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Feds expand two Calif marine sanctuaries

Feds expand two Calif marine sanctuaries
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The federal government formally expanded two northern California marine sanctuaries on Tuesday, restricting boat movement there and blocking any potential future oil and gas development. 

The area covered by the Cordell Bank and the Gulf of Farallones marine sanctuaries more than doubled in the expansion, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said Tuesday. The sanctuaries stretch from around Bodega Bay, Calif., about 42 miles north of San Francisco, northward to Point Arena, Calif.

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The measure adds new restrictions to the movement of cargo ships, personal watercraft and airplanes, the Associated Press reports, and prevents future oil and gas drilling there. The expansion took effect after a 45-day period of congressional review.

NOAA had fielded public interest in expanding the sanctuaries as early as 2001. In 2012, the agency introduced its expansion plan and received mostly supportive comments on it.

Under the plan, the Cordell Bank sanctuary grew from 529 square miles to 1,286 square miles. The newly-renamed Greater Farallones sanctuary expanded from 1,282 square miles to 3,295 square miles. 

“This expansion represents the culmination of a multi-year effort to protect an important part of the ocean,” John Armor, the acting director of NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, said in a statement. “We look forward to working with our partners in these sanctuaries’ communities.”

The move is designed to protect the region's marine and coastal habitats. The sanctuaries "promote stewardship, conduct scientific and applied research initiatives, and develop and support programs to strengthen resource protection for the long-term health of the region," the agency said.