a fact pointed out by Commissioner Jim Kellogg

Kellogg was true to his labor roots and got his fellow commissioners to engage in a discussion on whether it would be appropriate to send a letter to the legislature asking if the process should continue given the cost and the current economy.

“I can’t see putting more people out of work and more homeless people out on the streets or living in tents,” said Kellogg.

Commissioners Richard Rogers and Michael Sutton vigorously opposed that step. Sutton pointed out that since the MLPA was already law, how it was implemented was in the purview of the governor. Kellogg then suggested the letter go to the governor, with copies going to the majority and minority leaders in the legislature. Commissioner Dan Richards — who continually pressed for better cost data throughout the meeting — expressed support of Kellogg. No motion was made or vote taken, although Commission President Cindy Gustafson asked the staff to look into the advisability of such an action.

During the general comment session on the first day of the May 13-14 commission meeting, Gordon Robertson of the American Sportfishing Association and Steve Fukute of United Anglers of Southern California (both also members of the Partnership for Sustainable Oceans) made strong arguments that the South Coast process of the MLPA was in disarray and in danger of completely falling apart due to the lack of good data and clear direction from the Science Advisory Team and the Blue Ribbon Task Force. They also noted the BRTF had yet to respond to a letter signed by 30 South Coast stakeholders that the process be put on hold until the SAT had time to “catch up” and provide adequate data.

At the start of public comment the second day of the commission meeting, MLPA Initiative Executive Director Ken Wiseman notified commissioners that BRTF Chair Don Benninghoven would issue a press release later that morning addressing all the questions raised the previous day.

WON was provided with a copy of the release, in which Benninghoven basically says the show will go on.

"This is an unparalleled effort to gather the best readily available science and data related to ocean ecosystems and marine protected areas and to apply it in the real world. With an ongoing public-private partnership providing a solid foundation of over $8 million in private funds for completing the redesign process along the coast and to begin planning in San Francisco Bay, we fully expect to complete our task in late 2010 as planned,” stated Benninghoven in the release.
“In January of this year Secretary Mike Chrisman reiterated the Schwarzenegger Administration’s tireless commitment to completing this planning process and for ensuring adequate funding for implementation. He also emphasized the importance of public-private partnerships, such as the MLPA Initiative, in making long-term management most effective, whether for enforcement, outreach, education or on-site management,” he added.

WON scoured news reports online and in the major daily newspapers of Governor Schwarzenegger’s proposed cuts and it’s true — while he is willing to do such things as truncate the public school system and burden local governments with state prisoners while “borrowing” county operating funds, not one mention was made of scaling back the MLPA Initiative.

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