California’s disastrous MLPA plan delayed by disastrous peripheral canal

  • Published on May 8th, 2012

Peripheral Canal cartoon copyright by Rex Babin

In a joint statement on May 7, California’s Secretary for Natural Resources John Laird and Director of Fish and Game Chuck Bonham announced that implementation of the state’s Marine Protected Areas” in San Francisco Bay will be delayed until the completion of planning efforts for the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta under the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP).

The BDCP is a plan to build a peripheral canal or tunnel to export more Delta water to southern California and to corporate agribusiness on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley. A broad coalition of Delta residents, recreational anglers, commercial fishermen, Indian Tribes, family farmers, grassroots environmentalists and elected officials oppose the peripheral canal’s construction because it would hasten the extinction of Central Valley salmon, Delta smelt, longfin smelt and other fish species and take vast areas of Delta farmland out of production under the guise of habitat “restoration.”

“We appreciate receiving ‘San Francisco Bay Options Report: Considering MPA Planning’ prepared by the California Marine Life Protection Act Initiative,” said Laird and Bonham. “The report identifies a range of options for how to approach marine protected area planning in San Francisco Bay.”

“As noted in the report’s response to science questions, protecting San Francisco Bay’s ecosystem is intricately connected to the marshes of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. As such, any successful planning for and implementation of marine protected areas in San Francisco Bay must complement the historic effort to meet co-equal goals of ecosystem restoration and water supply reliability in the delta,” they stated.

“We look forward to continuing to work with all local, state and federal agencies dedicated to ensuring successful marine planning and protection for San Francisco Bay subsequent to completing planning efforts in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta,” Laird and Bonham concluded.

Six options for S.F. Bay ‘marine protected areas’

A memo from Ken Wiseman, Executive Director of the MLPA Initiative, says the options report presents six process design options for San Francisco Bay that “can be approached individually or as a series of steps,” beginning at Option Zero (no process) and moving toward Option Five (comprehensive MLPA Initiative-type planning process).

“Some options, but not all, include the development of MPA proposals; those that do not include an MPA planning component call for information collection and data analysis, which lays a foundation for potential future MPA planning,” said Wiseman.

The options are as follows:

  • Option Zero: No Process and No Change to Existing MPAs.
  • Option One: Collect and Compile Existing Information – To provide a foundation for a future regional MPA planning process. Information would be compiled and publicly accessible.
  • Option Two: Analyze Existing Information and Enhance Communication – Synthesizing the collected information and revising MLPA science guidelines to reflect the unique setting of the SFSR.
  • Option Three: Conduct MPA Planning Process with Self-Organized Groups – MPA Planning and proposal development without MLPA Initiative-type staff support.
  • Option Four: Conduct MPA Planning Process that Integrates Elements of Existing Processes and Programs – Traditional MLPA Initiative framework (including a regional stakeholder group) that incorporates key elements of and groups involved with existing San Francisco Bay planning processes.
  • Option Five: Conduct MLPA Initiative-type MPA Planning Process – an MLPA Initiative-type planning process including developing new information socioeconomic impacts of MPA proposals to inform the process.

Jim Martin, West Coast Director of the Recreational Fishing Alliance, had mixed feelings about the decision to postpone the MLPA process on San Francisco Bay until after the BDCP process to build the canal is completed.

“On the one hand, we won’t have to deal with no=fishing zones in San Francisco Bay under the MLPA Initiative in the near future,” said Martin. “On the other hand, the state is not going to address water quality issues on San Francisco Bay that need to be addressed.”

The options report is available here.

Laird now a prime mover of peripheral canal

Ironically, John Laird in October 2009 criticized an article I wrote drawing the connections between the MLPA Initiative and the peripheral canal plan. My response documented the intimate connections between the MLPA Initiative and the Delta Vision and BDCP processes to build the peripheral canal.

“In my long public career, I have not supported the Peripheral Canal, and certainly (read my columns online at the SF Chronicle) have taken on Governor Schwarzenegger my fair share,” claimed Laird. “This process (MLPA) is designed to restore the science to marine protection policy, and the discussion of it deserves the same principled and science-based review.”

Less than three years later, Laird, as the current California Natural Resources Secretary, and Deputy Secretary Jerry Meral are in fact the Brown Administration’s prime movers behind the Bay Delta Conservation Plan to build the peripheral canal!

In the most recent development in the controversial BDCP process, Laird sent a letter to David Hayes, Deputy Secretary of the Interior, stating that the state “will not be ready” to release public review drafts of the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) and its environmental impact report/statement at the end of June, as originally expected.

Even more ironic, Laird and Bonham in their announcement proved beyond the shadow of a doubt that the two processes are connected when they stated that “any successful planning for and implementation of marine protected areas in San Francisco Bay must complement the historic effort to meet co-equal goals of ecosystem restoration and water supply reliability in the delta.”

MLPA Initiative abounds with conflicts of interest

The Central Coast, North Central Coast and Southern California “Marine Protected Areas” created under the MLPA Initiative are already in place. The Fish and Game Commission plans to make its final decision regarding the North Coast marine protected areas in Eureka on Thursday, June 14.

Grassroots environmentalists, fishermen, and Tribal members have criticized the so-called “marine protected areas” created under the MLPA Initiative, privately funded by the shadowy Resources Legacy Fund Foundation. The groups say the MPAs fail to protect the ocean from oil spills and drilling, pollution, military testing, corporate aquaculture, wind and wave energy projects and all other human impacts on the ocean other than fishing and gathering.

They have also slammed the MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Forces that oversee the initiative for their domination by corporate interests, including a powerful oil industry lobbyist, real estate developer and marina operator.

In the most overt conflict of interest, Catherine Reheis-Boyd, the President of the Western States Petroleum Association, chaired the MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Force that developed the “marine protected areas” that went into effect in Southern California waters on January 1, 2012.

Reheis Boyd is a relentless advocate for new offshore oil drilling off the West Coast, the environmentally destructive practice of hydraulic fracturing (fracking), the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline and the evisceration of environmental laws.

Tribal harvesting still unresolved

The issue of traditional tribal harvesting under the MLPA Initiative hasn’t been resolved yet, although Laird on April 18 announced the release of a draft policy directing the resources agency and its departments to “increase communication and collaboration with California’s Native American tribes.”

In 2010 and 2011, members of North Coast Indian Nations organized direct action protests to defend traditional gathering rights.

On June 18, 2011, members of the Yurok, Hoopa Valley, Karuk and other Tribes gathered seaweed, mussels and clams at three beaches on the North Coast to protest restrictions on coastal gathering proposed under the MLPA Initiative. The Tribal members, organized by the grassroots Klamath and Coastal Justice Coalitions, gathered at Patrick’s Point State Park, Clam Beach and Wilson Creek Beach near Klamath.

“Our rights are not negotiable,” said Hoopa Tribal Citizen Dania Rose Colegrove, an organizer for the Klamath Justice Coalition, who gathered seaweed and mussels along with 11 others at Patrick’s Point.

Last month, the Yurok Tribe delivered a proposal before the California Fish and Game Commission in Eureka providing them “an opportunity to better protect the Tribe’s right to traditionally harvest of marine resources“.

“Yurok people are a vital part of the marine ecosystem,” the Tribe stated. “Yurok Tribal members have traditionally harvested marine resources for subsistence or ceremony in a way that is culturally appropriate and completely sustainable since time immemorial.”

For more information about the MLPA Initiative, go to the Klamath Justice website.

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.