Final Decision Is Not Expected Now until the Fall of 2010
By Suzanne Guldimann, Malibu Surfside News
January 3, 2010
The process of choosing an implementation plan for the south coast region of the California Marine Life Protection Act Initiative is going to be complicated and time consuming. That was the official warning at the start of the Dec. 9 joint meeting between the MLPA South Coast study region’s Blue Ribbon Task Force and the California Fish and Game Commission, the state panel charged with making the final decision on establishing a statewide network of Marine Protected Areas.
Over 160 public speakers addressed the commission. At one point the meeting was halted, while security was dispatched to deal with unruly audience members, but generally, the tone of the event was cordial.
“It’s very important that everyone understand that the Fish and Game Commission is not going to make any decisions about adopting a project or any one of these packages today,” commission vice president Richard Rogers, who chaired the meeting in the absence of President Jim Kellogg, told the audience. “Our process is we go through three public meetings. These three public meetings will probably stretch all the way into October, so there’s going to be a lot of time for people to see what’s happening and to bring us more information.
Rogers added that the final decision would probably not be made until late fall of 2010. “We have a long way to go past today. The deliberative process is very important. We want to understand the packages thoroughly. Today is the Blue Ribbon task Force reporting to us their findings.”
For the past 18 months, the BRTF has worked with the official Regional Stakeholder Group, Science Advisory Team, and the public to develop proposals for creating Marine Protected Areas in the region that extends from Point Conception to the Mexican border and includes a hotly contested area of reefs off of Point Dume in Malibu.
Four proposals, or packages, have come out of that process. The RSG developed three final revised proposals: P3R, favored by conservation interests; P2R, preferred by fishing interests; and P1R, a compromise between 3 and 2. The BRTF developed its Integrated Preferred Alternative, or IPA, based primarily on P1R and P2R.
According to the Science Advisory Team, the Point Dume area is significant because it contains a large and unique submarine canyon, the Big Kelp Reef and vital areas of kelp forest. It would receive protection in three of the five plans.
The Point Dume portion of the IPA, drawn directly from Proposal 1, incorporates a State Marine Reserve, which would prohibit all fishing from the west end of Paradise Cove to the outflow of Zuma Creek at Westward Beach. It also includes a State Marine Conservation Area from Zuma Creek to El Matador Beach at Lechusa that would permit fishing for a limited number of species. According to the SAT, “the IPA [for Point Dume] was developed in a way to capture the submarine canyon as much as possible and keep half of the BKR open.”
Tribal co-management for the proposed MPAs in Malibu was also discussed at the meeting. “Co-management is a strong theme running through the South Coast region” BRTF member Meg Caldwell told the commission. “Very capable groups are reaching out to participate in co-management.”
During public comment, Chumash representative Luhui Isha, the cultural resource director for the Wishtoyo Foundation in Malibu, requested that the commission consider a Memo of Understanding with the Chumash for the proposed MPAs at Point Dume and Lechusa in Malibu.
“We can and will assist with outreach, education, restoration. We have a village [at Nicholas Beach] set up and ready to help,” Isha told the commission. The Chumash proposal includes what Wishtoyo representatives described as “eyes on the water,” to help DFG patrol the proposed MPAs.
Wishtoyo founder and executive director Mati Waiya reminded the commission that the names Malibu and Zuma come from the Chumash language, and that the Chumash have a place in the history, tradition and heritage of the coast.
The South Coast Region is the third of five California coastal regions to go through the MLPA process. The commission opted to adopt task force recommendations with few changes in both the North Central and Central Coast regions, however, the South Coast Region is more complex bcause it includes the most heavily urbanized part of the coast and the areas that receive the highest level of recreational use in the state.
The commission had tough questions for the SAT and task force and stakeholder representatives.
“What I’ve seen time and time again is political expediency trumping biological bottom line,” Michael Sutton, the commissioner from Monterey told the SAT. “[The proposals are] at best, a lean compromise. Are you satisfied that each meets guidelines? Is it going to work from a biological perspective?
“The larger an MPA is, the more likely you are to achieve the desired goal,” replied SAT spokesperson Eric Bjorkstedt. “That’s not to say that the IPA would fail, we cannot say that definitively. What we can say is that...the packages that have been submitted are on the small size across the board.”
Asked if “it is fair to say that Proposal 3 is ranked best in each category—size, spacing and habitat,” the science team responded “The answer is clearly yes.”
Commissioner Donald Benninghoven of Santa Barbara moved to accept the report as presented.
“I suspect many of us would differ on what is the preferred alternative,” Rogers said, at the end of the daylong meeting. “The BRTF has done an extraordinary job, and as you know in the past we’ve gone forward with the BRTF recommendations. In this case, with Jim Kellogg missing and not our full compliment of commissioners, I think it is appropriate to go forward listing the IPA as the preferred project and then all of the other proposals.” He reminded the commission that this was not a regulatory vote. The commission voted to pass the motion with only Commissioner Daniel Richards, of Upland, casting a no vote.
The lengthy process of developing California Environmental Quality Act and regulatory documents will now begin. The commission directed staff to prepare a draft and initial statement for the commission’s public March 2010 meeting in Upland. Additional information on the MPLA process is available at http://www.dfg.ca.gov/mlpa/