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Chumash Nation speaks out against seismic testing off California coast

by September 26, 2012

The Chumash Nation is speaking out against the Diablo Canyon Seismic project off the Central Coast of California.

The California-based energy company Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) wants to carpet bomb approx. 580 square nautical miles of sea floor with powerful Air Cannons that will blast every 10 to 20 seconds for 42 days straight.

The Chumash warn that these 260db sonic blasts, which will travel through the water and 10 miles into the earth's crust, will devastate the local marine ecosystem and possibly destroy fragile and sensitive Sacred Chumash Cultural Sites.

PG&E itself suggests that fisherman, divers, kayakers, boaters (including our tomol paddlers), and surfers remain out of the water during the tests due to the possibility of illness and even death. PG&E's Environmental Impact Report also lists a number of animals that will be unavaoidably impacted.

In a recent statement of concern, the Northern Chumash Tribal Council (NCTC) specifically points to:

Minke whale; Sperm whales; Dwarf sperm whales; Blue whales; Humpback whales; Fin whales; California gray whales; Short-finned pilot whale; Bird’s beak; Killer whales; Striped dolphins; Small beaked whales; Dell’s porpoise; Long-beaked dolphins; Rise’s dolphins; Northern right whale dolphins; Pacific white-sided dolphins; Bottle-nose dolphins; Short-beaked dolphins; Harbor seals; California sea lions; Southern sea otters; Untold sea turtles of several varieties; Numerous fish and bird species; The next generation of sea life including nearly billions of larva’s of all types

NCTC requests that no seismic testing take place until such time that alternatives have been thoroughly explored, to prevent undue harm to marine life, stating, "There is no date collection for science that is worth the possible destruction of the warp and weave of the basket of life."

The Barbareno Chumash Council (BCC) of Santa Barbara issued its own statement denouncing "all Federal, State and local bodies and especially PG&E of the possible, forthcoming or future destruction of our relatives off the coast in our waters. Any government that does not come to the defense of the defenseless, must now listen and act to our Chumash Peoples traditional ways and rights. Because of the gravity and seriousness of the proposed Seismic Testing we need to call on all peoples to act and voice their concerns to stop this act of terracide. This testing must not begin and the perpetrators must be exposed."

The Chumash are also pointing to off-shore unregistered Chumash Sacred Sites, Village Sites and Burial Grounds that have submerged or otherwise fallen into the ocean because of erosion.

The NCTC comments, "Off shore unregistered Chumash Sacred Sites must be treated the same way as on shore Chumash Sacred Sites are treated. No one would let anyone harm the animals that live on or near Chumash Sacred Sites on land, why would anyone allow this to happen off shore. Before any activity that might impact a Chumash Sacred Site mapping and surveying must be done to understand how the proposed activities might affect the Chumash Cultural Resources. All Chumash Sacred Sites must be surveyed and mapped before any project is approved in this sensitive area."

The NCTC further points to the fact that PG&E's survey area sits between two National Marine Sanctuaries:

[Such] sanctuaries provide enhanced safeguards for species within their boundaries, a protection that is lost when they leave. Other protected areas along or at the terminus of a migration route or that cover areas for important life stages of living marine resources (e.g., nesting areas for seabirds, pupping areas for seals, fish spawning aggregation sites, larval dispersal and sink sites), provide the same kind of enhanced protection. Forming relationships and developing joint projects among countries with areas of biophysical connectivity will increase the protection to these often endangered and otherwise vulnerable species.

[...] These resources are extremely important for our coastal communities to grow into the future, we are protecting them, please assist us in not destroying our priceless resources.

The Chumash have repeatedly requested that PG&E meaningfully consult ALL CHUMASH TRIBES to resolve these concerns; however, the company has so far declined to do so. According to the BCC, the State of California is similarly ignoring and dismissing the Chumash and their Rights as defined by the NATIVE AMERICAN FREEDOM OF RELIGION ACT and UN DECLARATION OF THE RIGHTS OF INDIGENOUS PEOPLES; not to mention the CALIFORNIA COASTAL ACT, which assures special protection to areas and species of special biological or economic significance.

BCC concludes, "They are in violation of the International Covenant and our religious Rights. The destruction of our Chumash Culture by the State and its decision and actions to continue this seismic testing needs to stop. Stop the destruction of our relatives and our families in the Ocean. The destruction and killing off of our relatives of the Ocean is directly killing our Nation. The death or harm to our A’loly’koy and Paxat is a death blow to us Chumash."

What You Can Do

1) Email the Fish and Game Commission with concerns at: attn: Sonke Mastrup

2) Snail Mail or FAX your concerns to the California Coastal Commission at:

California Coastal Commission, Central Coast District Office
Dan Carl, Deputy Director 725 Front Street, Suite 300
Santa Cruz, CA 95060-4508
(831) 427-4863, FAX (831) 427-4877

3) Contact Senator Sam Blakeslee and ask him to reconsider at:

Senator Sam Blakeslee
4066 State Capitol, California 95814
Phone: (916) 651-4015, Fax: (916) 445-8081

4) Call Senator Barbara Boxer at: 202 224-3553

5) Contact Congresswoman Lois Capps at:

The Honorable Lois Capps, United States House of Representatives
2231 Rayburn House Office Building, Washington, DC 20515-0523
DC Phone: (202) 225-3601, FAX: (202) 225-5632

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