Mary Callahan, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
A series of public hearings on the North Coast last week unsurprisingly revealed overwhelming support for extending national marine sanctuary protections to the Sonoma and southern Mendocino coasts, federal officials said.
But with long-sought, permanent bans that would forbid oil drilling and other potentially harmful human activity in coastal waters within reach, many conservationists are looking to the details. They are seeking refinements in federal plans that would optimize conditions for wildlife in newly protected waters.
Reservations expressed during public hearings in Point Arena, Gualala and Bodega Bay are not enough to dampen enthusiasm for a proposal to more than double the combined size of the Cordell Bank and Gulf of the Farallones marine sanctuaries. The plan would extend sanctuary designation to 2,771 square miles of ocean, creating a band of protected waters along about 350 miles of California coastline. Protections would extend from Cambria to Manchester Beach, when combined with the Monterey Bay sanctuary.
But several concerns have come to light in recent weeks that advocates hope can be ironed out to the advantage of marine wildlife.