More than 200 people showed up Wednesday at Aliso Creek Inn to learn about six different proposals for protected marine areas along the Southern California coast from Point Conception to the Mexican border and to submit comments.
Four of the mapped proposals were developed by the South Coast Regional Stakeholder Group and two “external proposals” were developed by outside groups. Fishers and ecologists have not united behind any of the proposals.
“I am looking tonight for a sense of cooperation by all parties on behalf of the ocean,” said South Laguna resident Michael Beanan. “Even if the tension goes on with the fishing community, I hope we can build bridges.”
The City Council voted 4 to 1 at the June 16 meeting to support a Marine Reserve designation for all of Laguna Beach, except for a zone around the South Orange County Water Authority outfall that conducts treated water to the ocean. If adopted as supported by the council majority, the reserve would give the state control to prohibit fishing, recreational or commercial, along the city coastline for five years. Mayor Kelly Boyd vehemently opposed the vote.
“I have over 200 e-mails and communications opposing the complete closure of the city,” Boyd said Wednesday night. “I brought 74 of the e-mails to submit here — four of them in favor and 70 opposed. I didn’t bring the others because they were so abusive to the other council members.”
Councilwoman Verna Rollinger, who voted in favor of the reserve, also attended the open house and made her comments in writing.
The council’s border-to-border proposal was not incorporated in the maps displayed at the open house of the South Coast Study Region from Point Conception to the San Diego County border with Mexico and blocks of color were used to identify the proposed regulated areas — red for “no take,” blue for conservation areas where some fishing was allowed and yellow for more lenient regulations.
External proposals A and B were mapped by fishing groups. They are under review by the stakeholder group and are not recommended to the California Fish and Game Commission, which is required to adopt a master plan for the Marine Life Protection Program.
A seventh map showed current designations, including the reserve at Heisler Park.
Private funding during the state’s budget crisis kept the habitat-mapping component of the protected area planning process in Southern California. Regulations for two areas have been implemented. After the South Coast study is completed, two more studies will be conducted. Private funding will be sought to supplement public funding for scientific monitoring along the completed central and north central coast study areas.
Stakeholder-generated maps for the South Coast Study Region were given jewel names.
Rodger Healey, president of the Dana Cove Commercial Fishermen’s Assns., who helped develop an eternal proposal, gave rough estimates of the boundaries of the designated areas in Laguna, which were not named by landmarks or streets on the maps.
Lapis 1 is red roughly from Irvine Point to Aliso Creek, then blue to the city’s southern border. Lapis 2 appears to be red from Abalone Point to Woods Cove and goes three miles out, tailed by a narrow strip of blue along the coast to the city’s southern border. “Opal” is blue from what fishers call Blue Roof in the Irvine Cove to Emerald Point, then red to Woods Cove and blue along the South Laguna coastline. “Topaz” is blue at Crystal Cove, red from the northern city limits to Treasure Island, going out three miles and then blue to Dana Point.
External Proposal A is red from Seal Rock at Crescent Bay to Woods Cove and three mile out, then blue south to the city limits. External Map B shows a narrow strip of red for about mile into the ocean, then blue out to the federal waters.
Members of the regional stakeholders and the Blue Ribbon Task Force and Department of Fish and Game staff were available at the open house to answer questions and promote a dialogue on how the options and ultimately a network of protected areas would meet the goal of improved marine life, habitats and overall ecosystem health.
“I am here to determine if Aliso Creek is covered,” said Roger Butow, founder of the Friends of the Aliso Creek Steelhead. “It should be a reserve because it is the migration corridor for an endangered species.”
Butow wants a reserve designation for the 1-square-mile area around the mouth of the creek from Goff Island to Camel Point. Greg O’Loughlin wanted to look at the maps he has already viewed online.
“I am worried that the South Laguna Reserve is not given the same weight as Heisler Park,” O’Loughlin said.
He is also bothered that Treasure Island Beach, with its tidepools, has never been designated as a reserve.
Dave Connell didn’t expect to see anything at the open house that changed his opinion.
“Unlike most people, I have been fishing and swimming southern California waters for at least 70 years,” said Connell, who supports fishers opposition to a city-long reserve.
“There have been ups and downs in various species over the years, sometimes caused by man and more times by nature, but the ocean has pretty much remained the same.
“I can remember when the Laguna Creek bottom was a beautiful bright blue caused by the metal crafting shops in the canyon, circa 1940. Though the water was clear, it would be considered contaminated by today’s standards by all the cattle and horses further up the creek.
“On the other hand, perhaps all the chemicals from the various shops killed all the bacteria before the water reached the beach. Anyway, none of us got sick.”
Jinger Wallace, who supports a Laguna reserve, also stood fast, in support of the reserve.
“I believe there are opportunities for fishers south of Laguna,” Wallace said. “There is a 2-mile long and 1-mile wide reef in San Clemente where 50 tons of fish a year come out.
“It’s inconvenient to have to have to go a little further, but we [humans] adjust.”
Five more open houses will be hosted by the 57-member South Coast Regional Stakeholders Group, which includes Laguna Beach Marine Protection Officer Calla Allison.
“Some of the people who attended this meeting also attended the meeting Monday in Carlsbad and the meeting Tuesday in San Diego,” said Delba Gibbs, logistics coordinator for the open houses. “The next one is in San Pedro and they’ll probably be there too.”
Information gathered at the open houses will be used to comply with the state Marine Protection Act Initiative approved by the state legislature to address the need to re-examine and redesign California’s system of protected marine areas and improve protection of the state’s marine life, habitat and ecosystems.
Stakeholder groups develop proposals, which are reviewed and evaluated by a science advisory team, the California Department of Fish and Game, the initiative staff and the policy-level Blue Ribbon Task Force. The proposals are then refined and presented again to the task force, which makes a recommendation to the Fish and Game Commission, which will guide the adoption and implementation of a Marine Life Protection Program within the department.
Recommendations to the commission for the five study areas that will compose the network are expected to be presented between 2009 and 2011.
The commission is then required to adopt a master plan, which includes the statewide network of marine protected areas.
For more information about the initiative, to see the maps and learn how to get involved, visit www.dfg.ca.gov/mlpa.
The timeline for the Marine Life Protection Act Initiative:
June 2008: South Coast Study Region Kickoff
Public workshops and Regional Stakeholder Groups nominations
Development of regional profile
July through December 2008: Appoint groups and collection information
Begin fact finding and complete data collection and regional profile
January through September 2009: Develop Marine Protect Act Proposals
Draft options, Round 1
Draft proposals, Round 2 — current stage
Final stakeholders proposals, Round 3
September through October 2009: Blue Ribbon Task Force recommends proposals
Identify preferred alternative and Marine Protection Act proposals to recommend to the California Fish and Game Commission
November 2009: Commission selects preferred alternative
Begin regulatory process
Begin environmental review process
Once adopted, oversee implementation
There are a number of ways that members of the public can participate in the MPLA process.
Review public documents.
Attend meetings of the task force, science team, regional stakeholders and California Fish and Game Commission.
Express opinions at South Coast Regional Stakeholder meetings or inform a member.
Provide written or verbal comments at task force, science team, stakeholder and California Fish and Game Commission meetings.