Coastal Commission intervened on behalf of nesting birds

Sea birds won out Thursday over a planned July 4 fireworks display at Gualala, a controversial event at the center of a dispute involving the California Coastal Commission.

An organizing committee announced it was canceling the display held on an offshore island to comply with a "cease-and-desist" order issued last week by the state commission.

But attorneys for a property rights group in Sacramento vowed Thursday to continue a legal challenge on behalf of the Gualala Festival Committee.

"The legal fight goes on against this abuse of power by the California Coastal Commission," said Graham Owen of the Pacific Legal Foundation.

The issue has divided residents of the coastal region, which straddles the Mendocino-Sonoma county line and includes The Sea Ranch development to the south.

Owen said he joined the Gualala committee's struggle to win a state permit because the Coastal Commission's actions threaten "annual holiday celebrations up and down the California coast."

A Mendocino County judge on Wednesday refused to grant an emergency stay of the state order.

Critics of the fireworks display praised the state commission for putting wildlife concerns ahead of pyrotechnics.

Commissioners at a meeting last week in Santa Rosa denied a state permit, fearing the boom of the Independence Day celebration likely would disturb hundreds of birds nesting on nearby Gualala Point Island, a protected refuge. The state panel was swayed in part by a federal study that concluded last year's fireworks display affected the birds.

Coast resident Frank Drouillard in a Web posting said the sounds were so loud last year that they "sounded like someone shooting a shotgun 50 yards away."

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