Palos Verdes to Be Protected During Oil Spill

PV ACP whales

Before today, it’s possible that the Palos Verdes Peninsula could have been ignored if an oil spill hit our coast. Today, I was given the chance to present to the local oil spill response professionals about protecting the Palos Verdes Peninsula. If you don’t know, there is a formal group that crafts the master plan of who, what, where, why and how to respond to oil spills in our area. They create the site strategies for the sensitive sites along the shore that will receive protection during an oil spill response effort. This group is called the Los Angeles/Long Beach Area Committee, and the plan is the Los Angeles/Long Beach Area Contingency Plan (ACP). As environmentalists, we want them to be the best they can be, with all of the resources they need, and a plan that is comprehensive, up-to-date, efficient, flexible and effective. The group is led by the U.S Coast Guard and California Department of Fish and Wildlife Office of Spill Prevention and Response, with oil industry, response contractors, and NGOs like us as members.

As what appears to be an oversight in the ACP planning process, the Palos Verdes Peninsula is not currently included as a sensitive site, and thus would not be protected during an oil spill in coastal waters. Not PV, it’s too important! That’s where we are restoring kelp forest habitat. Palos Verdes is sensitive indeed, being critical habitat for over 800 marine species, and host to Federal and State endangered bird, mammal and fish species. Palos Verdes is also home to kelp forests, surfgrass beds, rocky intertidal, deep rocky reef habitat, and adjacent to the Redondo Beach submarine canyon; creating a busy oceanic intersection for myriad forms of life…including us! Local fisheries, businesses, recreation and tourism all depend on a healthy and protective Palos Verdes. PV even received ecosystem-level protection over one year ago through the new Marine Protected Areas off the shores of Point Vicente and Abalone Cove.

As it turns out from the meeting today, the fact that the federally endangered black abalone rely on a non-oiled Palos Verdes for survival was reason enough for putting the entire peninsula on the ACP. Due to the federal and state processes that will ensue, we should see Palos Verdes listed as a sensitive site on the ACP by 2014. Thanks to the Area Committee for receiving our presentation, and immediately creating a sub-committee to test site strategies off PV! And special thanks to Toffer Mackay, who volunteered his time and talent to compile the data, photos and GIS layers for our argument.

Every discussion on oil spill response deserves a reminder that there is no winner in oil spills. It is absolutely imperative that we prevent them in the first place. Stay tuned for a LA Waterkeeper report, ‘Crude Awakenings’, that discusses LA Waterkeeper’s concerns about local oil operations. Also, be sure to check out our Kelp Restoration Program, which is located in the precious Palos Verdes Peninsula.

-Brian Meux, Marine Programs Manager

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