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Published: February 28, 2022

KCBX: Northern Chumash say 99% of public commenters support proposed marine sanctuary designation

By Benjamin Purper

The proposed Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary off the Central Coast has received tens of thousands of comments during its public comment period.

The 83-day period held by the federal National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is a required part of the process to designate the sanctuary and ended on Jan. 31.

NOAA reported receiving 22,479 comments about the project as of Sunday evening, though the Northern Chumash Tribal Council (NCTC) says many of those comments were counted as one, when each individual comment could represent thousands of people.

The council also said in a press release that it analyzed 21,828 of the comments and determined that 99% were in support of the sanctuary designation.

Based on that, the NCTC said more than 30,000 people expressed their support for the sanctuary.

KCBX has not independently confirmed the 99% in favor statistic, but the comments are publicly available at regulations.gov.

The proposed marine sanctuary has drawn the support of scientists and marine researchers, organizations like the Monterey Bay Aquarium, companies such as the clothing brand Patagonia and elected officials such as Senator Dianne Feinstein and Representative Salud Carbajal.

Now that the public comment period has closed, NOAA will prepare draft designation documents and conduct environmental reviews.

That will be followed by a second public comment on those draft documents, and then NOAA will prepare a final document and adopt a final environmental impact statement.

The sanctuary, proposed in 2014 by former Northern Chumash Tribal Council Chairman Fred Collins, would protect 7,000 square miles of ocean and 156 miles of coastline on the Central Coast from oil drilling and other development.

NCTC Chairwoman Violet Sage Walker, Collin’s daughter, said in a release: “The incredible outpouring of support for the Chumash Heritage sanctuary shows just how much people care about this incredible part of the world.”

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