By John Driscoll, Eureka Times-Standard
December 29, 2009
The secretary of the California Natural Resources Agency has turned down a request by a tri-county group for more time to draft a proposal for marine reserves along the North Coast.
Secretary Mike Chrisman said that he is denying the request, made by Humboldt Bay Harbor, Recreation and Conservation District Commissioner Pat Higgins on behalf of the North Coast Local Interest MPA Workgroup. He said that an extension is unnecessary for the group to submit a good-quality first-draft of a network of marine protected areas.
In a Dec. 24 letter, Chrisman said that the North Coast community has more scientific data available at this time than any of the other three regions had at this point in the process. He said that the previous six-week extension, which expires on Feb. 1, gave ample opportunity to draw up the proposal.
The Marine Life Protection Act Initiative aims to protect different habitats along the California coast using a set of marine reserves. The controversial process has drawn serious concern from the North Coast study area, in which essentially every elected body in Humboldt, Del Norte and Mendocino counties has cautioned against potential harm to the region's economy and way of life.
It is early in the process on the North Coast, and the tri-county group had asked for the extension because bottom topography data was not yet available and many commercial fishermen were at sea for the Dungeness crab season.
Higgins said that he isn't surprised that Chrisman denied the extension, and said that the group would have a “scientifically robust and economically sound” proposal ready by Feb. 1.
Higgins said that he hopes the science panel that will review the proposal will understand that the formation of marine reserves on the North Coast should be substantially different than in other parts of the state.
”I think we have made a case that has merit,” Higgins said.