The Legislature hereby finds and declares all of the following:
(a) There has long been a public concern for protecting and preserving the natural resources, wildlife habitat, recreational, and other environmental values, and public health at Morro Bay and its watershed, beginning with Senate Resolution 176 in 1966.
(b) In 1966, the Senate declared that the preservation of Morro Bay’s fish, wildlife, recreational and aesthetic resources is of great importance to the people of California, and directed the Resources Agency to conduct a study of Morro Bay and its watershed and to prepare a plan for the preservation of the natural resources of the bay and watershed.
(c) The need for a management plan for Morro Bay was demonstrated in a 1966 study by the Department of Fish and Game, resulting from the Senate resolution, which described Morro Bay’s rich natural resources and proposed the formation of a multiagency planning task force to prepare a comprehensive area plan for approval by the Legislature.
(d) The need for developing a management plan for Morro Bay was recognized in 1975 by the report of an intergovernmental task force, “A Coastal Watershed Environmental Management System–Morro Bay, California,” which recommended various models of cooperative and comprehensive planning and management of Morro Bay and its watershed.
(e) The Morro Bay Task Force, composed of representatives of 50 government agencies and interest groups, was established in 1987 and adopted as a goal the long-term preservation, conservation, and enhancement of Morro Bay. It selected management planning as the best means to pursue that goal.
(f) The need to develop and carry out a management plan for Morro Bay and its watershed has been clearly recognized by the Legislature in adopting Assembly Concurrent Resolution 118 in 1990 (Resolution Chapter 58 of the Statutes of 1990).
(g) This need is also recognized by the approval by the Governor of the nomination of Morro Bay for the National Estuary Program, as developed and adopted by the State Water Resources Control Board. The development of a management plan for Morro Bay will improve the likelihood that Morro Bay will be accepted into the National Estuary Program.
(h) The Congress of the United States is expected to renew and revise the Clean Water Act (33 U.S.C. Sec. 1250 et seq.), and to include funding for watershed management planning. Designating Morro Bay and its watershed as a management planning area will increase the likelihood that Congress will allocate federal funds for Morro Bay management planning.
(i) There is now clear and compelling evidence that Morro Bay is suffering from an unnaturally rapid, undesirable, and irreversible deterioration as a unique and valuable natural resource, including (1) a 1988 study, funded by the State Coastal Conservancy, which determined that Morro Bay has lost over 30 percent of its estuary over the last 100 years, and that it continues to be threatened by unnaturally rapid sedimentation and the loss of riparian flow caused by activities on state-owned and local agency-owned properties and on privately owned agricultural lands within the watershed, and (2) occasional, recent measurements by the State Department of Health Services of coliform content that exceed safe levels.
(j) The need to prevent erosion in the Morro Bay watershed, which results in further sedimentation and loss of bay habitat, has been clearly recognized by the commitment of over three million dollars ($3,000,000) to watershed enhancement projects, mostly through the State Coastal Conservancy.
(k) The Morro Bay watershed was selected as the pilot watershed for developing California’s nonpoint source pollution regulations to comply with the federal Coastal Zone Management Act of 1972 (16 U.S.C. Sec. 1451 et seq.).
(l) There are unknown factors influencing the health of Morro Bay which need study, including (1) unsafe levels of nitrates in groundwater in residential areas adjoining the bay, coupled with rapidly increasing coverage of intertidal mudflats with algae, and (2) occasional quarantine of oyster production in Morro Bay because of paralytic poisoning caused by planktonic invasion.
(m) Morro Bay is an essential link in the Pacific Flyway, providing the state’s largest waterfowl habitat south of San Francisco. Annually, Morro Bay has the second or third largest Audubon count of bird species in the nation.
(n) Morro Bay offers many beneficial human uses, such as oyster farming, harboring commercial and recreational fishing boats, recreational boating, and aesthetic tourist attractions supporting a large business community. A healthy bay is important for all of these activities and enterprises.
(o) Morro Bay remains relatively unspoiled. Action to maintain and enhance it will be far less costly than restoring it after deterioration.
(p) Through the efforts of governmental agencies and volunteer organizations communicating through the Morro Bay Task Force, strong, widespread, multipartisan support for the development of a management plan has arisen. Cooperative effort and the involvement of all concerned has already been established as the method to follow in planning.
(q) It is necessary to develop a comprehensive management plan for Morro Bay to conduct research, to coordinate the monitoring of sediment and water quality, to promote coordinated education and public outreach programs, and to identify and seek sources of funding for these activities.