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The future of Orange County’s Marine Protected Areas

Coastkeeper monitors activities in or near all of the MPAs of Orange County. For example, if there is new development near an MPA such as the construction of a new dock in the Upper Newport Bay, Coastkeeper will take a look at the project to ensure that it complies with MPA regulations.

A recent example of Coastkeeper’s involvement came when the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit came up for renewal for the AES Power Plant in Huntington Beach came up for renewal.

Coastkeeper made sure that MPAs were specifically mentioned in the permit to ensure that MPAs could not be harmed under that permit. Coastkeeper is also working to ensure that MPAs are considered as part of the new MS4 (Municipal Storm Water) permit that is being developed by the Regional Water Quality Control Board.

Coastkeeper’s long-term goal is for MPAs to be recognized and considered in all permits for projects may impact them and have all of the Orange County MPAs designated as State Water Quality Protection Areas to increase the water quality protections for them.

In the meantime, Coastkeeper is attending Coastal Commission, city council, and local planning commission meetings. If for example, someone is making modifications to a house that is adjacent to a marine protected area, we will take a look at that. Coastkeeper recently commented on two construction projects in Upper Newport Bay near the Pacific Coast Highway bridge that were proposing construction over the water in that MPA, noting that if they want to create new water on their own land they can do that. However, they are not allowed to build out over the water into the MPA.

The Marine Life Protection Act requires that MPAs are adaptively managed through five-year reviews of their effectiveness, so the first such review for the system will come in 2017. After only five years it is unlikely that enough scientific data will be available about the MPAs to support shrinking, expanding or eliminating any of the MPAs. The most likely scenario is that everything will remain the same for this first round.

Through the MPA Watch program, Coastkeeper and others continue to monitor our Marine Protected areas and eventually hope to demonstrate the value of preserving our marine life for the future. For more information or to become involved go to the Coastkeeper MPA Watch page or the statewide MPA Watch program web page at

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