Schwarzenegger Tours Earthquake Damage As MLPA Proceeds on Fast Track
by Dan Bacher
January 15, 2010 -- Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger on Thursday toured damage caused by the 6.5 magnitude earthquake that took place in the Eureka area of Humboldt County on Saturday. He also received a briefing on the status of recovery efforts as the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative Blue Ribbon Task Force was holding its meeting in Crescent City.
On Tuesday, Schwarzenegger proclaimed a state of emergency in Humboldt County due to the earthquake that impacted the northern coast of California, disrupted utilities and damaged hundreds of homes and businesses.
"Luckily there were not lives lost; we were very happy when we heard about that," said Schwarzenegger. "However, it did cause damage to 251 buildings, homes and businesses in this area here. We estimate the total damage that was caused to exceed $43 million."
"This is why on Tuesday I declared a state of emergency here in Humboldt County. This will cut through the red tape," he added.
However, if Schwarzenegger is so concerned about the disaster-stricken residents of the North Coast, why did his staff go ahead with conducting the MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Force meetings held in Crescent City Wednesday and Thursday? You would think that Mike Chrisman and the MPLA Initiative Team would have the compassion to cancel the meeting at a time when many residents and businesses of the North Coast are dealing with the aftermath of the earthquake damage. The meeting could have been easily rescheduled.
Even better yet, why won't Schwarzenegger really help out North Coast communities by suspending the MLPA initiative in light of strong criticism of the process by the overwhelming majority of the residents of the region?
The Kashia Pomo and other tribes will be removed from their traditional gathering areas off Stewarts Point and Point Arena when the new Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) on the North Central Coast go into effect on April 1, 2010. We cannot allow the MLPA process to remove more North Coast tribes from their traditional gathering areas as the initiative, a process infested with conflicts of interest, mission creep and corruption of the democratic process, unfolds on the North Coast north of Point Arena.
Atta P. Stephenson, a traditional North Coast tribal seaweed harvester who was honored by Organic Sacramento and Friends of the River in December for her many efforts on behalf on environmental water justice, has strongly criticized the fast-track MLPA process for violating traditional tribal seaweed gathering and fishing rights.
"The MLPA process has railroaded communities and tribes in southern and central California and now has come to the North Coast," said Stephenson at the Organic Capital Celebration of Sustainability in Sacramento. "The state is calling areas where we traditionally harvested seaweed 'no take' zones where seaweed gathering will no longer be allowed."
During Thursday's meeting, recreational fishermen, commercial fishermen, environmentalists and representatives of North Coast Indian Tribes provided excellent, heart-felt testimony to the task force.
"Since you continue to deny our local requests and act without a majority of local people on your Task Force, it is plain you do not have our best interests in mind," said Kenyon Hensel, a Crescent City fisherman. "Please leave this area and move on to some other part of California. Leave us and we will continue the creation of our own reserves and the side-by-side management of our resources that will exceed the intent of the MLPA. Give us three years and support our local effort if you are truly interested in seeing meaningful management of our renewable ocean resources."
I encourage everybody who supports environmental justice to read Kenson's excellent article in the Daily Triplicate about the Marine Life Protection Act Initiative and Native American sovereignty at http://www.triplicate.com/20100113107931/Opinion/Editorials/Coastal-Voices-Guest-Opinion-Native-sovereignty-and-the-MLPA.
Environmentalists and fishermen must support tribal seaweed gathering and fishing rights on traditional areas on the North Coast - and stand firm against any attempts by the state of California to pursue a "divide and conquer" strategy under Schwarzenegger's MLPA process. The fast-track MLPA initiative is being promoted by the same Governor who has presided over the collapse of Central Valley salmon, Delta smelt and other fish populations - and is planning to drive imperiled fish species into the abyss of extinction by building a peripheral canal and more dams to expedite the export of Delta water to corporate agribusiness and southern California.
Below is a copy of Hensel's testimony before the task force:
To the Blue Ribbon Task Force,
These are some of the unique local qualities you must take into consideration before further restricting access to our local renewable ocean resource.
Our area has the highest unemployment rate in the state. Our county is one of the poorest in California. The state or federal government owns over 75% of our county land, depriving us property taxes needed to maintain services. Our local jobs and revenue streams must be protected to offset this loss. Historically isolated from state population centers, our community knows the value of self-sufficiency. If you do not honor that value, you diminish both our community and our state.
The coastal waters of this management area already have the strictest rules of anywhere in the state. Because of these rules, our sport season is now measured in weeks, and our commercial landing limits are at less then ten percent of historic levels. Our harbor sport slip rental has gone from 1000 boats 15 years ago to less then 40 now. Our local commercial near shore fleet has been reduced from over 70 boats to less then 18. These reductions are due to fishing regulations applied since the MLPA was passed, restrictions that have greatly increased the overall stocks of fish, while locking them out reach. The crab fleet has grown, but that harvest is a boom and bust cycle, barely keeping the small near shore boats going. This has strained our fishing community and its infrastructure to the point of collapse. We cant take the burden of more closures.
Local weather severely limits our time on the water, and how far small boats that fish the near shore can safely travel. We regularly experience less then 120 fishable days a year. More then half of those days, weather limits safe travel and time on the water. Closing fishing areas we can reach, where we have been traditionally fishing, will compound these conditions. Making us jump over a MPA to reach fishable waters creates an unacceptable risk to life and property.
There is no imminent environmental threat that justifies creating hardships for our coastal communities. All sea going mammals and their haul out areas, sea birds and their rookeries, coral and invertebrates are fully protected by existing federal and state laws.
The MLPA can be interpreted many ways. The initiative you are acting under is a narrow-minded approach, little but window dressing, to true effective fishery management. You are not using the accepted MPA science or process to create marine reserves. Without the science and the time we have asked for, you are only making little no fishing areas. They will drain enforcement, and create a false sense of higher protection. The process you are pushing will only lower the protection of our resources.
Since you continue to deny our local requests, and act without a majority of local people on your Task Force, it is plain you do not have our best interests in mind. Please leave this area and move on to some other part of California. Leave us and we will continue the creation of our own reserves and the side-by-side management of our resources that will exceed the intent of the MLPA. Give us three years and support our local effort if you are truly interested in seeing meaningful management of our renewable ocean resources.