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Schwarzenegger Urges More Ocean Protection Measures

The governor is adamant, however, that such programs not be funded by offshore oil drilling.

June 05, 2004|Kenneth R. Weiss | Times Staff Writer

Arnold Schwarzenegger on Friday called on the state and federal governments to do more to protect the ocean and coastal waters, but said new programs should not be funded by any arrangement that encouraged more offshore oil drilling.

He ordered his Cabinet secretaries to put a plan of action to better manage state waters on his desk in 90 days and urged the federal government to adopt most of the recommendations made recently by the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy.

In a gloomy report issued six weeks ago about the nation's ailing oceans, the commission suggested hundreds of ways to nurse them back to health.

"Your report is a wake-up call that our oceans are in trouble and in need of help," Schwarzenegger wrote in a letter to retired Adm. James D. Watkins, the commission chairman.

The commission has said it will incorporate comments from governors into its final report, which extensively details the oceans' troubles, including the collapse of fish populations, seafood contaminated with mercury, and runoff from cities and farms causing algae blooms that suffocate marine life.

Schwarzenegger said he supported most of the recommended reforms, but not all.

In the case of offshore oil drilling, the governor took issue with the commission, which included representatives of the oil and gas industries. The panel recommended paying for ocean programs with offshore oil and gas royalties.

Schwarzenegger said he supported the commission's concept of an ocean policy trust fund as a way to pay for programs to protect the sea. But, he wrote, "I would insist that no incentives for additional offshore oil and gas development be created through the use of funds from these revenue sources."

The governor also urged the commission to take a stronger position in promoting efforts to manage entire ocean ecosystems, rather than taking a narrower approach to protect specific species. He suggested that California's laws establishing no-fishing zones, called marine reserves, be used as a federal model.

In contrast to California, the governor wrote, "there is little procedural guidance at the federal level and no clear process for designating no-take reserves in federal waters."

Schwarzenegger backed the notion of Congress adopting a national ocean policy to better coordinate the multilayered efforts to protect the ocean, which he said was vital to the economy. Rather than inventing a new layer of government, he encouraged federal officials to focus on better coordinating the 15 federal departments and agencies that had overlapping jurisdiction over the oceans.

"The governor feels very strongly that there needs to be renewed focus on the oceans," said California Resources Secretary Mike Chrisman. "This will be a major policy focus of this administration."

The state Legislature is also pursuing its own plans to implement the recommendations of the federal commission and similar ones from the private Pew Oceans Commission, funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts.

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