Sanity was restored last week to the California State Fish and Game Commission’s efforts to establish a network of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in Southern California. The Schwarzenegger administration has long made it a priority to meet the requirements of the Marine Life Protection Act, which calls for establishing a statewide network on MPAs.
But pressure has built from opposition groups the past few months to extend the Draft Environmental Impact Report comment period for the South Coast. The end result would have stalled MPA implementation in Southern California, an area where protections are much needed.
In the days leading up to last week’s hearing, Fish and Game Commissioner Michael Sutsos was removed from the panel and replaced by Jack Baylis, an environmental engineering executive at AECOM who previously served as a State Parks Commissioner, Coastal Conservancy member and Heal the Bay vice-chair.
In a compromise measure, the commission voted 5-0 to extend the DEIR comment period by 15 days. This move provided additional time for public comment, but will not affect the timing of the commission’s final vote on Southern California MPAs, scheduled for mid-December.
A disturbing side issue has been the effort by the L.A. County Sanitation Districts to use the Marine Life Protection Act implementation process to lobby the State Water Board. The Districts’ sewage outfall sits about two miles from the proposed MPAs, so officials fear that their sewage discharge will lead to tougher water quality requirements to ensure clean water in the reserves.