more news on Chevron Coronados project and XAMUs
News on Chevron's plan to build a huge platform 1/4 mile off the
Coronados has been hard to come by. This recent article is the first
one that mentions the potential impacts to XANTUS'S MURRELET through
light pollution-induced collisions. Note that the Coronados hold the
largest colony of XAMU.
try this to see photos:
Many worry gas plan will keep them away from Coronado Islands
By Diane Lindquist
May 20, 2004
JOHN GIBBINS / Union-Tribune
Fishermen on the San Diego-based boat Malihini motored past South
the largest of the Coronado Islands off the Mexican coast, on their
fish in the nearby waters Tuesday.
Islands are barren but have a rich, storied past
CORONADO ISLANDS, Mexico ? Fishermen, divers, bird-watchers and
work and play next to these islands fear not only that a proposed fuel
receiving terminal would pose a serious environmental risk, but that
ocean resource may soon be off-limits to all but ChevronTexaco.
"They're not just rocks," said Amy Berger, a director of SeaCamp,
takes thousands of youngsters from across the nation on snorkeling
the islands each year.
"Our big concern is how much they're going to limit access to the
and what it'll do to the islands," she said.
Known as the "Sentinels of San Diego Harbor," the Coronados ? eight
off Tijuana's Playas neighborhood ? are the property of Mexico.
Vicente Fox's administration is expected any day to give
30-year concession to operate a liquefied natural gas facility near
The $650 million project would dramatically change the view of the
from the beaches of Rosarito to high-rises in San Diego.
ChevronTexaco, the only company bidding for the government concession
operate the facility at the Coronados, plans to anchor a platform
size of three football fields east of South Island, the largest of the
group's four islands.
The platform would hold a re-gasification plant, storage tanks, and
operations and living facilities for 40 to 50 workers at a time. With
island offering protection from wind and surf, tankers are expected
and offload fuel every four days.
Liquefied fuel would be re-gasified on the platform and then piped to
mainland for distribution in Baja California and Southern California.
"Baja California and California have a real need for an energy
Carlos Atallah, the project's director. "We cannot sit and wait for
to happen. This is a solution.
"The environmental impact has to be evaluated in this context," he
ChevronTexaco's project would not be as disruptive as proposals for
areas, and it would cost about 10 percent less, Atallah said. The most
notable of the other projects is a joint venture proposed by Sempra
and Shell on coastal property north of Ensenada. That project would
construction of a breakwater.
NELVIN CEPEDA / Union-Tribune
Naturalists worry that the Coronado Islands, one of which houses a
navy outpost, would be put at risk by building a liquefied natural gas
facility near them.
"You have an area that we have done a great deal of study on and have
concluded . . . the project will have the least impact on the
ChevronTexaco is aware of the concerns of those who visit the waters
the islands, he said. "We are doing everything in our power to
Some commercial and sport fishermen worry about an exclusion zone
platform. They fear they would lose access to a prime area for
scale fish or gathering sea urchins.
"It'll kill us," said Francisco Javier López, who fishes out of
About 100 families in the village south of Rosarito subsist on the
life caught in waters surrounding the Coronado Islands, he said.
Fishermen and others are equally concerned about an attempt by Mexican
congressional opponents to kill the project with legislation to
special nature preserve around the islands. They suspect it might ban
as well as ChevronTexaco.
"The ability to view the islands up close from the water shouldn't be
away," said Myron Ackerman, director of the nonprofit San Diego Oceans
Discovery Institute and co-owner of a boat that takes people out to
JOHN GIBBINS / Union-Tribune
Tim Green, owner and captain of the San Diego-based sportfishing boat
Malihini, pulled up a yellowtail during Tuesday's fishing trip to the
"People in San Diego know the islands are there, but that's about all
know about them," Ackerman said. "They have no idea of what takes
Assessing the threat
Two months ago, leaders of the Sportfishing Association of California
a meeting with ChevronTexaco executives to discuss the project.
San Diego sportfishing vessels contribute $49 million and 1,200 jobs
to the local economy, according to the San Diego Sport Fishing
"The industry needs the fishing area around the islands. It has been
it for 50 years. It's probably one of the top 10 spots we fish
said Bob Fletcher, the association's director. "People are absolutely
stunned at the vibrancy of life out there."
ChevronTexaco representatives assured them the project poses no
their livelihoods. But association members have doubts, Fletcher
company hasn't identified the location for the platform or the
"For the time being, we feel like they're listening," Fletcher
the devil's always in the details."
Atallah said the zone would extend about 650 yards in all directions
the platform. It would be far enough from South Island to allow
While he wouldn't speculate on passage of the nature preserve
he lauded the concept.
"Our facility is not incompatible with that proposal," Atallah
be a facilitator in making the island a preserve. We can make it
The project's impact on fish, birds and mammals is far from certain,
however. And that troubles many in San Diego and Baja California whose
livelihoods and recreation center on the islands.
"I think it's been kept very quiet," Barbara Moore, a San Diego
said of the project. "I don't see how they could have enough
technical skill to avoid damaging the ecosystem."
She and others believe the operation would endanger many of the
that make the Coronados a teeming natural wonderland.
"ChevronTexaco and Mexico are risking a rare, valuable resource that
countries share," said Alfonso Aguirre Muñoz of Ensenada, director of
group dedicated to conserving the islands' ecology.
"We have to fight for something that should be preserved for future
generations," he said. "If we lose it, we will have lost a lot."
Aguirre criticized ChevronTexaco's environmental impact statement for
addressing endangered species. He said it was created for another
off the Texas coast.
"They are cheating. They are using a concept from the Gulf of Mexico
saying it will be something like this," he said. "It's absurd the
government is analyzing such a document."
Atallah called the accusation "absolutely false." A team of
spent two years researching the potential effect, he said.
"This area has been selected very carefully after a study of the
from San Francisco to Ensenada," he said.
Underwater life includes sea urchins, snails, jellyfish, mussels,
yellowtail, bonita, barracuda, black sea bass, ling cod, whales,
and the bright orange garibaldi, which is California's state marine
Pelicans, cormorants, herons, oystercatchers, gulls, osprey,
terns and other seabirds are permanent or part-time residents.
Harbor seals and sea lions bask at the water's edge. A colony of
seals uses the Coronados to mate, rest and give birth.
ChevronTexaco's platform would sit in the path of California gray
that migrate past the islands each year.
Naturalists and bird-watchers especially worry about the fragile fate
pair of peregrine falcons and the region's largest breeding colony of
Xantus' murrelet. The United States and Mexico list both as protected
The Xantus' murrelet is in particular peril, they say.
the nocturnal birds are drawn to lights and might crash into those at
fuel terminal. The lights also might disrupt their breeding, nesting
"They can't change a pattern that has developed over thousands of
because there is a platform with lights," Aguirre said.
Atallah said seabirds, including Xantus' murrelet, aren't bothered by
at the Mexican navy outpost on South Island or the much brighter
Nevertheless, he said, ChevronTexaco plans to employ experts over the
year to determine how to best reduce the effect on the birds.
"Our project will have the minimum possible number of lights and will
specially designed to minimize the impact. We'll have lights pointed
the coast and not toward the island," he said.
The platform's distance from South Island would be enough so that the
habitat of the seals and sea lions won't be significantly affected,
said. "It leaves a good space for any kind of activity currently
Fish are not abundant in the area where the platform would be,
sea bottom there is flat and sandy; fish prefer rocky terrain. The
has offered to cover its pipeline to shore with riprap to create a
Additionally, Atallah noted, California gray whales migrate without
from Alaska to the southern part of the Baja California peninsula
with the heavy traffic of tankers and cargo ships at 10 West Coast
Therefore, he said, it's unlikely their journey would be affected by
less-active fuel terminal.
"It's by far the best project being proposed," Atallah said.
Besides causing less disruption to the environment, he said, the
location provides additional safety from accident or sabotage.
"There's an extensive list of stakeholders, and we can't identify all
them," Atallah said. "But we are happy to meet with anyone and we are
to accommodate them when we can."
Diane Lindquist: (619) 293-1812; diane.lindquist@...
Bradford S. Keitt
Center for Ocean Health, LML
100 Shaffer Road
University of California
Santa Cruz, CA 95060