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Fireworks over the mouth of the Gualala River?

For information on more recent events, see:
Fireworks over the Gualala River estuary?

Update: October, 2007
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has released a preliminary joint report on seabird and marine mammal monitoring conducted under its direction at Gualala Point Island, which is part of the California Coastal National Monument:

  • Seabird and Marine Mammal Monitoring on Offshore Rock Islands in Sonoma and Mendocino Counties – Preliminary Report, Findings and Protocol Documentation, 18 October 2007 5.4 MB pdf, 100 pages

Monitoring in the period surrounding the 2007 Gualala Festivals Committee fireworks display

Brandt's cormorant; copyright (c) 2006 David Corby
Brandt’s cormorant
© 2006 David Corby

showed the species most affected by the fireworks was Brandt’s cormorants. Ten nests, representing 11 percent of those on the island, were abandoned. This is considered significant by seabird biologists. The BLM is sharing the findings with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the California Department of Fish and Game, the California Coastal Commission, and other agencies responsible for wildlife protection on the coast.


Update: July 9, 2007
The Gualala Festivals Committee launched their fireworks last Friday, in defiance of the California Coastal Commission. However, they apparently reduced the percussive content of this year’s fireworks show compared with last year’s, which may have lessened the impact on nesting seabirds.

Residents of The Sea Ranch, acting as Stewards for the local section of the California Coastal National Monument, monitored and will report on the impact of the explosions on the nesting birds. We’ll see how the Coastal Commission responds.


On June 13, 2007, the California Coastal Commission heard public comment on the issue of proposed fireworks in Gualala.

Following the hearing, the Coastal Commission sent a letter to the Gualala Festivals Committee, notifying them that a permit would be required before fireworks could legally be detonated over the mouth of the Gualala River.

Gualala Point There is not enough time to complete the permit process this year. Friends of the Gualala River believes that the permit process will show that fireworks should not be detonated over the Gualala River mouth in future years, due to the potential for adverse impacts to environmentally sensitive habitat and rare or endangered species.

The Commission cited several issues in its letter:

  1. Launching fireworks from the Gualala Bluff Trail is inconsistent with the terms and conditions of the public access easement.
  2. The proposed fireworks display requires a coastal development permit, due in part to the discharge of gaseous and solid waste into coastal waters.
  3. The potential for adverse impacts to coastal resources, including, but not limited to, impacts to environmentally sensitive habitat areas and/or rare or endangered species.

The 2006 Independence Day fireworks over the Gualala River mouth caused significant and documented disturbance of seabird and other waterbird roosts and rookeries. Friends of the Gualala River is deeply concerned about unregulated repetition of this event at this sensitive coastal river mouth location.

The Commission took action after receiving numerous letters from the public expressing concern over the fireworks. Friends of the Gualala River sent a letter to the Commission in May, pointing out that:

“Substantial local public concerns about impacts to seabird rookeries, shorebirds, waterfowl, marine mammals (including legally protected species) went unheeded [in 2006] for lack of a regulatory process or public forum . . .”

. . . and urging the Commission to assert its regulatory authority [see also: follow-up letter, June 2007].

Gualala Point Island
click to enlarge

Base image from Google Maps
Graphics by Frank Drouillard at
Mendonoma Blogspot

The Sea Ranch Association, which serves as Steward for the portion of the California Coastal National Monument offshore from TSR, contacted several agencies and organizations seeking ways to protect wildlife from the adverse effects of fireworks.

Other agencies are also reviewing the proposed fireworks, including the California Department of Fish and Game, US Fish and Wildlife Service, NOAA Fisheries, Bureau of Land Management and the Mendocino County Planning Department.

We should celebrate Independence Day — and the wild beauty of the coast — more quietly in Gualala this year. Those who enjoy fireworks can visit the annual fireworks display at Point Arena Cove. The Cove is not a closed lagoon like the Gualala. Sea Lion Rocks is about two miles away from the Cove, and is separated from the fireworks by high cliffs — unlike the topography in Gualala, where sound bounces off the bluffs directly towards the rookery on Gualala Point Island, only one mile away.

“Gualala divided over fireworks”
– Santa Rosa Press Democrat, 6/27/07