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Key California Assembly Bill clears the way for more artificial reefs

The ability to bring more of California’s coastline to life with the creation of artificial reefs passed a critical hurdle Tuesday when the State Assembly Committee on Judiciary unanimously approved AB 634.  The bill will now be sent to the Assembly floor, where it could be voted on as early as January 18, 2010.

One major block to artificial reef projects has been the fear of liability if accidents occur while people are SCUBA diving at these sites.  AB 634 protects state and local agencies from legal liability, making it possible for these agencies to support bringing these projects to their harbors.

This bill was sponsored by California Ships to Reefs, a nonprofit organization that has worked tirelessly with state governmental agencies to lay the groundwork for artificial reef projects on the state’s coast.  The reefs are created by sinking decommissioned military or retired commercial vessels in appropriate locations after they have been stripped and cleaned.  New habitats for ocean creatures quickly create new SCUBA diving and fishing sites.  Recreational opportunities bring needed revenue to local businesses.

The bill, authored by Diane Harkey (R-Dana Point), enjoyed support from all seven Judiciary Committee members present and even had a delegation of supporters sent by Orange County’s supervisors speaking in its favor.

“This is a pivotal time,” said Joel Geldin, California Ships to Reefs Chairman and CEO.  “To get this bill through the Legislature and on the governor’s desk, we need supporters to tell their representatives how important AB 634 is.  We recommend people call, fax and email their representatives, since this vote is only a few days away.

“Artificial reefing is a proven success in other states, such as Florida, and internationally, as in British Columbia,” Geldin noted.   California can enjoy these benefits too, giving the diving and fishing industries the boost they need, while bringing millions of dollars into many parts of the state’s economy.”

Geldin urges supporters to contact their representative immediately.  You may find out who your Assembly representative is at http://www.assembly.ca.gov/defaulttext.asp

California Ships to Reefs is a 501(c)(3) Non-Profit Public Benefit Corporation seeking to reef surplus ships as artificial reefs, bringing diving and fishing tourism to local ports in California and enhancing the Ocean Environment.

For further information, please visit the organization’s website at http://californiashipstoreefs.org, or contact state Governmental Relations Committee Chairman Dean Rewerts at (530) 906-6465.

 

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