Chumash National Marine Sanctuary Rejected by NOAA… For Now

‘We will look at this situation as a temporary setback for them and continue educating the public as to the many problems associated with a National Sanctuary system,” said Jeremiah O’Brien of the MBCFO. ‘We will be interested in the content of the new proposal as the rejection letter described many of its deficiencies in the area of management, which is the area that has many of us here on the Central Coast concerned.’

In a March 6 letter to Fred Collins of the Northern Chumash Tribal Council, promoters of a proposed, new Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary off the Central Coast, Daniel Basta, Director of of the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, stated: “The nomination, as submitted, is not sufficient to more forward with a more detailed review.”

Mr. Collins submitted the nomination seeking national sanctuary status for the Chumash Marine Sanctuary on February 2.

While the proposal in no longer currently eligible of review, Mr. Basta suggests in his letter that Mr. Collins could resubmit his nomination after responding adequately to all the information, national significance criteria and management considerations required by NOAA to move forward.

Responding to the announcement, Jeremiah O’Brien, Director of the Morro Bay Commercial Fishermen’s Organization, said: “It appears the reasons [for rejecting the nomination] were lack of information and incomplete data on the application. The letter of rejection seems to encourage them to resubmit their proposal.

“Many of us have been trying to educate the public as to why it is not a good idea to turn over our ocean and beaches to federal control,” Mr. O’Brien told The ROCK. “We, therefore, will look at this situation as a temporary setback for them and continue educating the public as to the many problems associated with a National Sanctuary system. We will be interested in the content of the new proposal as the rejection letter described many of its deficiencies in the area of management. This is the area that has many of us here on the Central Coast concerned.”

Concluded Mr. O’Brien, “Losing or giving up control of our resources to federal management would be a shame. We believe our community is the best manager and steward or our coast, and our past performance speaks for itself.  We only have to walk outside our door, take a deep breath, look around, and realize we have done well, and we will continue that tradition on our own.”

The Chumash Sanctuary proposal is supported by the Santa Lucia chapter of the Sierra Club and District 2 Supervisor Bruce Gibson.

For more background on the debate surrounding the Chumash Sanctuary, read The ROCK:


For more information on NOAA and the sanctuary nomination process, visit: website:

SLO County Fishermen on Proposed Chumash National Marine Sanctuary: ‘We’re Unanimously Against It’

‘Once we take on these additional layers of bureaucracy and find out in the future about the problems it causes, we will not be able to turn back.’

Morro Bay Commercial Fishermen’s Organization

Well, the sanctuary question is back on the table. This issue seems to arise every few years since Monterey got their sanctuary. This one is in the form of the Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary. The commercial fishermen in our county are unanimously against it, and we have spoken to various sport fishing groups and have yet to find any one of these groups in support of a sanctuary in our area.

The sanctuary issue is a very big concern, not only for the fishing industry, but the entire county. This is an issue that should not be taken lightly. When we invite the federal government to take over control of our resources, we, meaning our communities, will lose the ability to manage our beaches, our ocean, our ports and our harbors.

The cost to communities for additional federal regulations governing areas such as runoff and discharges, currently administered by local and state government, will increase dramatically. These costs will severely impact our harbors and ports, increasing the difficulty for projects necessary for their operations, such as, dredging, soil samples, construction of docks and slips, as well as maintaining structures that are currently in place. Once we take on these additional layers of bureaucracy and find out in the future about the problems it causes, we will not be able to turn back.

Proponents of the National Marine Sanctuary issue have proclaimed there will be no loss of local control. Unfortunately, this is not true as “National Marine Sanctuary” clearly implies management will not be local but rather at the Federal level.

California Marine Affairs and Navigation Conference, or C-MANC, is a group of all of California’s harbors and the cities affiliated with those harbors. This group encompasses the area from San Diego to Crescent City, the entire length of our state, and deals directly in many of these areas with National Marine Sanctuaries, such as the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, the Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary, and the Channel Island National Marine Sanctuary.

C-MANC has issued a legislative policy statement concerning marine sanctuaries, which consists of a list of five problems. Some of those problems include disposal of dredge materials, and requirements to the already burdensome federal and state processes, vessel traffic, fishing regulations, either direct or indirect, and general maintenance issues. And finally, C-MANC’s legislative policy reads: “C-MANC recommends suspending the expansion of existing sanctuaries until the problems identified above are resolved.” We should remember these are the representatives of their respective areas, many who are living under the umbrella of the National Marine Sanctuaries.

Our county, cities, towns, and commercial and sport fishermen have long been very outstanding stewards of our ocean. We work with many state, federal and environmental groups, as well as universities and colleges. The Central Coast has been the “poster child” of how to do things right in many discussions and meetings held in California, on the East Coast as well as our nation’s capital, Washington D.C. And finally, it is important to remember the amount of fishing grounds closed to some form of fishing, those include Marine Protected Areas, Essential Fish Habitat Areas, and Rock Cod Conservation Areas. I think we can be very proud of our stewardship of the Central Coast.

I guess I just love the Central Coast, and when my wife and I step outside and look around, we remind ourselves every single day of what we have here. We do not think additional layers of bureaucracy would be in the best interest or add to the beauty of this area.



UPDATE: Citizens Launch Morro Bay Mayor Recall

Morro Bay Mayor Jamie Irons

09/27: Mayor Irons issued a statement to The ROCK regarding the recall. “My actions through this are driven by my responsibility and duty. I have requested outside legal counsel to ensure that City Council has legal representation through this personnel matter to protect the City and employees. I will not let the threat of recall sway my decision to move forward or distract me from my duties as Mayor.”

Morro Bay Mayor Jamie Irons is the subject of a recall petition that is being circulated around the community.

Residents initiated the recall after the mayor hastily arranged a closed session meeting on Sept. 12 to discuss the termination of City Manager Andrea Lueker and City Attorney Robert Schultz. Two weeks after the very contentious meeting took place, former City Council member William Peirce delivered a “Notice of Intention to Circulate Recall Petition” to Irons at Tuesday’s meeting. The notice wasn’t officially certified until Thursday by the city clerk’s office, when the notice reached the 30 signature threshold that is required.

The recall takes aim at Irons for what recall supporters say is a lack of transparency from Irons. They also sharply criticized Irons for reportedly failing to take into the account the financial and ethical repercussions. The Tribune calculated that the move to terminate Lueker and Schultz would cost the City approximately $300,000 while recall supporters claim the cost would be higher. At the Sept. 24 meeting, the Council voted to take $12,500 from excess in the risk management fund to hire independent legal counsel and help facilitate the termination. Irons stated that the $12,500 would be the maximum cost for the contract.

Irons defended his actions by stating that the move was legally necessary. Because Lueker and Schultz are at-will employees, they can be terminated without complaint or stated cause. Stating an opinion about personnel matters would result in potential litigation, said Irons, at the Sept. 24 meeting. Irons declined to speculate or entertain speculation about his intent to terminate the city’s top employees, who received above-average performance evaluations since he was sworn into office. Councilmembers Noah Smukler and Christine Johnson have not made any statements to the media about reasons to terminate Lueker and Schultz. Councilmembers George Leage and Nancy Johnson, who are staunchly opposed to terminating Lueker and Schultz, claim that Irons has not yet elaborated to them about his decision. However, Irons invited the two dissenting councilmembers to participate in discussions with a law firm that he will choose to work with. 

Calling the circumstances “unusual” for the City of Morro Bay, Councilmember Christine Johnson said the move to hire independent counsel was necessary. Smukler agreed, noting that his vote was completely apolitical and not indicative of any future political ambitions. Both Smukler and Johnson have declined to comment to the media about the recall effort.

Supporters of the recall movement have also backed renovations for current wastewater project and keeping it at the same location. Irons and the majority of the Council voted to move the project due to clear and consistent objections made by the California Coastal Commission, which included — but not included to — flooding and tsunami concerns. The recall petition criticizes Irons for wasting eight years of staff time and labor by seeking a denial of the permit to rebuild the wastewater project at its current location. The Coastal Commission unanimously turned down the proposal.

The recall petition mentions that Irons supposedly edited staff reports after presentations to the Council and has raised taxes.

Irons will have a week to formulate a response to the recall notice.

Residents are already going door-to-door, soliciting signatures for the recall petition, which need support from 25% of the city’s registered voters. The Tribune notes that about 1,700 signatures would be needed to put a recall vote on the ballot. If the recall is successful, this would be the first recall of an elected official in Morro Bay since the city was incorporated in July 1964.

The recall effort is reminiscent of the contentious 2005 Los Osos recall. At that time, the recall was successful, but only by a hairline-slim margin.

Recall supporters will face an uphill battle to get the necessary signatures. For the June 5, 2012 election, 59.9% of registered voters elected Irons by 53.17% (2,089 votes). Former City Council member Carla Wixom received 20.90% (821 votes) and former Mayor William Yates received 20.21% (794 votes). Both Wixom and Yates are supportive of the recall and have spoken publicly in opposition to Irons’ intent to fire the city’s two top employees.