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California | North Bay / Marin | North Coast | Environment & Forest Defense | Government & Elections

Judge upholds North Central Coast MLPA regulations
by Dan Bacher
Thursday Oct 27th, 2011 8:46 AM
The lawsuit regarding the South Coast regulations is still proceeding forward. In the case of the South Coast regulations, the lawyers for the plaintiffs argue that there have been numerous violations of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) in the Commission’s environmental review of the regulations.

Photo of Stewarts Point (Danaka) in Sonoma County, located on the North Central Coast, by Dan Bacher. This area is sacred to the Kashia Pomo Tribe. Fortunately, the Tribe, after conducting a ceremony here on April 30, 2010, successfully pressured the Fish and Game Commission to reopen this area to tribal gathering and recreational fishing.

Judge upholds North Central Coast MLPA regulations

by Dan Bacher

A California Superior Court in San Diego on October 17 ruled in favor of the California Fish and Game Commission’s decision to implement "marine protected areas" on the North Central Coast under the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative – and against Coastside Fishing Club’s petition challenging the controversial marine reserves.

This decision was preceded by three court victories for the club, United Anglers of Southern California and Bob Fletcher. “This decision was disappointing, but not unexpected, since this decision supported the judge’s tentative ruling,” said Bob Fletcher, a plaintiff in the multi-tiered litigation.

"We are still evaluating our options," said Darrell Ticehurst, Chairman of the Coastside Fishing Club and former member of the Pacific Fishery Management Council.

Lawyers for the fishing groups argued that the state required a development permit from the Coastal Commission to create the reserves, but the judge ruled that the permit wasn’t required, since it fell within an exemption under the Coastal Act.

Judge Ronald Prager wrote in the tentative ruling, “The designation of MPAs falls within an exemption in the Coastal Act for ‘establishment and control of wildlife and fishery programs.’ (Pub. Resources Code §30411(a).) Under this statute, the Coastal Commission is statutorily obligated to defer to Respondent where the MPA is concerned. Living marine resources fall within the definition of wildlife. Thus, no permit was required by statute.”

Fletcher said fishing groups are considering an appeal of Prager’s decision and are focusing on the final stages of the South Coast MLPA process.

The lawsuit regarding the South Coast regulations is still proceeding forward. In the case of the South Coast regulations, the lawyers for the plaintiffs argue that there have been numerous violations of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) in the Commission’s environmental review of the regulations.

On October 3, the Fish and Game Commission opened a 15-day public comment period for revised proposed regulations for the South Coast “marine protected areas” (MPAs) developed under the MLPA Initiative. During its September meeting, the commission outlined a proposed timeline to re-notice and finalize the South Coast MLPA regulations, resubmit them to OAL, and seek an anticipated effective date of January 1, 2012.

Revisions were made because the California Office of Administrative Law (OAL) rejected the regulatory package previously provided by the commission.

In a 9 page ruling on September 2, the OAL disapproved the regulatory package for “the failure to comply with notice requirements for modification of the regulatory text; failure to comply with the ‘Necessity’ standard of Government Code section 11349; failure to include all relied upon documents in the rulemaking file; failure to provide the reasons for rejecting alternatives that were considered; and failure to adequately respond to all of the public comments made regarding the proposed action.”

The regulations were developed in a process privately funded by the Resources Legacy Foundation, a private corporation, and overseen by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Force for the South Coast. The task force included an oil lobbyist, marina developer, real estate executive and others with numerous conflicts of interest. In fact, Catherine Reheis-Boyd, president of the Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA) and an advocate of new oil drilling off the California coast, chaired the task force.