Nov 25, 2022

Understanding Jurisdictions in Morro Bay

The Morro Bay estuary and the surrounding watershed contain multiple bodies of water, an incorporated city, an unincorporated community, a military base, a community college, acres of protected lands, and vast areas of privately-owned land. The entirety of the watershed spans a large area, so not surprisingly there are numerous entities that have jurisdiction throughout the area. A jurisdiction is the power of a person or group to make decisions for a specific area. For instance, the government of the City of Morro Bay maintains and makes decisions for the area within its city boundaries. These individuals or groups often put regulations in place so that the rules are clear to those who visit, work, play, or live in that particular area.

Making a Jurisdictional Map for Morro Bay

Jurisdictions can often be confusing, with multiple entities having authority over a specific area. The Estuary Program often gets questions related to jurisdictional control, and over the years we’ve found it helpful to have a jurisdictional map that summarizes the different geographical areas around the watershed and the people or groups responsible for them. One of the goals of this map is to help the public determine which organization or entity to contact regarding issues that relate to a specific area. 

A snapshot of the jurisdictional map you can find on our website.

Indigenous Tribes Acknowledgment (Salinan and Yak Tityu Tityu Northern Chumash) 

The Salinan People and the yak tityu tityu yak tiłhini Northern Chumash tribe have lived around Morro Bay and in San Luis Obispo County for thousands and thousands of years.   

For the Salinan People, Le’samo (Morro Rock) is a powerful and important place in many stories. They request that others take care of the land and sea as they have traditionally done to respect our part of the world. To learn about the Salinan tribe, please visit

For the yak tityu tityu yak tiłhini Northern Chumash tribe, the sea, Miti Hali (San Luis Obispo County), and Morro Bay specifically, are very special and important spaces for their stories and culture. They ask that visitors honor and enjoy these lands in respect of those who have protected it then and now. To learn more about the yak tityu tityu yak tiłhini Northern Chumash tribe, please visit

Xayatspanikan & auʔauʔ (Thank You). 

How to Use the Jurisdictional Map

An interactive version of the map is available on our website. When using the map, please keep in mind that a jurisdictional map is always a snapshot in time because the area boundaries may be modified or the controlling entity may have changed. The map was created with the data available in March 2022. We are unable to constantly review the various data sources to determine if any jurisdictions have changed. Thus, users should be aware of the March 2022 creation date of this tool.   

Also, please keep in mind that the map is meant to be informational and is not intended to be used for navigational, regulatory, legal, or decision-making purposes. 

When first opening the interactive map, you will be greeted with a view of the entire watershed and the map legend. Scroll through the legend to acquaint yourself with the various jurisdictions that might be of interest. Clicking on an item in the map will highlight it.
Some parts of the watershed have only one controlling entity for that particular area while others have multiple entities. Take for example the portion of the map shown above that has multiple overlapping jurisdictions, including the State Marine Reserve (shown in red), State Parks Special Status Area (in bright green), and Morro Bay State Park (represented by the green line).
Clicking on a spot within areas that have multiple mapped jurisdictions will open a popup text box with multiple tabs. Click through these tabs using the arrows in the bottom right corner of the text box to highlight these different jurisdictional boundaries on the map and read more about each of them.

Additional Jurisdictional Resources

A primary goal in creating the map was to help users determine which entity has jurisdiction over a particular area and facilitate the user’s ability to gather more information on that entity or area. It is not possible for us to include and keep up-to-date all information for a particular jurisdiction. By providing links to the resources such as websites for the controlling entities, users can get the most current information and contact information. The contact information, as of March 2022, can be found here. 

We hope you find this to be a useful tool. If you have suggestions for when the map is next updated, please reach out and let us know. 


Cover photo Copyright

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