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Central Coast marine sanctuary proposal sparks strong public response

A map of the proposed marine sanctuary, included in NOAA nomination documents.

Late Tuesday afternoon, the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors voted three to two to formally oppose the creation of the proposed Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary. In what turned out to be an all-day discussion - and at the end, a contentious board debate - dozens of speakers addressed the board, many waiting up to seven hours to have their say.

Commercial fishermen expressed their concern with more regulations should the sanctuary be established, while many other residents said they were disturbed at the prospect of offshore oil drilling and wanted the designation to protect the coast.

In the end the board voted the same as it did at the Jan. 24 meeting, with Supervisors Arnold, Compton and Peschong voting in favor of a resolution that states the county's opposition to the proposed sanctuary. Supervisors Hill and Gibson voted against the resolution.

In 2015, a proposal to establish the new marine sanctuary was submitted to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, the federal agency in charge of creating and managing the nation's marine sanctuaries. But the proposed Chumash Heritage NMS is not yet on the agency's "designation in progress" list.

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