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Seismic testing, louder than Motörhead, to happen at Central California surf breaks

November 13 2012 | Coastal development, Waves, Surfing,

You may have heard that PG&E has proposed seismic testing in the waters of Central California.

You may not have heard our view on this matter, here it is.

First of all let me define what seismic testing is. In a few words it's testing done from ships where they create thousands of high-decibel explosives to map the seafloor. A more detailed definition can be found here.

When we say "high decibel" think of the loudest things in your life... a jet engine at 100 feet is about 140 dB. One of the loudest bands in the world, Motörhead, actually damaged the building they were playing in when they hit 130 dB.

Water is denser than air to the relative impact of is much more intense. When you add in the fact this will all be happening in water you start to understand the issues.

This is past, well past, the threshold we're used to and due to the intensity, focus and duration these blasts will absolutely damage the nearshore environment and has the potential to damage us... surfers and other ocean users.

The Central Coast area between Cayucos and Oceano is very popular for surfers; the testing will affect dozens of surf spots including local spots like Cable Landing.

This seismic testing will also have major impacts to marine life and may expose ocean users to harmful noise levels. These sound blasts can either harrass, damage or kill marine wildlife including whales, dolphins, sea otters, turtles and other sensitive species. This area is a known migration path for Gray whales when this testing is proposed to take place.

This isn't our opinion, even PG&E’s Environmental Impact Report (EIR) states seismic testing can impact humans “the proposed offshore activities would expose persons present in the water to harmful noise levels...”... “studies have shown that high levels of underwater noise can cause dizziness, hearing damage, or other sensitive organ damage to divers and swimmers, as well as indirect injury due to startle responses” and “noise levels in excess of 154 dB re 1 μPa could be considered potentially harmful to recreational divers and swimmers in the Project area”.

Going back the the Motörhead example, a map from PG&E shows that dB levels could reach upward of 160 at some beaches. This is well over the threshold for human safety. Surfrider is troubled by PG&E’s apparent disregard for the health and safety of ocean users.

We feel like the project is unnecessary as several entities including PG&E, USGS, and the oil industry have already conducted seismic testing in the area. A former PG&E geologist and current USGS geologist concur that the proposed new surveys offers little prospect for any result beyond marginal improvement to what is already known.

Here are a few ways you can take action on this subject.

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