5/3/10 Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger today withdrew his support for a plan he championed to allow new offshore oil drilling off Santa Barbara County, citing the disastrous oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Schwarzenegger, whose administration as recently as Friday defended the proposed Tranquillon Ridge offshore drilling project, said images of the spill in the Gulf changed his mind.

"All of you have seen, when you turn on the television, the devastation in the Gulf, and I'm sure that they also were assured that it was safe to drill," he said at a news conference today. "I see on TV the birds drenched in oil, the fisherman out of work, the massive oil spill and oil slick destroying our precious ecosystem. That will not happen here in California, and this is why I am withdrawing my support for the T-Rridge project."

His new stance all but guarantees the demise of the proposal by a Texas oil company to allow the first new drilling in state waters in 40 years.

The governor had previously argued that the state, which is currently facing a $20 billion budget shortfall, should approve the plan to raise as much as $100 million a year in new revenue.

The plan would allow Plains Exploration & Production Co. (PXP) of Houston to use an existing oil platform in federal waters to drill just over the line in state waters. The plan included an agreement by Plains to shut down all operations in the area after 14 years.

"My support for the T-Ridge project in California was based on numerous studies making me feel it was safe to drill ... and a commitment to remove the platforms," Schwarzenegger said at the news conference, which largely focused on wildfire protection.

"If I have a choice between $100 million and what you area see in the Gulf of Mexico, I'd rather just find out a way to make up for that $100 million," he said. "(When) you turn on television and see the enormous disaster, you say to yourself, why would we want to take that risk? The risk is just much greater than the money is worth, and so we will figure out how to deal with the extra $100 million problem."

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4/12/10 Long held as an environmental success story after being taken off the endangered list in 1994, California gray whale sightings dropped from 25 a day in good years to five a day this season. Such anecdotal evidence has left conservationists and state officials worried about the whale's future, especially now that the International Whaling Commission in June will consider allowing 1,400 gray whales to be hunted over the next decade.

The decision will rely on a report that says the population is flourishing — a study critics say is spotty and outdated. The study draws on annual population estimates dating from 1967, but in the past decade only three census counts have been released, the most recent in 2006.

Since then, the estimated number of calves has plunged from more than 1,000 in 2006 to 312 in 2009. In addition, the species suffered a die-off of several thousand whales in 2000.

4/22/10 Carla Stejhr's photography show, "Sea Unseen," opened recently in the Passages of the Deep exhibit at the Oregon Coast Aquarium after a nine-month run at the Seattle Aquarium. Stehr's photos reveal sea creatures and plant life that typically can't be seen by the naked eye. But magnified 30,000 times or so, they look intricate and otherworldly. Some images seem as tame and orderly as the weave of fine fabric, while others loom B-movie scary.

Diatoms, or microscopic algae, appear as big as doughnuts fresh from the fryer. Flatfish gills seem so large and graceful you'd swear they're palm fronds swaying in a trade wind. A newly hatched red octopus looks enormous enough to wrap an arm around an ocean liner. And one of Stehr's favorite shots -- a newborn surf smelt devouring a freshly hatched crab -- is reminiscent of "Jaws."

Read the full artilce and view the images here.


5/6/10 In the water board's rejection letter, Deputy Director of Water Rights Victoria Whitney writes that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has authority over the project -- and changes must come through its licensing process. She claimed that a 2004 license amendment only reserved FERC's right to make changes to the license in the future, but did not delegate authority to the state.

The 2004 order says that whether Eel River diversions are consistent with California law must be decided by state authorities, “and it is not our intention to interfere with any actions they may take with respect to water rights.”

In a statement, Friends of the Eel River attorney Ellison Folk said that the state board took too narrow a view of its authority to require responsible use of the water and to protect salmon.

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On this 40th Earth Day, we want to thank our dedicated community in their efforts to make every day Earth Day in Humboldt County.  Our dedicated Keepers give us the strength to move forward in the many advocacy projects we are working on from the Balloon Track, the Marine Life Protection Act, our water quality monitoring program, and all the projects we are working on.  We would not be effective without the strong support of our community. So THANK YOU for your guidance and support and again, Happy Earth Day!

Read Beth Werner's My Word: Celebrating Earth Day in the Times Standard. Beth is Humboldt Baykeeper's outreach and marine life protection coordinator. 

Earth Day is here once again; the one day of the year dedicated to the environment. This Earth Day, take time to think about the environment that covers nearly 70 percent of our earth: the ocean.

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