Jan 22 2015

Official unveiling next week for North Coast marine sanctuary expansion

SonomaCoastKamilah Motley of Washington, D.C. takes in the sweeping view of the Sonoma Coast, north of Bodega Bay, Monday Jan. 20, 2015. The unveiling of the expanded Cordell Bank and Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuaries will take place next week. (Kent Porter / Press Democrat) 2015

Last-minute consultations were underway in Washington this week in advance of the expected publication Tuesday of final plans for expansion of two adjoining national marine sanctuaries off the North Coast.

Reports of a few lingering operational questions on the part of Coast Guard officials should not impede implementation of long-sought protections for the swath of wildlife-rich waters offshore of Sonoma County, federal sanctuary personnel said.

“So far, the information I have is we are not anticipating any delays,” said Maria Brown, superintendent of the Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary.

The proposed move, announced by the Obama administration in December 2012, will more than double the size of the combined Cordell Bank and Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuaries, extending federal protections north along the Sonoma Coast to Point Arena in southern Mendocino County.

The action will fulfill a four-decade quest to ban energy and mineral exploration and extraction off that stretch of coastline, extending federal protection to an additional 2,769 square miles of ocean.

The final rule on the expansion is expected to be published in the Federal Register on Tuesday, Jan. 27, triggering a 45-day review by Congress and California Gov. Jerry Brown before the area is officially included in sanctuary boundaries. Sanctuary officials earlier had said the rule would be published Jan. 20.

Matt Stout, communications director for the National Marine Sanctuary System, said the expansion is the agency’s largest undertaking of its kind short of creating a new sanctuary. But he said strong support for the plan among lawmakers suggested smooth sailing ahead.

“This expansion has grown out of the will of Congress to see something happen here,” Stout said. “We’ve had nothing but absolutely fantastic support from all members of Congress. And the local delegation is incredibly vocal and supportive, so we wouldn’t anticipate any challenge.”

You can reach Staff Writer Mary Callahan at 521-5249 or mary.callahan@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @MaryCallahanB.

Read original story: The Press Democrat

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