It's coming.

The long-awaited, and often dreaded, state program to designate marine havens for sea life is now within reach of the North Coast. The Humboldt Bay Harbor, Recreation and Conservation District is looking to start the conversation early by forming a work group to address the California Department of Fish and Game's Marine Life Protection Act.

The North Coast is last on the list of regions to go through the marine reserve process, which has proven to be especially contentious in many areas. Fish and Game expects to hold “public open houses” in the Eureka and Crescent City areas this summer, and public meetings with the program's science panel could begin in early fall.

Harbor District Conservation Director Adam Wagschal said that the district wants to provide a means to coordinate local interests and develop a common understanding of what the Marine Life Protection Act is. Wagschal said that each area of the coast has its own unique issues, and believes it's critical for the process to maximize ecological benefits and minimize economic impacts -- and rely on science.

”We just want to do what we can to help it get done appropriately,” Wagschal said.

The Marine Life Protection Act was signed into law in 1999. It aims to develop a system of reserves ranging from areas where no fishing or similar activities can be done to areas in which some amount of commercial and sport fishing and other activities are allowed.