New Coastal Commissioners Find Federal Funding At Risk
By Mel Nutter
During the Coastal Commission's 44 year history there has been one constant. It always has had new challenges to face. 2017 is no exception. Newly selected Executive Director Jack Ainsworth is now responsible for serving a Commission with three new Commissioners. Four other Commissioners will be replaced or reappointed when their terms expire in May.
In February, Governor Brown appointed Donne Brownsey, a former Sacramento lobbyist from Fort Bragg, to replace public member Wendy Mitchell.
In November Commissioner Martha McClure, a member of the Norte County Board of Supervisors lost her reelection bid. As a result, she lost her North Coast Commission seat as well. Governor Brown chose Humboldt County Board of Supervisor Ryan Sundberg to replace her. As a former tribal council member at the Trinidad Rancheria, Sundberg holds the distinction of being the first Native American to serve on the Commission.
The Senate Rules Committee filled the third seat, previously occupied by Marin County Supervisor Steve Kinsey as the North Central Coast elected representative, with San Francisco Supervisor Aaron Peskin. Before joining the Board of Supervisors, Peskin worked for several environmental groups and garnered the endorsement of the Sierra Club.
It is too early to tell how these Commissioners will perform, but they and their colleagues are facing a daunting financial challenge. For many years, California has had a federally certified coastal zone management program. One of the benefits of certification has been financial support from The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). In March, Executive Director Jack Ainsworth reported that if the cuts the Trump Administration has proposed for NOAA were instituted, the Commission would experience about a 10 percent budget cut. That would mean a loss of $2 million and staff layoffs for an agency already understaffed. The Chairs of the Coastal Commission, the Coastal Conservancy and the Bay Conservation and Development Commission sent a letter to the members of the California Congressional Delegation urging all of them to do all they could to see that the funding continues to be available.
It is well to keep in mind the words of former Coastal Commission Executive Director Peter Douglas, "The coast is never saved. It is always being saved." Please continue doing what you can to help save it.