The following is a letter sent by Depoe Bay Mayor Carol Connors to Oregon members of Congress in an effort to overrule the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s probable outlawing of fireworks displays near Pirate’s Cove in Depoe Bay. USFWS contends that their study of the effects of July 3rd fireworks on migratory bird nestings in the area are damaging to the birds and therefore violate the International Migratory Bird Protection Treaty which, by law, binds the U.S. But Mayor Connors contends the USFWS study is insufficient to enforce the impending fireworks ban and asks the Oregon Congressional Delegation to step in on behalf of the City of Depoe Bay to allow the fireworks to be held as usual. Here’s Mayor O’Connor’s letter:
CITY of DEPOE BAY
Post Office Box 8 + Depoe Bay, Oregon 97341
Phone (541) 765-2361, Fax (541) 765-2129
March 26, 2012
Congressman Kurt Schrader 314 Cannon House Office Bldg. Washington, D.C. 20515
RE: Depoe Bay July 3rd Fireworks -4th ofJuly Celebration and Pirates Cove Seabird Nesting ColonyOregon Coast National Wildlife Refuge
Dear Congressman Schrader:
The City of Depoe Bay wishes to make you aware of, and is seeking your assistance on, an issue that has arisen in which the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFW) has failed to provide information in a timely manner to the city. The issue is a USFW investigation into potential negative impacts from the city’s July 3rd fireworks on the seabird nesting colony offshore Depoe Bay at Pirates Cove.
The Depoe Bay Chamber of Commerce has hosted a July 3rd Fireworks Event in honor and celebration of our country’s Independence Day for over 15 years. The July 3rd fireworks has become a greatly enjoyed tradition for local and visiting families and is one of Depoe Bay’s biggest annual events. The merchants in Depoe Bay have relied upon this event to bring much needed income to their businesses. The event is held at the Boiler Bay State Park at the north end of the City, with the permission ofthe Oregon Parks &Recreation Department (OPRD). The Chamber of Commerce provides shuttle service to the site to enable the community to view the display without having to utilize their own vehicles. The Chamber also makes sure that the State Park is cleaned after the event has occurred. We have had a good relationship with OPRD over the years and OPRD has always been supportive of our efforts in bringing this event to the community.
In December 2010, the city was informed by OPRD that they could no longer permit the fireworks event because they had been notified by USFW that they had determined the fireworks have caused damage to wildlife, specifically birds at the nesting colony rock in Pirates Cove. Pirates Cove is approximately .6 miles south of the Boiler Bay State Park. The city requested a copy of the USFW study which was the basis ofthis determination.
In January 2011 the city met with USFW, OPRD and the Depoe Bay Chamber of Commerce. We received a copy of a “Seabird and Marine Mammal Monitoring and Response to a Fireworks Display at Gualala Point Island, Sonoma County, California, May to August 2007” report dated 12 February 2008, which was the study that USFW had relied upon in making the determination regarding Depoe Bay’s fireworks event. The City requested a site specific study be conducted and evaluated before a final determination on continuation of our local event. In February 2011, USFW informed the City they would be able to conduct a monitoring survey at the Pirates Cove seabird nesting colony during the 2011 July 3rd Fireworks. OPRD permitted the event which was, as usual, enjoyed by many.
The schedule, provided by USFW, was that a report would be provided in August 2011, after final monitoring. In the normal process of preparing for the July 3rd fireworks the Chamber of Commerce seeks permit approval from OPRD in February and contracts with the fireworks display company at that time. The City did not receive the promised report in August 2011. The Chamber of Commerce expended funds to again advertise the event for 2012 and submitted a down payment to the fireworks display company to hold the date. Early in March 2012 USFW contacted the City saying the report would be provided by the end ofthe month. At that time, USFW informed city staffthat there was negative impact to the bird nesting colony during the 2011 fireworks. The report is currently under peer review and is not yet available.
USFW’s press release, which is enclosed, states that there were numerous complaints regarding the bird population. In fact, there was one complaint, a telephone call, which was admitted to us at our meeting in January 2011. OPRD has made it clear to us that they cannot issue the permit if USFW recommends the fireworks be curtailed. Again, the press release seems to indicate that OPRD has the ability to weigh an factor and make a determination on their own. This is not the case. USFW has suggested that the fireworks be held at Fogarty Creek State Park. This is not possible. Fogarty Creek State Park is not easily accessible to physically challenged persons. There is also a potential for the same situation at this location since there is also a bird population there. Its distance from Depoe Bay would not be beneficial to our merchants.
We are very concerned about the environment and the continued well-being of wildlife in our area. We do not feel that the community should have to suffer socially and economically because of this study, which we have not seen at this point. Over the years the bird population at Pirates Cove has increased dramatically. This occurred during the entire time that the fireworks have been displayed at Boiler Bay State Park.
By unanimous vote of the City Council at the March 20, 2012 regular council meeting, the council directed me to contact you to see what could be done to facilitate the continuation of our July 3rd event. We are willing to look at any compromise that makes sense, but Fogarty Creek Satate Park should not be a part ofthe discussion. Any assistance you can give us in this matter would be appreciated.
Mayor Carol Connors