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more news on Chevron Coronados project and XAMUs

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  • tertial
    All, 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
    Message 1 of 1 , May 27, 2004
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      All,

      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:
      http://www.signonsandiego.com/uniontrib/20040520/news_1n20islas.html


      Many worry gas plan will keep them away from Coronado Islands

      By Diane Lindquist
      STAFF WRITER

      May 20, 2004



      JOHN GIBBINS / Union-Tribune
      Fishermen on the San Diego-based boat Malihini motored past South
      Island,
      the largest of the Coronado Islands off the Mexican coast, on their
      way to
      fish in the nearby waters Tuesday.



      Islands are barren but have a rich, storied past



      CORONADO ISLANDS, Mexico ? Fishermen, divers, bird-watchers and
      others who
      work and play next to these islands fear not only that a proposed fuel
      receiving terminal would pose a serious environmental risk, but that
      a rare
      ocean resource may soon be off-limits to all but ChevronTexaco.

      "They're not just rocks," said Amy Berger, a director of SeaCamp,
      which
      takes thousands of youngsters from across the nation on snorkeling
      trips to
      the islands each year.

      "Our big concern is how much they're going to limit access to the
      islands
      and what it'll do to the islands," she said.

      Known as the "Sentinels of San Diego Harbor," the Coronados ? eight
      miles
      off Tijuana's Playas neighborhood ? are the property of Mexico.
      President
      Vicente Fox's administration is expected any day to give
      ChevronTexaco a
      30-year concession to operate a liquefied natural gas facility near
      the
      islands.

      The $650 million project would dramatically change the view of the
      Coronados
      from the beaches of Rosarito to high-rises in San Diego.



      ChevronTexaco, the only company bidding for the government concession
      to
      operate the facility at the Coronados, plans to anchor a platform
      about the
      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
      support
      operations and living facilities for 40 to 50 workers at a time. With
      the
      island offering protection from wind and surf, tankers are expected
      to dock
      and offload fuel every four days.

      Liquefied fuel would be re-gasified on the platform and then piped to
      the
      mainland for distribution in Baja California and Southern California.

      "Baja California and California have a real need for an energy
      supply,"
      said
      Carlos Atallah, the project's director. "We cannot sit and wait for
      bad
      news
      to happen. This is a solution.

      "The environmental impact has to be evaluated in this context," he
      said.

      ChevronTexaco's project would not be as disruptive as proposals for
      other
      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
      Energy
      and Shell on coastal property north of Ensenada. That project would
      require
      construction of a breakwater.



      NELVIN CEPEDA / Union-Tribune
      Naturalists worry that the Coronado Islands, one of which houses a
      Mexican
      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
      environment,"
      Atallah said.

      ChevronTexaco is aware of the concerns of those who visit the waters
      near
      the islands, he said. "We are doing everything in our power to
      accommodate
      those concerns."

      Some commercial and sport fishermen worry about an exclusion zone
      around
      the
      platform. They fear they would lose access to a prime area for
      catching
      scale fish or gathering sea urchins.

      "It'll kill us," said Francisco Javier López, who fishes out of
      Popotla.
      About 100 families in the village south of Rosarito subsist on the
      marine
      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
      create a
      special nature preserve around the islands. They suspect it might ban
      them
      as well as ChevronTexaco.

      "The ability to view the islands up close from the water shouldn't be
      taken
      away," said Myron Ackerman, director of the nonprofit San Diego Oceans
      Discovery Institute and co-owner of a boat that takes people out to
      see the
      Coronados.



      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
      Coronado Islands.

      "People in San Diego know the islands are there, but that's about all
      they
      know about them," Ackerman said. "They have no idea of what takes
      place out
      there."


      Assessing the threat
      Two months ago, leaders of the Sportfishing Association of California
      sought
      a meeting with ChevronTexaco executives to discuss the project.
      San Diego sportfishing vessels contribute $49 million and 1,200 jobs
      a year
      to the local economy, according to the San Diego Sport Fishing
      Council.

      "The industry needs the fishing area around the islands. It has been
      using
      it for 50 years. It's probably one of the top 10 spots we fish
      continually,"
      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
      threat to
      their livelihoods. But association members have doubts, Fletcher
      said. The
      company hasn't identified the location for the platform or the
      restricted
      zone.

      "For the time being, we feel like they're listening," Fletcher
      said. "But
      the devil's always in the details."

      Atallah said the zone would extend about 650 yards in all directions
      around
      the platform. It would be far enough from South Island to allow
      fishing and
      recreational access.

      While he wouldn't speculate on passage of the nature preserve
      legislation,
      he lauded the concept.

      "Our facility is not incompatible with that proposal," Atallah
      said. "We
      can
      be a facilitator in making the island a preserve. We can make it
      happen."

      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
      naturalist,
      said of the project. "I don't see how they could have enough
      knowledge and
      technical skill to avoid damaging the ecosystem."

      She and others believe the operation would endanger many of the
      creatures
      that make the Coronados a teeming natural wonderland.

      "ChevronTexaco and Mexico are risking a rare, valuable resource that
      both
      countries share," said Alfonso Aguirre Muñoz of Ensenada, director of
      a
      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
      not
      addressing endangered species. He said it was created for another
      project
      off the Texas coast.

      "They are cheating. They are using a concept from the Gulf of Mexico
      and
      saying it will be something like this," he said. "It's absurd the
      Mexican
      government is analyzing such a document."

      Atallah called the accusation "absolutely false." A team of
      specialists has
      spent two years researching the potential effect, he said.

      "This area has been selected very carefully after a study of the
      coastline
      from San Francisco to Ensenada," he said.

      Underwater life includes sea urchins, snails, jellyfish, mussels,
      yellowtail, bonita, barracuda, black sea bass, ling cod, whales,
      dolphins
      and the bright orange garibaldi, which is California's state marine
      fish.

      Pelicans, cormorants, herons, oystercatchers, gulls, osprey,
      phalaropes,
      terns and other seabirds are permanent or part-time residents.

      Harbor seals and sea lions bask at the water's edge. A colony of
      elephant
      seals uses the Coronados to mate, rest and give birth.

      ChevronTexaco's platform would sit in the path of California gray
      whales
      that migrate past the islands each year.


      Bird perils
      Naturalists and bird-watchers especially worry about the fragile fate
      of a
      pair of peregrine falcons and the region's largest breeding colony of
      Xantus' murrelet. The United States and Mexico list both as protected
      species.
      The Xantus' murrelet is in particular peril, they say.
      Conservationists say
      the nocturnal birds are drawn to lights and might crash into those at
      the
      fuel terminal. The lights also might disrupt their breeding, nesting
      and
      feeding.

      "They can't change a pattern that has developed over thousands of
      years
      just
      because there is a platform with lights," Aguirre said.

      Atallah said seabirds, including Xantus' murrelet, aren't bothered by
      lights
      at the Mexican navy outpost on South Island or the much brighter
      lighthouse.

      Nevertheless, he said, ChevronTexaco plans to employ experts over the
      next
      year to determine how to best reduce the effect on the birds.

      "Our project will have the minimum possible number of lights and will
      be
      specially designed to minimize the impact. We'll have lights pointed
      toward
      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,
      Atallah
      said. "It leaves a good space for any kind of activity currently
      going on
      in
      the island."

      Fish are not abundant in the area where the platform would be,
      because the
      sea bottom there is flat and sandy; fish prefer rocky terrain. The
      company
      has offered to cover its pipeline to shore with riprap to create a
      fish
      feeding area.

      Additionally, Atallah noted, California gray whales migrate without
      harm
      from Alaska to the southern part of the Baja California peninsula
      mingling
      with the heavy traffic of tankers and cargo ships at 10 West Coast
      ports.
      Therefore, he said, it's unlikely their journey would be affected by
      the
      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
      offshore
      location provides additional safety from accident or sabotage.

      "There's an extensive list of stakeholders, and we can't identify all
      of
      them," Atallah said. "But we are happy to meet with anyone and we are
      happy
      to accommodate them when we can."



      ----------------------------------------------------------------------
      ------

      ----
      Diane Lindquist: (619) 293-1812; diane.lindquist@...

      *******************************************
      Bradford S. Keitt
      Island Conservation
      Center for Ocean Health, LML
      100 Shaffer Road
      University of California
      Santa Cruz, CA 95060
      831.459.1565
      bkeitt@...
      *****************************************




      Steve Hampton
      Davis, CA
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