Tomales Bay plan sails forward to feds

05/02/2013

The California State Lands Commission has lifted a hurdle for a plan by the federal government that would develop formal rules for boating in Tomales Bay for the first time. At a regular meeting on Friday in Sacramento the commission approved the Tomales Bay Vessel Management Plan and adopted a negative declaration of significant environmental impact.

Regulations for the management and leasing of mooring buoys on Tomales Bay are the product of an occasionally combative public process that has unfolded since 2007. More contentious proposals initially put forth—which boaters said improperly endorsed equipment like helix anchors and elastic rodes, lacked a requirement to use 55-gallon drums, included derogatory language related to boaters and promoted a costly permitting process—drew about 50 public comments.

That feedback prompted revisions and the elimination of the more controversial measures in a process involving 10 government agencies, boaters, residents, shoreline businesses and groups including the Tomales Bay Boaters Association, the East Shore Planning Group and the Environmental Action Committee of West Marin.

The mooring plan now moves forward to a federal approval process.

Recreational and commercial boating has long been popular in Tomales Bay, but officials with the Gulf of the Farallones, a division of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, raised questions in recent years about the legal status of the moorings as well as the environmental impacts from the possible introduction of invasive species, wildlife disturbances and pollution by boat-maintenance products and oil.