About 140 miles of California's Central Coastline will be protected from oil drilling and recognized for their cultural, economic, and ecological significance as the Biden administration moved to protect the area.
The Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary will advance to the designation phase: A robust process of public meetings and hearings to identify uses, impacts, and resources, Congressman Salud Carbajal (D-Santa Barbara) said.
"The designation phase process is about a 2 1/2 year process, and will give an opportunity for all stakeholders—local governments, Chumash tribes, and fishermen—to provide input for concerns, and mitigate concerns," Carbajal said.
The congressman explained that the marine sanctuary proposal began in 2015 by Northern Chumash Tribe member Fred Collins, who passed away on Oct. 1
The nomination was set to expire in a few months, so Carbajal—along with Sens. Alex Padilla and Dianne Feinstein—wrote a letter to the Biden administration in August asking for an extension of the sanctuary's nomination process and that it be moved to the designation phase.
"I was pleasantly surprised and happy that the Department of Commerce decided to heed our request and move forward with the designation of the Chumash National Marine Sanctuary," he said.
The marine sanctuary will strengthen California's $1.9 trillion coastal economy and support the $731 billion in wages as well as move the state toward clean energy, Carbajal said.
"This would prevent any future oil and gas drilling in this area. When it comes to the oil industry in general, we need to wean ourselves off fossil fuels," he said. "[But] any workers in that industry now should not be left behind, and should be provided with new opportunities."
"I believe we can achieve both a transition to renewable energy and not leave anybody behind," Carbajal continued.
Kenneth Kahn, Tribal Chairman for the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians, was glad to see progress in the sanctuary's process.
"We are proud to support the designation of the Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary," Khan said in a statement. "As stewards of the environment with strong cultural connections to natural resources, we look forward to working with the NOAA [National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration] to help manage and protect the sacred sites throughout our beautiful coastline."
The central coastline between the Monterey Bay and the Channel Islands represents some of the most biologically diverse and ecologically productive regions in the world—the region includes whale and dolphin feeding grounds, sea otter populations and kelp forests; it's an area that needs to thrive, Carbajal said.
"It's a comprehensive approach to addressing climate change off our coast, and doing our part through getting this marine sanctuary status," he said.
The sanctuary's virtual public meetings begin Dec. 8 from 6 to 9 p.m., participants are able to submit public comments prior to the meeting by visiting regulations.gov.
After the designation process, the area will go under environmental review and achieve official marine sanctuary status.
Contact NOAA Sanctuaries West Coast Regional Office at (831) 241-4217 for more information. Δ