Environmentalists say it’s time to fix California’s broken marine protection system

  • Published on March 12th, 2012

California's ocean fish need REAL protection...

Grassroots environmentalists on California’s North Coast are urging that the controversial marine protected areas being created under Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative include full, comprehensive protection – and not just create additional restrictions on fishing and gathering on a coast that has the strictest fishing regulations of any place on the planet.

The California Department of Fish and Game (DFG) announced that the Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) is now complete for the Marine Protected Area (MPA) proposals covering California’s North Coast Study Region. A 45-day public comment and review period will run through April 16.

“If you can take the time to send in comments on this EIR, please ask why the ‘marine protected areas’ negligently do NOTHING to protect the closed areas from oil drilling, wind and wave industrial projects, ocean mining, navy testing, fish farming, or any other human impacts on the ocean BESIDES throwing the people of California off of their water,” said Ed Oberweiser and Elaine Charkowski, the newsletter editors for the Ocean Protection Coalition of Mendocino County. “These are located in areas that are of obvious commercial and economic interest to the very people who conjured up this version of the 1999 Marine Life Protection Act.”

The Ocean Protection Coalition is a community based non-profit group originally formed to prevent offshore oil drilling off the Mendocino Coast whose mission is “to protect the ocean and all life therein.”

“The coast now faces many threats besides the ever-looming ‘big oil’ – industrial energy installations, coastal access closures, Navy war testing, CO2/acidification, climate change, the Pacific trash gyre – the list goes on,” according to the group.

The MLPA Initiative is funded by the shadowy Resources Legacy Fund Foundation and backed by some of the worst corporate greenwashers on the planet, including the Western States Petroleum Association, Walmart and Safeway Stores.

In an overt case of corporate greenwashing, Catherine Reheis-Boyd, the president of the Western States Petroleum Association, served as chair of the MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Force that created the questionable “marine protected areas” that went into effect on the Southern California coast on January 1, 2012.

Reheis-Boyd, a relentless advocate for new offshore oil drilling off the California coast, the Keystone XL pipeline and the expansion of environmentally devastating hydrofracking in California, also served on the task forces for the North Central and North Central Coasts. The Western States Petroleum Association represents California’s major refiners including BP Plc, Chevron, Exxon Mobil Corporation and Tesoro.

The so-called “marine protected areas” created under the corrupt MLPA Initiative fail to protect the ocean from oil drilling and spills, water pollution, wave and wind energy projects, military testing, corporate aquaculture, habitat destruction and all other human impacts upon the ocean other than fishing and gathering. These “marine protected areas” are in reality “marine polluted areas,” due to the lack of aggressive water quality protections allowed under the Initiative, and “marine poaching areas,” due to the lack of enough DFG wardens to enforce the new fishing regulations along the California coast.

Arrest of top MLPA official for alleged embezzlement puts ‘science’ into question

The DEIR analyzes the potential environmental impacts of the MPA proposal currently under consideration for this area, which extends from Alder Creek, near Point Arena in Mendocino County, to the California/Oregon border. The DEIR also analyzes two project alternatives, including the “Option Zero” alternative backed by a coalition of environmentalists and fishermen.

“The DEIR was prepared by the California Fish and Game Commission with assistance from the California Department of Fish and Game (DFG) as part of the required environmental review process under the California Environmental Quality Act,” according to the DFG. “The process began in September 2011 with a public scoping phase, during which DFG solicited comments on the range of issues and type of information that should be considered in the DEIR. These comments helped to shape the content of the DEIR released this week.”

Unfortunately, the DFG failed to mention that Ron LeValley, the Co-Chair of the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative Science Advisory Team was arrested last month on $1 million warrants accusing them of burglary, embezzlement and conspiracy.

The Del Norte County District Attorney alleges that the two well-known biologists participated in an elaborate embezzlement scheme headed by former Yurok Tribe Forestry Director Roland Raymond that bilked the tribe out of $900,000 that was supposed to fund spotted owl research.

The arrest of the top MLPA “science” official on embezzlement charges, if these charges prove to be true, casts into doubt the integrity of the data used by the MLPA Science Advisory Team in the creation of the marine protected areas proposal.

The DFG release also failed to note that the MLPA Science Advisory Team that LeValley co-chaired, in an attempt to squash any alternative scientific data that challenged their questionable “science,” in August 2010 turned down a request by lawyers and scientists of the Yurok Tribe, the same Tribe he is accused of embezzling money from, to make a presentation to the SAT! Among other data, the Tribe was going to present data of test results from other marine reserves regarding mussels.

“The data would have shown that there was not a statistical difference in the diversity of species from the harvested and un-harvested areas,” wrote John Corbett, Yurok Tribe Senior Attorney, in a letter to the Science Advisory Team on January 12, 2011. “The presentation would have encompassed the work of Smith, J.R. Gong and RF Ambrose, 2008, ‘The Impacts of Human Visitation on Mussel Bed Communities along the California Coast: Are Regulatory Marine Reserves Effective in Protecting these Communities.’”

Apparently, the “scientists” and MLPA officials didn’t want to see data that conflicted with their pre-determined conclusions. No Tribal scientists were allowed to serve on the MLPA Science Advisory Team, in spite of the fact that the Yurok and other North Coast Indian Tribes have large natural resources and fisheries departments staffed with many fishery biologists and other scientists.

How and where to comment:

The DEIR is now available to the public on DFG’s website. Printed copies of the DEIR and related documents are available at the following public library locations:

  • Del Norte County’s Crescent City Branch and Smith River Branch libraries
  • Humboldt County’s Eureka Branch, Trinidad Branch, Hoopa Branch, Ferndale Branch, Fortuna Branch, and Rio Dell libraries
  • Mendocino County’s Ukiah Branch, Willits Branch, Round Valley, Fort Bragg, and Coast Community Branch libraries
  • Sacramento County Public Library
  • California Department of Fish and Game: 619 Second Street, Eureka, CA 95501 (707-445-6493)
  • California Department of Fish and Game: 2330 N. Harbor Drive, Fort Bragg, CA 95437 (707-964-9078).

PUBLIC HEARINGS:

Three public hearings will be held for the public to present written and/or verbal comments on the DEIR at the following locations and times:

  • Fort Bragg: Tuesday, March 20, 2012 from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at the Fort Bragg Town Hall (363 N. Main Street, Fort Bragg, CA 95437);
  • Crescent City: Wednesday, March 21, 2012 from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at the Del Norte County Board Chamber Building (981 H Street, Crescent City, CA 95531); and
  • Eureka: Wednesday, April 11, 2012 at the Red Lion Hotel (1929 Fourth Street, Eureka, CA 95501). Note that this is a Commission meeting, at which public comments on the proposed MLPA regulations and the DEIR will be received.

Written comments may be mailed to the following address:

MLPA North Coast CEQA Comments
Department of Fish and Game
c/o Horizon Water and Environment
P.O. Box 2727
Oakland, CA 94602

  • Comments may also be submitted via e-mail to MLPAcomments@HorizonWater.com. E-mailed comments must include “MLPA CEQA Comments” in the subject line.
  • All comments (mailed or e-mailed) must include the commentor’s name, address and daytime telephone number.
  • All comments must be post-marked no later than 5 p.m. on April 16 in order to be considered for inclusion in the Final EIR.

(Image Attribution Some rights reserved by kdinuraj)





About the Author

Dan Bacher is an environmental journalist in Sacramento who focuses on California's water issues, a healthy environment for the salmon fishery of the Northwest, and the attempts by big agriculture and big oil to hog all the water.
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  • Nick Wilson

    Whether the MLPA is a good thing or a bad thing, much of this article focused on a dubious and unproven allegation against Ron LeValley, a volunteer on the MLPA science panel.

    I’ve known Ron for years as a highly respected expert on wildlife, especially birds, and especially seabirds. His bail was reduced 85% after the judge received more than 200 letters supporting Ron, his character, and the lack of risk that he will jump bail due to his many community connections and activities. All of these hundreds of letters were gathered between Monday and Wednesday of last week. I am confident that Ron will be cleared of any blame in the embezzlement case, and that he is simply another victim of the alleged embezzler, former Yurok tribal forest manager Roland Raymond, who is still on the run. Ron’s mistake was in trusting Mr. Raymond. The story above didn’t mention that as soon as Ron learned there was a warrant for his arrest in Del Norte County, he immediately made the five-hour drive there to turn himself in and talk to authorities. According to media reports, investigators said Ron has cooperated fully with them. He has been free on bail for more than a week and back home living in Mendocino County. Although his bail was reduced to $150k, getting a bail bond for that amount cost him and his family $24,000, which is not refundable.

    Not only did Ron get over 200 letters of support on only 3 days’ notice, many of his friends and acquaintances have also contributed to a legal defense fund set up for Ron at a local bank. I know Ron as a fellow photographer, and in all of my contacts with him he has shown himself to be extremely generous with his time and talents. There is no sign of greed that would motivate a person to steal from anyone.

    In contrast, media reports said a police search of Roland Raymond’s home turned up hypodermic syringes and other drug paraphernalia as well as bags of powder suspected to be illegal drugs such as heroin and/or methamphetamine. Investigators also allege that Raymond made a number of unauthorized charges to a tribe-issued credit card, including a number of iPads and repair work on his car. He was terminated from his job as tribal forest manager last September after failing to return to work after a leave of absence. As of yet, Mr. Raymond, is still evading arrest, while Ron LeValley and his employee who was arrested at his Eureka office have cooperated fully with investigators and answered their questions.

    Remember that everyone is entitled to the presumption of innocence unless proven guilty in a court of law. Although this article contains the minimal lip service phrase “if true” about the allegations, it then proceeds a long way down the path of presuming Ron and Sean guilty. They have not yet even been formally charged or entered pleas. I would not bet on their bring found guilty of the allegations. It is unfair to tie their politically motivated arrests to the issue of the MLPA.