The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) anticipates releasing the Draft Designation Documents for the proposed Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary.
A draft proposed rule and management plan for the sanctuary are expected to be released early this summer, concurrently with the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for the proposed designation required by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The draft management plan will describe the non-regulatory programmatic strategies and actions the new sanctuary will undertake for an initial 10-year period. The draft proposed rule will include a permit process to allow activities otherwise prohibited within the sanctuary. Federal regulations generally prohibit disturbance to, alteration of, or construction on sanctuary seabeds (see 15 CFR pt. 922 (2023)). The DEIS will analyze the impact of designating the sanctuary and will include alternatives to the plan, such as boundary alternatives. These documents will be published and available for comment on the Chumash Sanctuary website.
The sanctuary is proposed to be located along approximately 150 miles of coastline off San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties. The proposed area covers approximately 7,670 square miles and is proposed immediately south and southwest of the Monterey Bay Sanctuary and the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management-designated Morro Bay 399 Wind Energy Area. NOAA anticipates completing the designation process in 2024.
National marine sanctuaries preserve marine ecosystems and heritage. The Northern Chumash Tribal Council submitted a nomination for the designation of a national marine sanctuary to NOAA in 2015. NOAA initiated a process to consider designating a portion of waters along and offshore of the central coast of California as a national marine sanctuary in 2021. The designation process is proceeding concurrently with the NEPA review process, which formally commenced with NOAA’s November 10, 2021, publication of a Notice of Intent to prepare a DEIS and commence the NEPA public scoping period.