OLYMPIC COAST SANCTUARY

Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary

Talking Points for the Review of the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary
Management Plan Review

By
Fred Felleman, MSc.
NW Consultant
Friends of the Earth

5 October 2008

Last Scoping Meeting: Sunday Oct 6, 7 PM Seattle Aquarium.
Comment Deadline: Nov 14. ocnmsmanagementplan@noaa. 73 Fed. Reg. 53161

The 3,310 square miles OCNMS extends from the Canadian border north of Cape Flattery 135 miles south to the Copalis River above Grays Harbor. It borders the 56 mile long wilderness stretch of Olympic National Park and four tribal reservations.  It extends offshore 25 to 45 miles, to include most of the continental shelf, 600 islands, rocks and stacks of three national wildlife refuges, and three major submarine canyons that extend 4500 feet deep.  It is home to our State’s largest colonies of breeding seabirds, the core of the sea otter’s range, winter habitat for our endangered orcas as well as numerous other marine mammal and fish species.

In order to provide meaningful comment it would be helpful to know what it was established to do and what’s been done.  For the original designation documents and management plan go to:
http://olympiccoast.noaa.gov/protection/mpr/mpr_bgdocs.html
For the first cut at a current conditions report and tribal comments:
http://sanctuaries.noaa.gov/science/condition/ocnms/welcome.html

I’ve also attached a couple of links to some of the first and only press generated about the Sanctuary that has kept a stealth profile even in Port Angeles.
http://community.seattletimes.nwsource.com/archive/?date=19910411&slug=1276893
http://community.seattletimes.nwsource.com/archive/?date=19940708&slug=1919361
http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/archives/1991/9105100043.asp
The legislation directing NOAA to create the Olympic Coast Sanctuary passed in 1989 but it was not designated until 1994 due to OMB concerns about oil.  The plan was to be reviewed every 5 years but this is the first in 14.

The last time NOAA did a swing around the peninsula to seek public input on managing the coast was during their 1991 scoping meetings for the DEIS.   They were met with large crowds of folks calling for them to keep the oilrigs and ships from oiling our shores.  Memories were still fresh from the Nestucca of 1988 and Tenyo Maru of 1991 with Exxon’s indelible moment in Prince William Sound occurring in 1989.  The Minerals Management Service (MMS), the folks who are literally “in-bed” with the oil industry, had Lease Sale 132 on the streets which would have opened all of the federal waters off Washington and Oregon to oil and gas development.

While rural communities along the Peninsula were in the midst of the owl wars there was not a choice between feds or no feds.  It was either MMS or NOAA.  NOAA was the lesser of the evils but it was the distrust of the additional federal regulatory creep into fisheries management that kept the folks in the San Juans from embracing a separate Sanctuary proposal there.

Suggested Comments:

* Despite being 14 years old, many people have never heard of the Sanctuary. The only newsletters that have been published since designation was for these scoping meetings and much of the information is still not on the web.  There are rarely news stories about sanctuary research or conservation efforts.  What is most disappointing is the strained relationships between NOAA and the Tribes.

* The fact that the Neah Bay tug is still not permanent and there has yet to be a successful no-notice equipment deployment oil spill drill in the Sanctuary suggests we still have a way to go to meet the original goals of the Sanctuary Management Plan.  The Sanctuary Advisory Council has called for the Sanctuary to support the tug but it is not clear what the Sanctuary has done.

* While the permanent ban on offshore oil and gas development was implemented by separate Congressional action, it would be good to reiterate support given the increasing calls for drilling in the OCS.

* Given the increase in harmful algal blooms and dead zones off the coast NOAA should ban cruise ship discharges like they have done in northern California Sanctuaries http://sanctuaries.noaa.gov/jointplan/ .
* NOAA’S promotion of offshore aquaculture should not be permitted in the Sanctuary to protect existing fish stocks from disease and escapes.

* The Navy’s proposed expansion of the Quinault range in the Sanctuary from 48.3 square nautical miles to 1,840, including a new 7.8-square-nautical-mile surf zone at Pacific Beach should not be allowed to occur without adequate mitigation for increased impacts to fish, birds, mammals due to noise, collisions and oil spills.  Navy currently has no spill response capability along the coast despite being the source of the State’s largest spill there.
The Navy is holding hearings on the DEIS for their range expansion (http://www.keyport.kpt.nuwc.navy.mil/EIS_Home.htm)

* While NOAA is spending precious research funds to map the ocean floor, the Navy is keeping them from making those maps available to the public.  It is my understanding the Navy already has such maps but is making NOAA collect the data themselves and then not making them available for review.

* Makah whaling, while controversial in some circles, is not subject to sanctuary regulation because the Sanctuary Act and the Olympic designation document itself says nothing in these plans would abrogate treaty rights.

* There are some folks who would like to see restrictions put on bottom fishing practices as a way to protect coral and sponge habitats.  While the protection of the seafloor is part of the Sanctuary’s regulatory authority it does exclude fishing activities.  While there have been efforts to restrict fishing in parts of some sanctuaries, due to the unique legal situation off the Olympic Coast involving treaty tribes, it was agreed at designation that the Sanctuary could fund research to aid fisheries management, but that the regulations would be left to the existing regulatory authorities.  The Sanctuary now has a seat on the Pacific Fisheries Management Council where most of these decisions should be made while leaving fishing outside the scope of Sanctuary regulations.

* Efforts to site a wave energy project off Makah Bay has raised some concerns about the Sanctuary’s responsibility to protect bottom habitat.   The Makah Bay pilot project called for 4 buoys and an extensive monitoring plan.  It would have also created a defacto no fishing zone.  There is something appropriate about the Sanctuary serving as laboratory to foster the development of alternative energy sources that would contribute to the wellbeing of Peninsula communities while helping tackle global warming.

~ by fredfelleman on October 5, 2008.

2 Responses to “OLYMPIC COAST SANCTUARY”

  1. Fred,
    A minor point, but NOAA is not a regulatory agency like EPA. The NMS Act grants regulatory power over sactuaries to the Secretary of Commerce, who delegates day to day operation of the NMSP to NOAA.
    Ken

  2. It my understanding that agencies like NMFS, now NOAA Fisheries, have broad regulatory power from within the Commerce Department and the Sanctuary drew it original authority from the Ocean Dumping Act.

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