IV: ENVIRONMENTAL CONSEQUENCES OF ALTERNATIVES
I. Section: Boundary Alternatives
In selecting the appropriate boundary, regulatory and management alternatives for the proposed Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, NOAA evaluated the environmental consequences of their implementation. This section discusses the consequences of the status quo as well as Sanctuary alternatives including those resulting from the preferred alternative. The consequences of the proposed action are discussed in the context of the predicted impacts to the affected activities and existing jurisdictions, if any, for the affected activities and the predicted impact to the resources and qualities of the
I. Section: Boundary Alternatives [Part IV TOC]
A. Introduction [Part IV TOC]
The seven boundary alternatives analyzed would protect resources and qualities of the Monterey Bay ecosystem to varying degrees of areal extent. Each boundary alternative is described on the basis of distribution of encompassed resources, qualities and human uses. Tables 26 summarizes, in comparative form, the percent of resources and uses encompassed by each boundary alternative relative to the entire study area (preferred boundary #5). The environmental consequences of each boundary alternative are discussed in the context of the preferred resource protection and management regime.
Those alternatives that excluded critical components of the ecosystem were not considered as they would not have met the purpose of the MPRSA to protect special areas of the marine environment on an ecosystem basis and to provide a coordinated and comprehensive approach to their conservation and management.
B. Boundary Alternative 1 [Part IV TOC]
Boundary alternative #1 is based both on depth and distance from shore and is designed to encompass the nearshore coastal resources. The emphasis of this alternative is on land-sea interactions and immediate coastal processes rather than the offshore marine environment.
Active tectonic and sedimentary processes are incorporated within this boundary alternative, but it does not include all of these processes. The western boundary includes the Palo Colorado-San Gregorio fault zone, the major tectonic boundary of the Salinian block; structure and stratigraphy are considerably different on either side of the line. The boundary incorporates mainly the Monterey, Soquel and Carmel Canyons that principally cut the shelf. Also, parts of the three sedimentary cells (Año Nuevo-Northern Monterey, Southern Monterey, and Sur Cells) are included. It would only provide a minimal buffer for the natural resources of Año Nuevo and the Big Sur coastline. The heads of the Carmel and Monterey Canyons would be included but the deep sea environments of the Canyon complexes would be excluded as would the areas above these canyons that are important as feeding grounds for sea birds and marine mammals.
The groundwater basins for the Monterey Bay region are also found within the boundary and all of the water quality studies associated with issues resulting from point-source and non-point source discharges can be addressed. However, offshore eddy, current, "jet", upwelling and pollutant dispersion patterns would not be incorporated within the boundary and thus would receive less emphasis from Sanctuary-initiated research studies and resource management initiatives.
This alternative is designed to encompass all of the resources in the immediate vicinity of the coastline (described in Part II, Section II). The boundary includes the entire range of fish and invertebrates found in the study area. The area also would include the best areas for sighting cetaceans from shore (off Point Lobos, Año Nuevo and Davenport) and important cetacean and seabird feeding areas along the canyon edge.
However this alternative does not provide sufficient habitat protection to migrating and foraging mammals and seabirds above the Canyon in the open ocean. The northern portion of the boundary would not include the northern limit of the sea otter range or the fishery resources off Pigeon Point. Also the nearness of the western portion of the boundary to the coast would not provide the nearshore resources of Año Nuevo, Big Sur and the kelp beds an effective buffer zone from potentially harmful offshore activities.
The boundary encompasses the areas with the longest history of research: the intertidal zone in Monterey Peninsula and around Point Lobos. This would provide a clearer interpretation of the entire range of habitat and community types typical of central and northern California. Monterey Bay, and its adjacent coastline would be the focus of the Sanctuary, and of the interpretation program. The program could focus on the various coastal environments and water quality protection issues. Offshore fisheries, such as the trawlers and gill netters, would be excluded and not available for study or inclusion in Sanctuary management programs to protect offshore marine resources. All marine oriented recreational opportunities (surfing, diving, sport fishing, boating, beachcombing, nature viewing) would be well represented, except for any offshore whale watching trips.
This alternative would preclude all State offshore oil and gas drilling but have almost no impact on future Federal OCS lease sales as the boundary approximately follows the three nautical mile limit. Also, offshore vessel traffic would pass beyond the western edge of the proposed boundary and thus be subject only to the prohibition regarding discharges outside the Sanctuary that enter the Sanctuary and injure Sanctuary resources or qualities, not to the prohibition regarding discharges within the Sanctuary. The limited extent of the geographical buffer from this boundary alternative leaves the resources and qualities of Monterey Bay quite vulnerable to routine vessel traffic and oil and gas activities such as waste and discharge disposal as well as more catastrophic events such as well blowouts or tanker collisions.
The Sanctuary could address the sources of point-source and non- point source pollution that may affect nearshore Sanctuary resources and qualities but would be limited in its ability to manage the effects of these waste disposal activities on offshore resources.
C. Boundary Alternative 2 [Part IV TOC]
Boundary alternative #2 would integrate many important coastal, nearshore, and deep ocean canyon resource zones into one management regime. These zones include Monterey Bay, the Big Sur coastal area, Año Nuevo, the adjacent continental shelf, slope, and rise as well as certain highly productive shoreline and intertidal areas, such as Pescadero Marsh and Elkhorn Slough, and the deep ocean environments of the Ascension, Monterey Bay, Big Sur and Partington Canyon complexes and a portion of the abyssal plain off Monterey.
The coastline boundary is contiguous with 32 units of the California State Park System and Beach System and Ecological Reserves. These units include the Point Lobos State Reserve, Hopkins Marine Life Refuge, Pacific Grove Marine Gardens Fish Refuge, Carmel Bay Ecological Reserve and the Julia Pfeiffer Burns Underwater Park with protection extending to subtidal marine habitats. Also, five Areas of Special Biological Significance (ASBS), established by the State of California, would be included in this alternative. In addition, all major research/education institutions in the region are encompassed within the boundary.
The boundary includes Año Nuevo, the most important rookery and resting area for pinniped species in central and northern California, including the largest breeding population of Steller sea-lions south of Alaska, as well as many colonies of sea birds. The northern boundary would also encompass the northern range of the Southern sea otter, extending to Pigeon Point.
Pescadero Marsh and Creek are important nesting areas for the snowy plover, a species of special concern in California. One fifth of the State's breeding population of snowy plovers are found in the Monterey Bay region. Pescadero Marsh is the largest coastal wetland between San Francisco Bay and the Elkhorn Slough. Also, the northern portion of the boundary is designed to encompass valuable commercial fishing grounds including a portion of the dover sole fishery between 400 and 1400 m and the nearshore trammel net and trawl fishery for halibut. Pigeon Point is also the site of the greatest sport and commercial salmon fishing within this boundary alternative early in the season.
The oil and gas resources to the north of boundary alternative #2 would still be available for leasing. In all areas of the Central California Planning Area, NOAA would work closely with MMS to determine any additional technological safeguards that may be necessary to protect the resources and qualities of the Sanctuary from any potential environmental injury.
Offshore vessel traffic would pass within the western edge of the boundary alternative. Thus vessel traffic within the Sanctuary would be subject to the Sanctuary prohibitions on discharges and deposits within the Sanctuary. However, the resources and qualities of the Monterey Bay area would still be vulnerable to catastrophic events such as vessel collisions or groundings and subsequent spill of oil or hazardous materials. The extent of the potential injury would depend on the season and corresponding current pattern, location and size of the spill.
The western portion of the boundary is constrained primarily by depth and geomorphic parameters. The boundary coincides with the termination of the Monterey Canyon on the ocean's abyssal plain at the Paleo Subduction Zone. Within this boundary the very active tectonic (fault rupture, earthquakes, landslides) and sedimentary processes (turbidity flows, landslides, littoral drift) of the Monterey Bay region take place. Three major sedimentary cells (Año Nuevo-Northern Monterey Bay, Southern Monterey Bay, and Sur cells) are present, terminated by Monterey, Carmel and Sur Canyons respectively. The entire Monterey Canyon system consisting of Ascension, Soquel, Monterey, and Carmel Canyons are included as well as the Fan-Valleys of Monterey Canyon.
The western portion of the boundary encompasses the deep ocean floor where cold-seeps that nourish abyssal, biological communities were recently discovered (EEZ News, October, 1989). These deep-sea communities have only recently been investigated and usually only in association with deep-sea hydrothermal vents. Many birds and mammals are found feeding in the deep waters over the Monterey Canyon. Many of these species are endangered or threatened and almost the entire population of ashy storm-petrels feed during summer and fall within the 1000 fathom (2000 m) isobath which is encompassed by the central and northern portions of the boundary alternative.
The southern boundary is drawn to encompass a shallow sublittorial habitat west of Point Sur. This Sur platform is heavily fished with different gear types for rockfish, dover sole, swordfish and thresher sharks. It is also a well known area to divers for its abundant and varied populations of benthic invertebrates. A recent benthic survey of the area discovered an extraordinary, diverse and abundant benthic community on this rocky platform (Cordell Expeditions, 1990). This boundary encompasses a major portion of the Sur Canyon and the Partington Canyon complexes and is contiguous with the southern boundary of the Julia Pfeiffer Burns Underwater Park and ASBS.
This southern area contains a pristine environment that is relatively uncontaminated when compared with more developed areas such as San Francisco Bay. The high water quality of this southern area provides the Sanctuary research program with an opportunity to contrast pollutant studies between developed versus undeveloped land/sea interfaces. However, kelp beds and sea otter habitat to the south would be outside this boundary alternative.
Throughout the entire area, the oceanic circulation is highly variable. Many complex current patterns exist within this boundary. For example, the Dungeness crab species is not produced locally, rather it is advected into local waters by prevailing currents (W. Graham, preliminary data, unpublished Master's Thesis, U.C. Santa Cruz). The influencing current during the relevant months (April- July) is the southerly flowing California Current. The Dungeness crab fishery is the most important commercial crab fishery on the West Coast. However the fishery has been greatly reduced due to a number of possible causes including overfishing in northern Monterey Bay (Dahlstrom and Wild, 1983), changes in ocean currents, increase in parasites that destroy the crab's eggs, and a decrease in water quality from adjacent land uses, leaving a small fishery in the Moss Landing area. To re-establish a fishery for the Santa Cruz region, the larvae need to recruit to local waters from north of Monterey Bay and produce an adult population that will approach self-maintaining.
Wind-driven, coastal upwelling occurs north and south of Monterey Bay and upwelled waters from these areas may be advected into the Bay. These nutrient-rich waters play a vital role in sustaining the high productivity of the Monterey Bay ecosystem. One locus of upwelling is the coastline south of Monterey, where currents and "jets" occur and may concentrate plankton, food for fishes, birds and mammals. These areas are encompassed by this boundary and provide an opportunity to plan research studies to investigate these oceanographic mechanisms.
Consideration of the physical oceanographic dynamics is important to protect the area's resources and qualities from possible contaminants transportable by currents and eddies. Main coastal current direction varies seasonally, so transport can come from either north or south. Coastal currents can transport dissolved or suspended materials at the rate of 10-20 miles/day. For example, the oil spilled by the Puerto Rican in October/November 1984 traveled 20 miles overnight. Thus, this boundary alternative is extremely vulnerable to offshore activities occurring to the north and south.
D. Boundary Alternative 3 [Part IV TOC]
Boundary alternative #3 is a variation of alternative #2 with a southern extension. All of the resources, uses and management considerations described above for boundary #2 would be incorporated. This discussion only references those additional resources, uses and management considerations involved with a southern extension of the boundary.
The southern portion of the boundary is designed to coincide with the southern boundary of the California Sea Otter Refuge and encompass the undeveloped and protected coastline along the Los Padres National Forest. This would provide an opportunity to integrate management and research plans on land and sea interactions across relatively pristine representatives of the two environments. In addition to the resources and features encompassed by boundary alternative #2, this southern extension encompasses additional concentrations of bird, fish and mammal habitat, and particularly offshore concentrations of marine mammals.
Located around Big Creek, Lopez Point and Grimes Point are unusually dense and diverse populations of encrusting invertebrates, including the hydrocoral, Allopora californica. Large areas of Giant Kelp and Bull Kelp are found along this southern coastline. Lopez Point is an important breeding and nesting area for large colonies of Pelagic and Brandts Cormorants, Western Gulls and Pigeon Guillemots. Around Lopez Point are large concentrations of squid and a rich area for the salmon fishery. An ASBS is located around the mouth of Salmon Creek. Large concentrations of harbor seals use the beaches north of Plaskett Rock as a haulout site. Cape San Martin is important as a haulout area for California sea lions and is also a mainland breeding site for the northern elephant seal. This boundary would also encompass two additional research centers, namely the U.C. Landels-Hill Big Creek Natural Reserve and the U.S. FWS Field Research Station at Point Piedras Blancas. Finally, this southern extension would provide more protection to the California sea otter by encompassing the entire range of the Official California Sea Otter Refuge.
Although this third alternative would provide additional protection to the resources and pristine habitats to the south, this boundary alternative would leave resources vulnerable to potentially disruptive activities to the north.
E. Boundary Alternative 4 [Part IV TOC]
Boundary alternative #4 is presented in response to public comments during the scoping meetings and is justified on the basis of providing a continuous management regime between the Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary and the proposed Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. This alternative is a variation of alternative #2 with a northern extension. All of the resources, uses and management considerations described above for boundary #2 would be incorporated. This discussion only references those additional resources, uses and management considerations involved with a northern extension.
A continuous Sanctuary would ensure that the resources of the Monterey Bay area would not be exposed to any discharges between the Gulf of the Farallones NMS and the proposed Monterey Bay NMS which are allowed under existing but not under Sanctuary regimes. Migratory species would also be better protected within a continuous Central California marine sanctuary. This northern extension encompasses additional fish, seabird and marine mammal habitat particularly offshore concentrations of seabirds.
This alternative would also encompass the coastal resources of the San Mateo Coast including the James V. Fitzgerald Marine Reserve Area and ASBS as well as the fishery resources and industry in Half Moon Bay and Princeton Harbor. Finally, the recreational and public interpretation facilities of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area could be incorporated into the programs of the Sanctuary as well as large numbers of historical and cultural sites particularly shipwrecks off of the Golden Gate.
Although this fourth alternative would provide a jurisdictional link between the Gulf of the Farallones and Monterey Bay NMSs, it does not encompass the nationally significant marine resources to the south.
F. Boundary Alternative 5 [Part IV TOC]
Boundary alternative #5, the preferred alternative and study area, includes all of the resources uses and management considerations discussed above for boundary #2 as well as both the extensions south and north described for alternatives #3 and #4 respectively. This alternative is slightly different from that proposed in the DEIS/MP in that a small area of approximately 71 square nmi. off the north coast of San Mateo County and the City and County of San Francisco has been excluded.
This alternative represents a total combination of all the different public comments and resource information gathered during the scoping process, preparation of the DEIS/MP and public hearings. The excluded area encompasses the anticipated discharge plume of the combined sewer overflow component of the City and County of San Francisco's sewage treatment program, the shipping channel providing access to and from San Francisco Bay, and the Golden Gate dredged material disposal site associated with this channel. NOAA has determined that the nature and level of these activities are not appropriate for inclusion within a national marine sanctuary. By excluding this small area from the Sanctuary, NOAA will be able to focus Sanctuary management on the long-term protection of other areas that contain nationally significant resources and qualities and are less heavily impacted by human activity. By excluding the anticipated discharge plume of the combined sewer overflow from the sanctuary, a buffer zone has been created protecting sanctuary resources and qualities from the discharge.
Only a couple of commenters suggested that the alternatives include an even larger boundary extending from the State of Alaska to the Mexican border and out to 200 miles. This suggestion was determined to be beyond the scope of reasonable analysis for the DEIS/MP for the proposed Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary and therefore was not considered further. Boundary alternative #5 would encompass the greatest number of nationally significant resources while providing additional protection against potential threats from inside and outside the study area.
G. Boundary Alternative 6 [Part IV TOC]
Boundary alternative #6 is based on excluding areas offered by now canceled Lease Sale 119 for development of hydrocarbon resources. The exclusion of all of Lease Sale 119 from the boundary alternative would make available any oil, gas or mineral resources in the southern portion of the ex-Lease Sale area (Figure 17). This area has geological characteristics that may have resulted in the generation and accumulation of commercial volumes of hydrocarbons (Mullins and Nagel, 1982). Economically recoverable hydrocarbon resources could possibly exist and, under this alternative, be available for development.
NOAA would coordinate with MMS during all phases of the OCS development planning process, including prior to the exploration plan approval, to determine any additional technological safeguards or environmental monitoring that may be necessary to help protect Sanctuary resources and qualities.
Oil and gas offshore operational technology has advanced considerably since the 1960's (Baker, 1985) and the experiences from past blowouts and spills have served as the catalyst for the relatively strong Federal OCS oil and gas regulatory regime that now exists. The Department of the Interior, MMS, final rule for oil and gas and sulphur operations in the OCS, (30 CFR Parts 250 and 256) provides the regulatory regime for more performance standards, and new and updated requirements for operational and environmental safety. The Director of MMS shall require "on all new drilling and production operations and, wherever practicable, on existing operations, the use of the Best Available and Safest Technologies, which the Director determines to be economically feasible, where ever failure of equipment would have a significant effect on safety, health, or the environment, except where the Director determines that the incremental benefits are clearly insufficient to justify the incremental costs of utilizing such technologies." (30 CFR Part 250.22). Numerous regulations exist to help prevent blowouts during the different phases of oil and gas activities and which require adequately trained personnel during OCS operations.
However, it is NOAA's mandate under the MPRSA to identify special areas of the marine environment of special national significance due to their resource or human-use values and provide authority for comprehensive and coordinated conservation and management of these marine areas. Since Monterey Bay was considered for National Marine Sanctuary status in December 1979, NOAA has appraised the physical, geological, chemical and biological resources of the Monterey Bay area as part of an entire ecosystem. The distinct and complex bathymetry, current patterns and ocean structure induce upwelling of productive nutrient-rich waters that, in turn, are directly responsible for the abundant and diverse biological resources that are distributed from as far north as Año Nuevo and Pigeon Point to south of the Big Sur coastline. The combination of this ecosystem's resources and human uses in the proposed Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary meet all of the criteria set by NOAA for meeting the standards of the MPRSA.
Scientific evidence and public opinion are still divided regarding the effects of oil and gas activities on the nationally significant natural resources of the Monterey Bay area despite the available technology and operational regulations used in developing the OCS.
In general, boundary alternative #6 would not only exclude the majority of biological resources that are part of the Monterey Bay area ecosystem but leave the Monterey Bay area vulnerable to oil spills, blowouts, noise and visual disturbances and pollution from aquatic discharges. Specifically: (a) There would be no buffer for Año Nuevo or fishing grounds in two canyons to the north of Monterey Bay, (b) Scenic beauty north of Monterey Bay would be substantially altered, (c) The threat of oil spills (50% probability of 0.69 estimated mean number of spills of greater than 1000 barrels from activities directly associated with oil and gas activities in the central California OCS Planning area) and the discharges (estimated 302,000 barrels of muds and cuttings and 225 million barrels of formation waters), despite MMS controls, would certainly affect Sanctuary resources and qualities due to south flowing current and minimal amount of time for chemical and physical weathering processes. Due to the mandate of the MPRSA to protect Nationally significant natural resources and qualities from an ecosystem perspective and the reality of the threat to these resources in the Monterey Bay area, NOAA is proposing to eliminate concern for any adverse environmental impacts that may occur in the Sanctuary from oil and gas activities by prohibiting these activities within the proposed Sanctuary boundary (Alternative #5).
H. Boundary Alternative 7 [Part IV TOC]
Boundary alternative #7 is also based on excluding areas offered by ex-Lease Sale 119 for development of hydrocarbon resources. Like boundary alternative #6 this scenario would exclude all of ex-Lease Sale 119 as well as additional areas adjacent to ex-Lease Sale 119 and all the area south of Monterey Canyon exclusive of state waters. This alternative makes the economically recoverable hydrocarbon resources that possibly exist in these areas potentially available for future development.
This boundary alternative encompasses the same coastal uses, resources and qualities described for boundary alternative #1 and in addition focuses on encompassing the main features of the Monterey Canyon at depths below 500 fathoms.
The same drawbacks advanced for boundary alternative #6 regarding both offshore technology and NOAA's statutory authority under the MPRSA apply to boundary alternative #7. This boundary alternative would leave the Monterey Bay area vulnerable to oil spills, blowouts, noise and visual disturbances, and pollution from aquatic discharges.
Specifically, there would be no buffer for Año Nuevo or fishing grounds in the canyons to the north of Monterey Bay, there would be no buffer for Point Sur or fishing grounds in Partington Canyon to the south of Monterey Bay and significant portions of primary commercial fishing areas notably Rockfish longline fisheries, trawling zones off Santa Cruz, and similar longline fisheries off Point Lobos would be excluded.
Significant seaward extensions of Ascension and Partington submarine canyons would be excluded, as would significant areas of habitat for migrating and foraging animals above and below Monterey Canyon. Important areas of upwelling, oceanic currents, eddies and jets north and south of Monterey Canyon would also be excluded.
The scenic beauty north and south of Monterey Bay would be substantially altered if oil and gas activities were to occur and the threat of oil spills and drilling discharges would be extended to exceptionally pristine ocean environments south of Monterey Canyon.