Timeline of Key Events
1892: Oil discovered by Edward Doheny in Los Angeles, near the present location of Dodger Stadium. Between 1900 and 1902, several other oil fields are discovered and Los Angeles becomes a center of oil production by the early 20th century. By 1923, the city is producing one-quarter of the world’s petroleum supply.
1896: Offshore drilling in California begins when operators in the Summerland Oil Field in Santa Barbara County follow the field into the ocean by drilling from piers.
1967: A Marine Sanctuaries Study Bill is first proposed in response to offshore oil development plans. The Sierra Club (Ventana Chapter) lobbies for priority status for the Monterey Bay/Big Sur areas under the bill.
1969: A Union Oil platform “blowout” off Santa Barbara creates an 800-square mile oil slick that tars 150 miles of pristine beaches, awakens the public to the ecological and economic hazards of offshore drilling, and helps launch the environmental movement.
1969: GOO (Get Oil Out) is organized as the state’s first citizens’ group opposed to offshore oil drilling.
1969: The National Environmental Policy Act is passed by Congress.
1970: Earth Day is celebrated for the first time.
1972: The Marine Protection, Research, and Sanctuaries Act authorizes the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to monitor offshore dumping.
1973: An OPEC oil embargo increases national pressure for more offshore drilling.
1976: Citizens, activists, scientists, and local leaders in both Santa Cruz County and Monterey County join forces to lobby for a vision called the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary.
1978: President Carter announces plans to lease most of California’s coast to offshore oil drilling. Santa Cruz County Supervisor Gary Patton organizes the Local Government Coordination Program, which eventually becomes a statewide citizen-environmental-government coalition to inform the public and organize opposition to offshore drilling.
1978: Concerned individuals establish Save Our Shores (SOS), an all-volunteer grassroots organization, to protect the marine environment throughout California’s Central Coast.
1979: The Interior Department’s public hearings on California oil drilling plans are packed with protestors. President Carter responds to public pressure and pledges to cancel the Central and Northern California drilling plans.
1980: The Reagan/Bush administration breaks Carter’s pledge and accelerates oil drilling plans for California’s entire coast.
1981: Local governments, with help from Representative Leon Panetta, fight against oil drilling plans and in 1982 win a one-year moratorium on funding for California oil leasing. This one-year moratorium is extended every year throughout the 1980s.
1981: Save Our Shores organizes the first coastal cleanup along the North Coast of Santa Cruz County.
1983: The Reagan/Bush Administration drops Monterey Bay from active consideration for Sanctuary status. Supervisor Gary Patton and others turn for help to Representative Leon Panetta and Congress.
1985: Santa Cruz voters approve Measure A, which specifies that no zoning changes to accommodate onshore oil facilities for offshore oil and gas development can be granted without a vote of the people. The measure also tasks the City of Santa Cruz with directing an effort to prevent offshore oil development on California’s north and central coast by creating ordinances similar to Santa Cruz’s Measure A. This becomes known as the Oil Information Program, which the City of Santa Cruz contracts with Dan Haifley of Save Our Shores to direct.
1985-1988: Dan Haifley travels around California asking cities and counties to prohibit offshore oil drilling companies from constructing onshore facilities. The trips culminate in twenty-six cities and counties from San Diego to Humboldt passing anti-oil zoning bans.
1987: The City of Santa Cruz, along with several other municipalities and counties, survive a lawsuit from the Western Oil and Gas Association, leaving intact the ordinances which restrict oil drilling companies from constructing onshore facilities.
1988: U.S. Congressman Leon Panetta secures congressional authorization to start planning a National Marine Sanctuary in the Monterey Bay Area. The momentum against offshore oil drilling that SOS helped generate provides the political support for a marine sanctuary. Dan Haifley represents SOS on the Environmental Working Group (EWG) as co-chair. He advocates for the largest boundary for the proposed Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary.
1988-1992: By organizing over 300 slideshow presentations to local governments, schools and service clubs, SOS and the EWG build an ecological case and gather public support for the largest boundary for the proposed Marine Sanctuary. Four thousand citizens attend public hearings and submit comments of support for a marine sanctuary.
1989: The Exxon Valdez spill dumps 10.8 million gallons of crude oil into Prince William Sound, Alaska.
1992: President George H.W. Bush creates the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary with the boundary supported by SOS and the EWG stretching from just north of the Golden Gate Bridge to the town of Cambria in San Luis Obispo County. The Sanctuary encompasses 276 shoreline miles and 6,094 square miles of ocean surrounding Monterey Bay. The seaward boundary is an average of 30 miles offshore. At its deepest point, the Sanctuary reaches down 12,713 feet (more than two miles. Managed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the MBNMS is larger then Yosemite or Yellowstone National Parks and provides habitat for 34 species of marine mammals, 94 species of seabirds, 345 species of fish, 4 species of turtles, 31 phyla of invertebrates, and more than 450 species of marine algae. It is sometimes called the Serengeti of the Sea.
1996: Jack O’Neill founds the O’Neill Sea Odyssey program, a free, educational cruise aboard the Team O’Neill Catamaran that educates fourth through sixth graders about the marine ecology of the Monterey Bay Marine Sanctuary. OSO has served over 65,000 students since its inception.
2010: A Deepwater Horizon drilling rig is rocked by an explosion and fire and sinks into the Gulf of Mexico. Eleven crew members die. Multiple attempts to completely shut off the flow of oil fail and oil spills into the Gulf of Mexico unabated for three months, spilling 4.9 million barrels of crude oil. This is the largest accidental marine oil spill in the history of the petroleum industry. The oil causes extensive environmental damage to marine and wildlife habitats and to the Gulf of Mexico’s fishing and tourism industries.
2012: The Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary Exploration Center opens in Santa Cruz.