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Topics / BRIEFLY : Coastal Commission: Chief Decries Budget Pinch

August 11, 1994

Warning of the potential for new budget cuts, the head of the state Coastal Commission says the agency may soon be unable to do "the minimum necessary" to protect California's 1,100-mile coastline from the pressures of development.

"It's troubling that as our funds have continued to decline, the demands placed upon us have significantly increased," Peter M. Douglas, the agency's executive director, told commissioners Tuesday in Long Beach.

Douglas submitted a wish list for the fiscal year that begins in July, 1995, while acknowledging there will probably be no money for any of the items on it. Among other things, the list calls for hiring a geologist, a water quality expert, four more enforcement officers, two lawyers and a cartographer.

Critics have called it disgraceful that the agency, whose staff is often matched against experts hired by well-financed developers, has neither a staff geologist nor a water quality specialist.

The Coastal Commission's budget of $8.7 million for the fiscal year that began in July includes about $2 million from federal sources. Although it was the first time in several years that the agency's share of state funds escaped the ax, Douglas said the current budget may yet be slashed as a result of a new law that triggers across-the-board cuts if the state's financial picture worsens.

The agency has shrunk from 169 employees in 1982 to 108 today. Officials warn that further reductions may be necessary because federal funds have begun to dry up. To further complicate matters, a wage increase of between 3.5% and 5% is to go into effect Jan. 1, and there is no money to pay for them, Douglas said.

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