Covid-19 weekly meeting notes

COVID-19 Community Response Group Meeting Notes

August 5, 2020

Attendees (via Zoom):

20th Congressional District, State Senate District 17, 30thAssembly District, CA State Parks, US Forest Service, 5thDistrict Supervisor, Parks Management Company, Ventana Wilderness Alliance, Big Sur Chamber of Commerce, Big Sur Health Center, Esalen Institute, Big Sur Fire, Big Sur CERT, and the Community Association of Big Sur 

USFSLPNF Monterey District Ranger Tim Short, John Eifert sitting in:• Announced that the Monterey District has requested a COVID-19 Emergency Road Closure on the following roads to the public: South Coast Ridge Road, Central Coast (Cone Peak) Road, Los Burros (Willow Creek) Road, and Plaskett Ridge Road.• This Emergency Road Closure will go into effect this Friday, August 7th and will stay in effect through October 19, 2020.• The Monterey District is working collaboratively with other agency partners and private property owners for solutions to complex problems.• The Strategic Fuel Break Project has been awarded from funding from the Joint Chiefs and California Climate Initiative Grants. It is undergoing planning efforts for implementation in Fiscal Year 2020, 2021 and 2022. For Fiscal Year 2020 work will be implemented on approximately 157 acres along the North Coast Ridge Road.• Butch asked how the Great American Outdoors Act will impact funding projects in the Monterey District. John replied LPNF will get some funding and will report more next week.• Kirk sought clarification if there will be restrictions on the Nacimiento/Ferguson Road with the Emergency Road Closure Order. John replied there will be no restrictions.• Butch, Martha Karstens and Matt Harris thanked John and the LPNF for taking this action to address the impacts of visitation on the south coast ridges.

Big Sur Fire, Chief Matt Harris reports:• Matt sought clarification on Forest Order and confirmed the following: that the Forest Service closes the roads only and Trailheads remain open; Big Sur Fire will have access to the proposed gates in case of fire; and residents on the south coast ridges also have access with the gates. • Big Sur Fire remains busy with rescues and car accidents.• Big Sur Fire graduated a class of 10 new fire fighters.• Butch wanted to acknowledge Marcus and Trey’s reporting on the conditions on the south coast last weekend. Butch pointed out that their data helped make the case that the visitation on the south coast needed to be addressed and was out of control. Matt goes on to say that Big Sur Fire appreciated the quick collaboration with the Forest Service that led to the Emergency Road Closure.• Matt touched on the need for Monterey County, State and Federal to have a uniform fine structure across jurisdictions.• In later remarks Matt suggested that all firewood at point-of-sale have an insert with clearly stated fire restrictions outside of developed campgrounds. Matt to work with Big Sur Chamber on this messaging.

Ventana Wilderness Alliance, Mike Splain reports:• Since our last call, 2 Volunteer Wilderness Rangers spent 21 hours patrolling the Cone Peak Trail, greeting 34 visitors, packing out a pound of trash, dismantling 4 fire rings, and placing social distancing signage at nearby trailheads.• VWA Trail Crew Leaders and American Conservation Experience contract crews (supported by USFS packers) are currently working on the Pine Ridge Trail between Barlow Flat and Sykes Camp. The trail is tentatively scheduled to re-open in the fall, with a pilot permit system in place to educate visitors on fire safety and Leave No Trace ethics, and to monitor the volume of visitation.• The hope is that restoring this access will serve to more safely disperse visitation and alleviate resource damage currently impacting other extremely popular coastal trails.

Parks Management CompanyJeremy Waggoner:• The developed campgrounds are full.• Day Use areas are below capacity which is rare for this time of year.

CA. State ParksBig Sur Sector Supervisor Marcos Ortegareports:• Marcos was unable to attend.

Big Sur Health Center:• There are currently 10 positive cases of COVID-19.• The Health Center has performed 14 new COVID tests this week bringing the total to 328 tests. There is a 6 day turn around for positive tests and a 3 day turn around for negative tests.

Big Sur Chamber of Commerce, Kirk Gafill reports:• Kirk Gafill reports overall business in Big Sur is down 20-25%.• Monterey County businesses have multiple challenges including turn-around time on COVID-19 testing results and an already diminished labor pool.• Kirk states that the Big Sur Health Center has been an extraordinary resource for the Big Sur business community in meeting the challenges of COVID-19.

Fifth District Supervisor. Sarah Hardgrave for Supervisor Mary Adams reports.• Sarah acknowledged Kirk’s comments on the challenges in multiple sectors of the economy and distance learning of children this fall.• Mary Adams and Chris Lopez coordinated getting message boards installed at the east and west ends of the Nacimiento / Ferguson Road. The message mirroring the Cal Trans message board stating: No Campfires Strictly Enforced.• Supervisor Adams is looking at both short term and long term solutions to deal with the illegal roadside camping issue. • Sarah screen shared the County Health Department dashboard showing where the County is in terms of the metrics driving our operational status under COVID.• 3 of 10 metrics are in the red.  These are: 14 day cumulative COVID incidence per 100k residents = 361, Percent of Nursing Facilities with no new COVID cases in last 14 days = 50% and 7 day average positivity rate of those tested = 14.8%• Monterey County is working closely with hospitals and also seeking alternative housing sites for those needing to be quarantined.

20th Congressional District, Katie Moon on behalf of Congressman Jimmy Panetta:• Katie reported that she and Phil Deppert had a conversation with Butch regarding strategy on how to address cross jurisdictional enforcement challenges on the following: illegal camping, illegal campfires, resource destruction, trespassing, etc. • Great American Outdoors Act passed. The bill has been signed into law. This results are $9 billion dollars available for public lands. Addressing deferred maintenance is a high priority for this funding. 

30th Assembly District. Dominic Dursa for Assembly Member Robert Rivas.• Following up with last week’s suggestion that the local electeds work on a responsible recreation message. Dominic, Colleen Courtney, Katie Moon and Sarah Hardgrave met to start this conversation.

17th State Senate DistrictColleen Courtney for Senator Bill Monning reports:• Colleen was unable to attend.

Community Emergency Response Team, Martha Karstens:• CERT is working with Monterey County to upgrade their repeater.

Esalen Institute. Lacy Shannon:• Lacy was unable to attend.

Monterey County Sheriff Department, Deputy Villasenor:• Jesse was unable to attend.

Community Association of Big SurButch Kronlund. EDreports:• The Sunday morning illegal roadside camping sweep revealed 109 vehicles using Highway 1 turn outs, from Mal Paso Bridge to the SLO county line, to illegally camp.• Pacific Valley continues to be busy with illegal roadside camping (20 vehicles) and 9 tents counted out on the bluff.• Illegal campfires on Prewitt Ridge and Alms = 21 this last weekend. With 3 illegal campfires reported on Los Burros and San Martin.• During the course of the meeting the issue of who has authority to cite under which code is an on-going impediment to changing unwanted visitor behavior. For example, the USFS has a fine structure of $5,000 for an illegal campfire. The County on the other hand has a fine that is far less. The enforcement for illegal roadside camping is dependent upon which jurisdiction the camper is on. For instance, if a roadside camper is across the street from Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park and is cited by a State Park Ranger the procedure for issuing the ticket and the cost to pay the fine are significantly different than the procedure and the cost to pay the fine if issued by a Monterey County Sheriff or CHP. In order for the public to be forewarned and in order for law enforcement to have an easily enforceable action the jurisdictions need to be on the same page regarding legal language and fine structure. Sarah, with Supervisor Adams Office, thanked Butch for clarifying what the challenge is.

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USFS closes 4 popular dirt roads in the South Coast of Big Sur

The three roads that people live on have suffered significant damage such that emergency responders cannot respond with needed equipment if there is a fire or other emergency. Additionally, every night there is at least one illegal campfire. Local residents applaud the order, which goes into effect today, 8/7 and remains in effect until Oct 19.

Given the nature of the comments I have received, I am turning off all comments for this post.

Incident on Old Coast Road

This is all over social media, but I was on a grocery run And didn’t get it until now. Sharing for those of you not on FB. It is hard to say if what was going on was specific to OCR or whether it might happen in other areas as well. Regardless, it was very frightening and all of us should keep our eyes and ears open.
“An inspector with Davey Tree Service was traveling north on Old Coast Rd from Molera. About halfway to Bixby near the cattle guard, the road was boobytrapped with multiple boards studded with construction grade screws face up. The Tree Service employee got a flat and when she stepped out to check, 4-5 men armed with rifles and yelling “Alto!” ran up towards her.
She hopped back in and drove on the flat all the way to our gate here at Bixby. She honked and honked. 2 Davey big trucks she knew were in the area came as did a neighbor’s fiancé. She was crying and very upset. He called the CHP and sheriff – they are now here with a roadblock set up.
This happened just within the hour. Be careful.” (Editor’s Note: probably around 11:30 or so based on when it was posted.)

Pond Fire

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From Black Mountain Camera in SLO at 6:15 PM (below):

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From Cuesta Peak Camera at 6:30PM (below):

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From La Panza Peak Camera at 6:33PM (below):

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5 Pm — Just broke out in the Parkhill Road area just North of Santa Margarita Lake and Pozo. In just minutes it grew to 15 acres. Structure into brush. SLU responding. Other structure threatened and this one has a DROS. (Dangerous Rate of Spread)

From wildCAD:

16:50LPF-2169PONDWildfire......35 22.824, -120 26.25029S R14E Sec 23.

Covid 19 Community Meeting Report

Attendees (via Zoom): 20th Congressional District, State Senate District 17, 30thAssembly District, Cal State Parks, US Forest Service, 5thDistrict Supervisor, Parks Management Company, Ventana Wilderness Alliance, Big Sur Chamber of Commerce, Big Sur Health Center, Esalen Institute, Big Sur Fire, Big Sur CERT, and the Community Association of Big Sur  Big Sur Chamber of Commerce:• Kirk Gafill reports that County Health Director Moreno is not connecting the surge of new COVID cases to tourists or other members of the traveling public.• That there is a great challenge in preventing the spread of infection occurring among dense living conditions where masks, hand washing and social distancing is hard to maintain.• Business in the community still remains off by about 20% off historic summer norms and that hospitality is working under the constraint of limited seating.• Barring any roll backs by the state, its anticipated visitor volume to maintain at least through Labor Day. Big Sur Health Center:Butch Kronlund for Executive Director Sharen Carey, reportsfor the Big Sur Health Center:• There are currently 9 positive cases of COVID-19 with an additional 5 symptomatic patients waiting on test results.• The Health Center has performed 27 new COVID tests this week bringing the total to 304 tests. Test results are available in from 3 to 7 days. • The majority of symptomatic patients present themselveswith a sore throat and a fever. USFS, LPNF Monterey District Ranger Tim Short reports:• Good news regarding recent COVID-19 impacts to staffing, all personnel have cleared quarantine and are back to work. Currently no C-19 cases among Monterey District personnel.• Tim thanked Butch for spearheading the effort to get the Cal Trans message boards operational. (Butch added that thanks for his excellent idea and Colleen Courtney’s outreach (on behalf of Senator Monning) to Cal Trans, we have electric signage at 3 locations with the message, No Campfires, Strictly Enforced. In addition, Sarah Hardgrave on behalf of Supervisor Adams announced that Adams is deploying funds to rent an electric message board for the Nacimiento Road with the same message. She is also requesting that Supervisor Lopez participate by placing a duplicate sign with the same message on the eastern entry point at Fort Hunter Leggit.)• Dick Ravich enquired about the status of the Community Fuel Break Project. Tim reported that some of the fuel work has already been completed and that further work, specifically on the North Coast Ridge Road was slated to begin.• In context with general discussion around the impacts of visitation to the Coastside dispersed camping areas, Butch read excerpts from a letter he received from Big Sur Fire Captain Marcus Foster regarding observations from Saturday evenings campfire patrol:  Marcus reports that on Prewitt Ridge on Saturday night, there were as many as 300 vehicles and 1000 people, over crowding available dispersed camping locations. This resulted in visitors driving their vehicles into closed areas with brush and high grass.  The roads were in extremely poor condition due to overuse as well as people trying to access these locations in 2 wheeldrive vehicles. After physically extinguishing multiple fires and preventing many more from being lit, Marcus and Trey made their way down the Nacimiento Road where many more people were illegally camping on the side of the Road. On the Highway heading north, the Patrol stopped and handed out educational materials regarding the County Ordinance banning roadside camping until they ran out of brochures. Then they were paged out to an illegal campfire in fron of Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park and shortly thereafter they went south to the Los Burros Road to respond to yet another set of illegal campfires called in by a concerned resident.  Encountering belligerent defiance, the pair called for back up from the Sheriff’s Department. It was reported that Deputy Villasenor used his loudspeaker to restore order.• This report from Marcus spurred a deep discussion around what each elected representative is doing to address the overuse, illegal campfire and the roadside camping issue, Rick Aldinger posed the rhetorical question “Where are we going with this? Do we expect our volunteers out there with their safety at risk?”• Sarah offered that missing in the discussion is input and buy-in from both Cal Trans and The California Coastal Commission. Butch to reach out to both and urged each elected to do so as well.• Katie reported that Congressman Panetta has met with USFS Chief Christainsen and relayed the data sets provided by CABS of the overuse of the Coastside dispersed camping areas of the Monterey District. The Chief did not commit to more funding to address these problems but Panetta is committed to continue to engage and elevate our concerns.• Colleen added that Senator Monning is very concerned over these reports and instructed Colleen to reach out to CHP Commander Foster and Cal Trans regarding the message boards.• CERT Leader Martha Karstens suggested that the LPNF close the Monterey District due to fire danger. BSF Chief Harris agreed thatclosing the Forest was a good short termsolution to the problem of inability to enforce the fire restrictions.• In response, PMC CEO Nathan Koontz reminded everyone of the negative impact of closing the Forest will have on the other Public Lands.• BSF Chief Matt Harris offered that it is in the County’s power to add teeth to existing State and Federal regulations, syncing up language and fine structures across jurisdictions, simplifying the Agency and Public’s understanding of what constitutes illegal activity and the penalties for engaging in that activity.• Matt also offered: In light of the recent LAFCO report and the language contained within it regarding Big Sur Fire remaining volunteer, for the near term, there still exists alternatives that need to be explored as a greater community, which will undoubtedly help address the changing landscape of the entire Big Sur Coast, as it relates to public safety, response and enforcement.• District Ranger Tim Short has proposed a Visitor Use Management planning project for Fiscal Year 2021 as part of the Los Padres Forest program of work that is being considered by forest leadership.”• Butch reported that he met with Rob O’Keefe with the MCCVB and discussed specific messaging that would discourage the overuse issues on the South Coast as well as dispersed camping areas. MCCVB to use their social media tools to do so and encourage their counterparts in Santa Cruz and San Luis Obispo Counties to do the same. • Dominic Dursa suggested that Big Sur partner with other rural areas being heavily impacted by this sort of problem (Marin, Sonoma Coast, Yosemite etc) to brainstorm and provide a uniform message.• Butch suggested that a joint letter from Jimmy, Bill, Mary and Robert to Caroline Biteta at Visit California could be impactful. Fifth District Supervisor. Sarah Hardgrave for Supervisor Mary Adams reports.• Sarah screen shared the County Health Department dashboard showing where the County is in terms of the metrics driving our operational status under COVID.• 3 of 10 metrics are in the red.  These are: 14 day cumulative COVID incidence per 100k residents=297, Percent of Nursing Facilities with no new COVID cases in last 14 days=44% and 7 day average positivity rate of those tested=11.3%• The Board of Supervisors passed an urgency ordinance requiring mask wearing in the unincorporated areas of the County, aligning with the local cities and the State of California. Ca. State Parks, Monterey District Superintendent Brent Marshall reports:• That the Forest Service and Parks worked continuously to address the arrival of COVID-19 at the shared housing located at the MAF.• Park Rangers have issued 130 citations for various activities this month.• Responded to 5 medical emergencies.• And an additional 3 Agency assists. Parks Management Company, Nathan Koontz reports:• PMC senior management is witnessing historic visitation numbers causing them to adapt on a weekly basis.• PMC is working to educate guests and visitors and policing without resorting to calling for law enforcement.• The company is focused on combating COVID-19 by increasing frequency of bathroom cleanings and trash pick-up.   Big Sur Fire, Chief Matt Harris reports:• Much of Matt’s comments were expressed during the dispersed camping discussion above.• Additionally, BSF continues to respond to the usual vehicle accident calls.• There remains 2 more weeks of new recruit training at which point the recruits will be paired with seasoned veterans on call outs. Community Emergency Response Team, Martha Karstens:• CERT is actively seeking grants to fund additional training for its volunteers. Ventana Wilderness Alliance, Rich Popchak reports:• Since the last stakeholder meeting there have been two Volunteer Wilderness Ranger patrols (Boronda Trail and Kirk Creek Trail to Vicente Flat). • These patrols resulted in 7 visitor contacts, 8 pounds of trash removed, 7 campsites cleaned, and 3 inappropriate sites removed. • Today marks the beginning of US Forest Service-funded contract crew work on Pine Ridge Trail. Seven hitches are scheduled between now and November. Each hitch will be a 12-person crew deployed for seven days.  Esalen Institute. Lacy Shannon:• Unable to attend. 30th Assembly District. Dominic Dursa for Assembly Member Robert Rivas.• Dominic announced that the Legislature is working on a $100 Billion relief package that has a fire mitigation component.  More on this next week.• In reference to the earlier discussion on meeting the visitation challenges Big Sur is experiencing, Dominic indicated that Assembly Member Rivas office has the ability to send out mass emails. He suggests that Agencies work together to craft a message.  17th State Senate District, Colleen Courtney for Senator Bill Monning reports:• Colleen made it very clear that the current problems with roadside camping and campfires is very concerning to Senator Monning. • And is looking to partner with Jimmy, Robert and Mary to see what other resources can be brought to bear on the situation. 20th Congressional District, Katie Moon and Phil Deppert on behalf of Congressman Jimmy Panetta.• Congressman Panetta is in Washington working on the next COVID-19 relief package.• He is also involved in the bi-partisan Replant Act that prioritizes a 10 year backlog of Forest restoration planting. Monterey County Sheriff Department, Deputy Villasenor:• Unable to attend.Community Association of Big Sur, Butch Kronlund. EDreports:• The Sunday morning illegal roadside camping sweep revealed 168 vehicles using Highway 1 turn outs, from Mal Paso Bridge to the SLO county line, to illegally camp.• In addition, in the first 4 miles of the Los Burros Road, 25 vehicles associated with illegal camping and campfires were documented.• Butch anticipates being able to share a new data collection tool at next Wednesday’s meeting for use in documenting overuse and measuring progress in mitigating that overuse. Post Meeting Update:• At the request of the stakeholder group, Cal Trans has activated the message boards at Rio Rd, 101 and 46 and Highway 1 and 46 to read: No Campfires / Strictly Enforced• Supervisor Adams and Lopez have designated funding to support similar message Boards at either end of the Nacimiento Road leading to the USFS camping areas.• At CABS request, SEE MONTEREY is using its social media apparatus to get the message below out: August marks the beginning of peak fire season in California. Please remember to not start campfires in un-designated areas, leave no trace and DO NOT camp illegally. Let’s protect the land, residents and majesty of Big Sur. Thanks to all for the swift response!

Branch Fire

6 pm — BranchFire making new run blowing out to the east on the left flank with a wind shift felt here at CaliforniaValley as well as a new run near the head to the south on the right flank.

A wildfire in the Soda Lake area of the California Valley went from 3 acres to 1500 acres in about two hours. Highway 58 is now closed. Ongoing structure threats and pushing into BLM land. VLAT requested.

Offshore Wind Project

From Jimmy Panetta’s Office:

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Dear Community Member, The administration is seeking public input as it considers opportunities for offshore wind development off the central coast of California.  You can submit your public comments to the California Energy Commission (CEC) at this link.  This public comment period ends September 30, 2020. Tips for submitting effective comments can be found here.


About the Opportunity for Offshore Wind Development:California is committed to a rapid reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from the State’s economy and has established long-term policies to reduce most of the greenhouse gas emissions from the electric sector by 2045.  Developing a diverse portfolio of renewable resources is a key component of California’s approach to building a reliable and cost-effective low-carbon energy system.To this end, in October 2018, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) published a call for Information and Nominations (Call) for three areas off the California coast, two of which are offshore the Central Coast: Morro Bay Call Area and Diablo Canyon Call Area.  Both Call Areas, however, were assessed as incompatible with wind energy development by the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD), as both areas are heavily utilized by multiple DoD components for critical activities. In August 2019, I joined my colleague Congressman Salud Carbajal in convening a meeting with senior officials from the DoD, BOEM, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Sanctuaries, and the State of California.  This group has held subsequent meetings to discuss alternative Call Areas.  The group has identified potential areas that include portions of the Morro Bay Call Area as well as an area to the north and to the south of the Morro Bay Call Area. A description and map of these areas is available on the BOEM website.  The group has also discussed an approximately 90 square mile area within the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary adjacent to the Morro Bay Call Area.  The area is labeled “Discussion Area” on the map to facilitate stakeholder input and public input. Any call area must go through a very lengthy authorization process before construction can begin, and feedback is solicited to ensure any final proposal includes the perspective of all relevant stakeholders.

Public CommentThe State of California and BOEM have initiated a process to receive input on potential offshore wind development.  Consistent with public health guidelines to slow the spread of COVID-19, the State and BOEM will conduct remote public outreach meetings.  In addition to receiving public comment during the public workshops, the CEC will collect written comments in the California Offshore Renewable Energy Docket until September 30, 2020. CEC is encouraging use of its electronic commenting system.  When you enter the system, please enter your contact information and a comment title describing the subject of your comment(s).  Comments may be included in the “Comment Text” box or attached in a downloadable, searchable Microsoft® Word (.doc, .docx) or Adobe® Acrobat® (.pdf) file. Maximum file size is 10 MB.Written comments may be submitted by email or US Mail.  Include the docket number, 17- MISC-01, and Offshore Renewable Energy in the subject line and email todocket@energy.ca.gov or mail to:

California Energy Commission
Docket Unit, MS-4
Re: Docket No. 17-MISC-01
1516 Ninth Street
Sacramento, CA 95814-5512
 

Visual SimulationsMy office has received visual simulation panoramas and, in partnership with State Parks, has installed these displays at the Big Sur Multi-Agency Facility (MAF).  The visual displays will remain installed at the Big Sur MAF until at least August 1, 2020.  There are three visual displays posted outside, and the rest are inside the building in the conference center.The visuals show simulations at fifteen, seventeen, and twenty miles from shore from two viewpoints in Big Sur at different times of day.  I urge you to safely visit the displays to better understand the visual impacts of wind development off the Central Coast.To visit the Big Sur MAF, please navigate to the following address: Multi-Agency Facility, Big Sur Station #1, Big Sur, CA 93920.  Traveling South from Carmel to San Luis Obispo on Highway 1, the MAF is the first left turn after the Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park entrance.  The Big Sur MAF is open from 9:00AM-4:00PM daily.I look forward to continuing to engage with you during and after the public comment period and will ensure your views are taken into consideration as I work with federal agencies to move forward on an offshore wind development proposal that works for our communities. Sincerely,


Jimmy Panetta
United States Representative
20th Congressional District, California

Please note that due to House of Representatives information security policies, emails sent to this email account are unable to be monitored.Washington, D.C. Office
212 Cannon HOB
Washington, D.C. 20515
Phone: (202) 225-2861
Fax: (202) 225-6791Salinas Office
142 W Alisal St.
Room E116
Salinas, CA 93901
Phone: (831) 424-2229Santa Cruz Office
701 Ocean St.
Room 318C
Santa Cruz, CA 95060
Phone: (831) 429-1976

My hope is to write a more in-depth article about this next month which will also provide links to obtain more information if one chooses. Personally, I have some concerns about why CA is pursuing this option, rather than encouraging solar.

It is the height of irony that this project is proposed for an area off the coast of the only remaining coastal area in the State of California that has never had commercial power to this day. Most of us have provided our own solar power. This off-shore wind project will use an undetermined amount of fossil fuel just create it in the first place. Further, insufficient data is available regarding the harm it may cause to marine mammals and other migratory species.

Here is a link to the Offshore Power presentation from the BSMAAC meeting.  The video is on Mary Adams Facebook page:

https://www.facebook.com/SupMaryAdams/videos/713603159454660/?v=713603159454660

The presentation and discussion afterward starts at -2:54:16 and ends at -1:23:29.

A big thank you to Dick Ravich for sending me the link and time stamps.