LOS ANGELES (Reuters) — The administration of President Barack Obama plans to more than double the size of two marine sanctuaries off the northern California coast to guard the near pristine waters from oil drilling in a move that sidesteps potential hurdles in Congress, federal officials said on Thursday.
The proposed expansion would protect nutrient-rich Pacific Ocean waters off the coast north of San Francisco that are home to humpback whales, great white sharks and abundant fish stocks key to commercial fishing and tourism, officials said.
"This area is a national treasure, it needs and it deserves permanent protection from oil and gas exploration," said Representative Lynn Woolsey, a Democrat who represents Marin and Sonoma counties north of San Francisco.
"Believe me when I tell you that no one is going to vacation on the Sonoma coast if they are going to be looking at oil derricks," she said.
The protected zone covers nearly 2,800 square nautical miles, an area slightly bigger than the state of Delaware. From north to south, it ranges from the coast of the town of Point Arena to the waters beyond San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge.
Amid widespread public opposition in California to offshore drilling, the oil industry says it has no active plans to exploit the designated area.
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