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Environment and Energy

Proposed Chumash marine sanctuary off Central Coast moves closer to official status

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The National Atmospheric and Oceanic Administration (NOAA) today announced that it is starting a process to designate a marine sanctuary off the Central Coast as the Chumash National Heritage Marine Sanctuary.

It would be a 7,000-square-mile area of ocean adjacent to San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara Counties which has sacred significance to the Chumash as well as a wealth of biodiversity.

According to NOAA, the area’s natural resources are essential to California’s $1.9 trillion coastal economy and support $731 billion in wages.

Central Coast Congressman Salud Carbajal, who lobbied the Biden Administration to secure this project, told KCBX News it’s gratifying for him to see it come to fruition.

"This is great on many different levels. One is that it will continue to protect our coastline from offshore oil and gas drilling. It will protect our economy because we have commercial fishermen who rely on the area. And it will protect our ecosystem," Carbajal said.

The process begins with what’s called a Notice of intent, meaning NOAA is now accepting public comment on the project. Carbajal said he hopes the designation will become official after the several required public meetings on the topic.

"And the process will be ensuing from there in terms of scoping the boundaries, identifying the resources, the uses, environmental review. So it is a robust public process that I hope at the end of the day will yield the final and ultimate designation of this extraordinary resource," Carbajal said.

More information on this project from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is available at noaa.gov.

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