Environment

Proposal for new Central Coast marine sanctuary is rejected

A gray whale comes to the water's surface as it passes Morro Bay on its way south.
A gray whale comes to the water's surface as it passes Morro Bay on its way south. jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has rejected a proposal to create a new National Marine Sanctuary on the Central Coast.

The proposed Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary would have stretched from Cambria to near Gaviota in Santa Barbara County. The agency said the nomination by the Northern Chumash Tribal Council was insufficient.

“It really just boiled down to the fact that some of the management considerations needed more detail,” said Lisa Wooninck, policy coordinator with the NOAA Sanctuaries regional office in Monterey.

Andrew Christie, director of the Santa Lucia Chapter of the Sierra Club, said the Chumash can resubmit the nomination with additional details. The club supports the formation of the sanctuary.

“We always knew this was one of the potential outcomes,” he said. “The Chumash will submit an amended nomination in response.”

The proposed sanctuary would be sandwiched between two existing marine sanctuaries: the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary to the north and the Channel Islands Sanctuary to the south.

The proposal drew the support of the California Coastal Commission, San Luis Obispo County Supervisor Bruce Gibson and State Sen. Fran Pavley, D-Calabasas.

National Marine Sanctuary guidelines include restrictions on dumping, altering the seabed and disturbance of historic and archaeological sites. Oil and gas drilling and exploration are also restricted.

“Designation of the proposed California Central Coast Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary will ensure the continued protection of one of the most important, culturally and biologically diverse, unique and ecologically rich coastlines in the world,” wrote Fred Collins on the Northern Chumash Tribal Council in the nomination letter.

Successful marine sanctuary nominations typically take two to four years to complete. NOAA recently opened the marine sanctuary nomination process for the first time in two decades.

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