Some before too long, someone will write a history of the Pacific Coast - not the land side, but the water. Many things have been happening there in the last few decades. Populations of marine life have risen and fallen. We've seen dead zones, and unusual swirls of high-motion water. There's a whole natural story out there awaiting the telling.
Soon, we'll have many more of the pieces of that story. Oregon House Bill 3013A, which just cleared the Oregon Senate (of 90 legislators, just three voted in opposition) and likely will soon be signed into law by Governor Ted Kulongoski, sets up two "historic reserves" in areas off the coast, and a process for evaluating four more for inclusion. Each reserve would be thoroughly studied. Much of the money for that (you were wondering, weren't you?) will come from funds paid in after the grounding of the cargo ship called the New Carissa, just over a decade ago near Coos Bay, spilling fuel and causing other damage.
Senator Joanne Verger, who is from Coos Bay, remarked that “Our community endured a lot when the New Carissa ran aground in Coos Bay. It started out as this huge hassle, eventually it became a great tourist attraction, and then it was taken away over our objections. I am glad this Legislature has recognized the nexus between the damage that was caused and the need to use the money for the betterment of our coastal resources.”
A description from the group Our Ocean:
HB-3013A describes the plan for establishing marine reserves at Otter Rock near Depoe Bay and Redfish Rocks near Port Orford. It also lays the groundwork for a set of community groups to evaluate marine reserves proposed for Cape Falcon, Cascade Head, Cape Perpetua and Cape Arago.
This effort could not be more timely: the ocean faces growing pressure from climate change, pollution and a variety of other human impacts. In May, delegates from more than 70 nations at the World Ocean Conference urged concerted action to address threats to ocean health, and 400 scientists signed a consensus statement describing marine protected areas as part of the solution.
With the approval of HB-3013-A, Oregon is poised to join California and Washington in science-based ocean protection using marine reserves. In total, 22 U.S. states and 29 countries around the world use these proven tools to safeguard the long-term health and productivity of the ocean.
Plenty of eyes will be on the process, and whatever it comes up with.