Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Don Koch Appoints North Coast 'Science' Panel for Corrupt MLPA Process

By Dan Bacher, IndyBay
November 3, 2009

Donald Koch, California Department of Fish and Game Director, announced on October 27 the appointment of a panel of science advisors to assist in "redesigning marine protected areas" along the northern California coast. The Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Master Plan Science Advisory Team (SAT) will provide "scientific support" for the MLPA Initiative, apparently just like the Bechtel-funded Delta report issued by the Public Policy Institute of California provided the "scientific" justification for the peripheral canal.

"The scientists I have appointed to the advisory team are each uniquely qualified for this important task," Koch gushed. "Their experience and expertise in marine resources conservation make them well suited to provide accurate, insightful advice and will help ensure that all decisions made in the coming months will be firmly rooted in the best available science."

Koch made the announcement prior to resigning from his position as Director on November 1. Koch had earned the reputation for being a "yes man" to whatever Governor was in power, having presided over massive fish kills on the Scott and Shasta rivers in 2001 when he was a regional director under the Davis administration.

Most recently, Koch approved a plan by the California Department of Fish and Game (CDFG) to issue a blanket permit for agricultural practices that kill salmon or destroy habitat in the Shasta and Scott, two of the Klamath’s key salmon spawning tributaries. A coalition of tribes, conservationists, and commercial fishing groups, represented by Earthjustice, filed suit in San Francisco Superior Court to block Koch's precedent-setting proposal to strip endangered species protections from threatened coho salmon in northern California’s Klamath River watershed.

“These proposed permits are essentially licenses to kill salmon,” said Erica Terence of Klamath Riverkeeper, lead plaintiff on the case. “With conditions deteriorating for fish every year on the Scott and Shasta, CDFG should be proposing programs that expand protections for fish, not destroy them as these watershed-wide permits would do.”

The MLPA process takes place in the larger context of Schwarzenegger's war against endangered salmon and steelhead populations in the Scott and Shasta rivers and his campaign to build a peripheral canal and more dams to increase water exports from the California Delta. Rather than appointing a "science advisory team" to justify the corrupt MLPA process, Koch should have had the courage to ask for a suspension of the process, since the state of California does not have enough game wardens to patrol existing Marine Protection Areas (MPAs) on the Central Coast.

The California Fish and Game Wardens have asked for a suspension of the process, due to lack of funding for wardens. A broad coalition of North Coast environmentalists, fishermen, seaweed harvesters and Indian Tribes have also asked for a suspension of the initiative, a process rife with conflicts of interest, mission creep, racism and corruption of the democratic process.

Koch also should have shown some integrity by strongly opposing Schwarzenegger's support of the peripheral canal and more dams, a plan that will only exacerbate the collapse of Central Valley salmon, Delta smelt, longfin smelt, Sacramento splittail, striped bass, green sturgeon and the southern resident population of killer whales.

Finally, he should have shown some integrity by standing up for endangered coho and chinook salmon on the Shasta and Scott rivers, rather than approving a license to kill by irrigators.

Rather than taking long needed actions that would actually help restore California's fish populations, Koch perpetuates the lie that the MLPA process is guided by "science" by appointing a panel that will give "scientific" cover to MLPA corporate greenwashing.

The first of the five study regions to be redesigned under the MLPA fiasco was the Central Coast. The California Fish and Game Commission adopted a final package of MPAs for this region in April 2007, in spite of strong opposition from fishermen, Indian tribal members and environmental justice advocates.

The next study region to be redesigned was the North-central Coast, for which regulations were adopted on August 5, 2009. In a grotesque parody of justice, the Kashia Tribe and other Indian Nations will be banned from the traditional areas off Stewarts Point in Sonoma County and Point Arena in Mendocino County where they have sustainably harvested seaweed, abalone and mussels for centuries. Recreational fishermen, seaweed harvesters, commercial fishermen and recreational divers, who have stood up against pollution, clearcutting forests and offshore oil drilling for decades, will also be removed from the ocean in key areas.

The South Coast is nearing the end of the process as the North Coast begins the process. The San Francisco Bay will be the last region to be studied.

In an classic example of egregious conflicts of interests under the Schwarzenegger administration, the Governor recently appointed Kathy Reheis-Boyd, the executive director of the Western States Petroleum Association, to be the chair of the South Coast Blue Ribbon Task Force. How can anybody claim that having an oil company lobbyist heading a so-called "marine protection" panel is anything but corporate greenwashing, especially when the oil companies are trying to install more oil drilling rigs off the northern and southern California coast?

Real environmentalists don't support Schwarzenegger's corrupt MLPA process, just like they don't support the peripheral canal, more dams and killing off endangered salmon on the Scott and Shasta rivers.

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