2016: A Preview of Key Action Items in Coming Year

Jan. 1, 2016 — Here’s an early look at some of the key issues we will be tracking in the coming year. If we are to be successful, we need your support. 

Ballona Wetlands Restoration

The Issue: The Ballona Wetlands Ecological Reserve is nearly 600 acres of open space between LAX and Marina del Rey. A historically thriving wetland, it has suffered decades of degradation from development, dumping of sediments, disconnection from creek flows, and assault from invasive plants.

What’s at Stake: Approximately 95% of Southern California’s wetlands have been lost. Much of the remaining wetland habitat in our densely urbanized region is highly degraded. With the proposed Ballona Wetlands restoration project, we have the opportunity to restore natural function at one of L.A.’s largest wetlands.

Why we are focused on it: Wetlands provide nursery, shelter, and feeding grounds for fish and wildlife. They purify water through filtration of pollutants, recycle nutrients, and help buffer against impacts associated with climate change. Restoring ecological function at Ballona will not only benefit our local environment, but also serve as a place for public education and enjoyment.

Next steps: The Department of Fish and Wildlife will be releasing a draft environmental impact report this winter, analyzing several options for restoring Ballona Wetlands. Heal the Bay staff scientists will review the report and provide public guidance and recommendations.


Plastic Bag Referendum

The Issue: In 2014, California became the first state in the nation to enact plastic bag ban legislation through SB 270, which prohibits grocery stores, convenience stores, and pharmacies from distributing free single-use plastic bags, and requires stores to charge a minimum of 10 cents for paper and reusable bags. Looking to protect its profits, Big Plastic is pouring millions of dollars into an effort to undo the historic ban through a ballot initiative in November 2016.

What’s at stake: Plastic bags, designed only to be used for minutes, commonly make their way into streams, rivers, and oceans, where they never truly degrade. Plastic pollution can kill wildlife that mistake it for food or become entangled in it. Plastic bags are also a costly nuisance: California spends an estimated $25 million a year to collect and dispose of discarded plastic bags, according to CalRecycle.

Why we are focused on it: Plastic bags have become a gateway issue in the nation, compelling people to think about how their consumer habits can affect the environment. This common-sense ban not only saves money and the ocean, it has led to positive behavior change for millions of Californians. We can’t go back now.

Next steps: Californians will vote on the future of the plastic bag ban at the polls on November 8’s general election. You can help by pledging to vote YES on Prop 67!


Smarter Water Management

The Issue: The record drought, coupled with climate change and other stressors, has called into question the practicality of importing nearly 90% of L.A.’s water supply from other regions. Continued reliance on imported water is an uncertain and dangerous proposition. Instead, our region needs to be smarter about maximizing the water that we already have.

What’s at Stake Each day roughly 10 million gallons of urban runoff flows through L.A. County stormdrains, picking up pollutants and carrying them to the ocean without the benefit of any treatment. On a rainy day that number escalates to nearly 10 billion gallons of water, and associated urban slobber, flowing to the sea. Even on a dry day, wastewater treatment plants needlessly send hundreds of millions of gallons of highly treated and usable water into local rivers and the Pacific Ocean.

Why we are focused on it: Beneficially reusing this water through wastewater recycling and stormwater capture and reuse serves two benefits – building local water resiliency and cleaning up our local waterways. If we are smarter about reusing local water, we can also avoid turning to the ocean for a water source through desalination, which is costly, energy intensive, and threatens sea life.

Next steps: Our policy team is working to ensure stormwater management includes multi-benefit solutions that improve greenspace, beautify communities, and capture water onsite for reuse or recharging groundwater. We are also working with state and local governments to find creative ways to fund projects and programs to reuse and recycle stormwater and wastewater.


We have a lot of work to do in 2016, but contributions from ocean-lovers like you can make it happen.

Make a year-end donation to Heal the Bay