For a few hours on Wednesday, August 23, the lobby of the Bay Model seemed like a hearing room in one of the congressional office buildings in Washington DC.
Democrat member of Congress Jared Huffman invited his colleagues House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, and San Francisco Peninsula Representative Jackie Speier, along with State Senator Mike McGuire, and former Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey, to convene what he termed a “forum on protecting national marine sanctuaries and monuments.”
A packed hall heard each of the officials speak out in opposition to any reduction in protection for the California coastal waters as a result of President Trump’s call for a review of previous designations.
Huffman and his colleagues have not been successful in getting the Republican leadership in Congress to hold hearings on President Trump’s order but this forum allowed the creation of a record similar to what would have been produced in a formal Congressional hearing.
Experts from industry and public interest organizations formed a panel and each delivered a five-minute statement. Then the microphones were opened for members of the public to speak their minds.
The tenor in the room was a combination of anger over the President’s move to consider reduced protections and enthusiastic support for the efforts of the legislators present to fight for continued and even expanded protections.
Why should we care? To understand what’s at stake, and to place this forum in the larger context, see the following excerpts and follow the link to the full article, published earlier this summer by The Mercury News: Trump order that could shrink California and Pacific Ocean marine sanctuaries moves forward Offshore oil drilling, mining could expand in California
National marine sanctuaries are similar to underwater national parks. Although fishing is allowed in many of them, offshore oil and gas drilling is banned in all of them, as is underwater mining and other activities that could harm wildlife or the environment. In the 45 years since President Richard Nixon started the program, no president has ever reduced or eliminated a national marine sanctuary.
The federal notice on Monday showed areas that could be reduced in size are:
- Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary: In 2008, Bush expanded the sanctuary, which stretches from the Marin Headlands to Hearst Castle, by 496,000 acres to include Davidson Seamount, a dormant underwater volcano 80 miles southwest of Monterey that scientists with high-tech underwater subs found is thick with 10-foot tall coral forests, fields of colorful sponges, crabs and anemones that close like Venus flytraps. The entire Monterey Bay sanctuary, first set aside by Congress and President George H. W. Bush, in 1992, would not be affected, but the seamount area could be removed.
- Greater Farallones and Cordell Bank national marine sanctuaries: In 2015, Obama more than doubled the size of two Northern California marine sanctuaries, extending them by 50 miles from the Marin County coast up the rugged Sonoma and Mendocino coasts. That expansion could be revoked, clearing the way for oil drilling there.