Obama expands federal marine sanctuaries off Sonoma, Southern Mendocino Counties

By Paul Rogers, San Jose Mercury News

In a move that would permanently ban oil drilling along more than 50 miles of Northern California coast, the Obama administration announced plans Thursday to expand two Northern California marine sanctuaries, extending them up the rugged Sonoma and Mendocino coast.

The announcement, at a news conference in Washington, D.C., with members of the Bay Area congressional delegation and officials from NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, marks the largest expansion of national marine sanctuaries in California in 20 years — since President George. H.W. Bush established the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary in 1992.

“This area is a national treasure.  It needs and it deserves permanent protection from oil and gas exploration,” said Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D-San Rafael, who led efforts to expand the sanctuaries.

“This is a matter of economic common sense.  Jobs and livelihoods hang in the balance,” she said. “No one is going to vacation on the Sonoma coast if they are looking at oil derricks.”

While national marine sanctuaries ban oil drilling and other extractive activities, and set rules on such practices as sewage dumping by cruise ships, they do not ban fishing or boating.

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