By John Driscoll, Eureka Times-Standard
December 22, 2009
The group of governments, harbor districts, tribes and fishermen working to develop a set of proposed marine reserves on the North Coast is again asking the state for more time because it doesn't have enough information to do the job.
In a letter to California Resources Secretary Mike Chrisman last week, the North Coast Local Interest MPA Work Group asked that the deadline to produce the proposal be extended to March 15, six weeks after the deadline that was recently extended to Feb. 1.
Humboldt Bay Harbor, Recreation and Conservation District Commissioner Pat Higgins wrote that bottom topography data needed for mapping in the Marine Life Protection Act Initiative is not likely to be available until after Jan. 15. Many commercial fishermen are also in the height of Dungeness crab season, Higgins wrote, and an extension would allow them to be better able to participate.
Chrisman agreed to extend the deadline from Dec. 15 to Feb. 1 back in October after Assemblyman Wesley Chesbro, D-Arcata, and Sen. Patricia Wiggins, D-Santa Rosa, appealed to him.
The MLPA aims to set up a network of marine reserves meant to protect different habitats along the California coast, such as rocky areas and kelp forests, and the species that live in them. The process has been controversial in other areas of the state, and in the North Coast study area essentially every elected body has expressed concerns about the potential for the process to harm the region's economy and way of life.
MLPA Initiative Executive Director Ken Wiseman said that the North Coast region already has more information available than other regions did at this point in the process. The initiative has time and budget constraints, Wiseman said, and the legislation is clear that the program use the best available science.
He also said that there are several more stages of the process that will allow additional information to be added and considered. Wiseman said he'll recommend Chrisman not grant the extension.
”There will be lots of time over the year to refine it,” Wiseman said.