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A group that obtained a federal court order last year temporarily blocking the removal of harbor seals from the La Jolla Children’s Pool has a proposed a settlement that could allow the seals to stay there permanently.

If city officials accept the settlement, they would agree that the seals could not be removed without obtaining a permit under the federal Marine Mammal Protection Act, said Bryan Pease, an attorney for La Jolla Friend of Seals. (It’s been a matter of debate whether an exemption in the federal law allows the city to remove seals without a permit.)

The city would also agree to pass a resolution requesting that state Sen. Christine Kehoe sponsor legislation that would amend state regulations to allow the seals to stay by stating that it’s acceptable to use that land as a seal habitat, Pease said.

A Superior Court judge had said the trust governing the cove doesn’t allow the seals to use the beach or share it with people as part of a lawsuit brought by a former La Jolla resident who was ticketed for harassing the seals after she went swimming in the cove. The judge said the city must remove the seals before dredging the cove, an order that was temporarily halted by the federal ruling.

As part of the proposed settlement, the attorneys for La Jolla Friends of Seals would agree not to seek legal fees, Pease said. He said the agreement would be a good one for the city because it wouldn’t have to spend money on the dredging and leave the decision about what to do with the Children’s Pool up to local officials.

“The city could manage it as a local issue and not have a state judge interpret it in an extreme way,” Pease said.

Other residents have said the seals must be removed from the Children’s Pool to keep it free from seal waste and to ensure it is a safe swimming place for children, as Ellen Browning Scripps intended when she donated the money that created the pool.

The City Council was slated to discuss the possible settlement in closed session this morning. Members of the public are expected to comment on the proposal this afternoon.

RANI GUPTA

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