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Heal the Bay Blog

Author: Matt King

Heal the Bay today released our 28th annual Beach Report Card, which assigns yearly A-to-F water-quality grades for more than 400 beaches statewide based on levels of harmful bacteria.

Our staff scientists put a ton of work into this comprehensive county-by-county survey of pollution along the California shoreline. We encourage you to geek out on all the stats and charts we’ve assembled in the colorful, easy-to-read report.

But if you are short on time, here are the major findings:

  • There’s one silver lining in Southern California’s recent swing back to drought-like conditions – improved beach water quality.
  • Less rain means less bacteria-laden urban runoff carried to the sea via the stormdrain system. Accordingly, bacterial pollution at our local beaches dipped dramatically in 2017-18. Some 95% of the beaches monitored in Southern California earned A grades during the busy summer season, a 5% uptick from the reporting period’s five-year average.
  • In another positive sign, a record 37 beaches in California made the Heal the Bay Honor Roll this year – meaning they are monitored year-round and score perfect A-plus grades each week during all seasons and weather conditions. You can see the full list on page 20 of the report.
  • Northern California beach-water quality sagged slightly in 2017-18, driven in large part by troubled beaches in San Mateo County and Humboldt County.
  • Some 88% of the 96 Northern California beaches monitored by Heal the Bay received an A or B grade for the busy summer season. That figure marks a 3% dip from the region’s five-year summer average.
  • In a somewhat surprising twist, Northern California held seven spots on our infamous Beach Bummer List, a ranking of the top 10 most polluted beaches in the state based on levels of harmful bacteria.
  • Poche Beach (creek mouth) in Orange County has the dubious honor of holding the top spot on our Beach Bummer List this year. For the full list, please see page 16 of the report.
  • You can get a county-by-county, beach-by-beach breakdown in the full report.
  • Download our press releases for Southern California and Northern California.

NowCast program

We’re also expanding our predictive beach water-quality NowCast program this summer, which could be a game-changer for better protecting people at the beach. Using sophisticated statistical models, environmental data, and past bacteria samples, the scientific team can accurately predict each morning what beaches might be impacted by bacterial pollution that day. Knowledge is power! This summer, Heal the Bay will run models for 20 beaches, from San Diego to San Francisco counties, posting predictions each morning on our digital platforms.

New website and mobile app

We’re also stoked to take the wraps off our newly redesigned Beach Report Card website, which allows users to get the latest water-quality grades for their favorite beaches in real-time. We’ve streamlined functionality and incorporated the new data sets from our NowCast program. Our tech team also is readying a new mobile app to launch this summer, just in time for prime beachgoing season. Learn more about what is new.

How to stay safe at the beach

  • Check beachreportcard.org for latest water quality grades
  • Avoid shallow, enclosed beaches, which usually suffer from poor circulation
  • Swim at least 100 yards away from flowing storm drains, creeks and piers

Download the Report

Visit Our New Beach Report Card website

Support This Work



 

Heal the Bay’s science and policy department recommends the following votes on ballot measures that directly affect the health of Southern California shorelines and inland waterways.

YES on Proposition 68

 A vote to authorize $4 billion in general obligation bonds for parks, natural resources protection, climate adaptation, water quality and supply, and flood protection. The bond measure addresses some of California’s most important water, park and natural resource needs.

The issue: California has been facing frequent and severe droughts, wildfires, and the impacts of climate change. This bond measure would invest in our natural resources and help prepare for any possible disasters. Funds would help keep toxic pollutants out of our drinking water, clean up groundwater, increase local water supplies, and create safe parks for children while protecting the land around the rivers and lakes that provide our drinking water. Prop 68 commits 40% of the bond measure funds to underserved, low-income communities. Accountability will also be ensured through annual audits. Help provide clean water and safe parks for every community with this measure.

The stakes: California continues to face a reduction in support of our water supplies and natural resources from our federal government. Many communities in Los Angeles are underserved, lacking safe spaces and parks for their children to use, as well as lacking access to safe drinking water in their homes. With the continued drought, natural disasters and wildfires could become more frequent and damaging. By capturing and recycling more water locally in communities, Californians can help prepare for these devastating events by increasing our local water supply while protecting our natural resources for future generations.

Our recommendation: Stand up for clean, safe drinking water and protect our natural resources. Vote YES.

YES on Proposition 72

A vote to prevent property tax increases for homeowners who install rainwater capture and reuse systems.

The issue: Stormwater is a great potential resource for water supply on a local scale as well as throughout California. Homeowners can install rainwater recycling systems that collect, store and reuse thousands of gallons of stormwater each year for outdoor use in landscaping and gardens. These projects reduce the use of potable water in landscaping, buffer the effects of drought, and benefit our entire state. Currently, installation of a rainwater capture system can increase property value, and consequently increase property taxes owed. Help Californians conserve water by eliminating this extra tax for homeowners who choose to capture and reuse rainwater.

The stakes: Much of the rain that falls in California is wasted as stormwater runoff, which flows through our waterways and out to the Pacific Ocean. In Los Angeles County alone, 80 billion gallons of stormwater runoff is lost every year. In the process, stormwater transports oil, trash and other contaminants into our rivers, our lakes and our ocean. These pollutants pose a serious risk to public and environmental health. Californians who choose to install rainwater capture systems help to improve water quality and reduce water waste. These efforts should be encouraged and rewarded.

Our recommendation: Reward homeowners who choose to recycle our rainwater resources. Vote YES.

 

 



Eric Garcetti and Zooey Deschanel at Heal the Bay Gala 2018

Please browse Flickr for images from the Gala and our Blue Carpet.

The fates shone on Heal the Bay last night at our annual “Bring Back the Beach” Annual Awards Gala.

After a week of May Gray, the sun gloriously took over at the Jonathan Club in Santa Monica. Under a gentle breeze and the gaze of a beaming lighthouse, more than 700 guests schmoozed on the sand and saluted our honorees: Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, Univision TV anchor Gabriela Teissier and Hollywood couple and sustainability champions Zooey Deschanel and husband Jacob Pechenik of The Farm Project.

L.A.’s biggest beach party always draws an eclectic crowd — from Venice artists to Silver Lake activists, DTLA policy wonks to South Bay surfers. Buoyed by tasty cocktails (blood orange margaritas!) and good vibes, our guests came out in beach-chic style to support our biggest fundraiser of the year.

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Thanks to their generosity we met our goals, raising more than one-fifth of our annual operating budget in a single night. Proceeds of the night underwrite a number of programs, from water-quality monitoring to subsidized field trips for underserved youth to visit our Aquarium.

Mayor Garcetti was the undeniable star of the evening. His sincere and humble comments about what Heal the Bay has meant to our city – and to him personally – had the crowd rapt. With his quick wit and clear command of policy, it’s easy to see why he’s a rumored candidate for the 2020 presidency. The Mayor bookended his speech with poems by Nobel Prize winner Pablo Neruda. Here is the beginning of “The Sea”:

I need the sea because it teaches me.
I don’t know if I learn music or awareness,
if it’s a single wave or its vast existence,
or only its harsh voice or its shining
suggestion of fishes and ships.
The fact is that until I fall asleep,
in some magnetic way I move in
the university of the waves.

In addition to Univision brass, Teissier brought her entire family to salute her longtime commitment to broadcasting stories about ocean and river protection to L.A.’s Spanish-speaking community. Fundraising galas can be long events, so it was endearing to see her sons patiently playing on a jungle gym while waiting for Mom to get her big award. Speaking passionately in both English and Spanish, Teissier recounted stories of her own upbringing and reaffirmed that Latino women have historically stood at the forefront of the environmental movement in Southern California.

Board member and fellow actress Amy Smart welcomed Deschanel and Pechenik to the Heal the Bay family. The couple, who run The Farm Project to better connect consumers directly to the producers of the food, spoke passionately about the growing scourge of plastic pollution in our food chain and greater environment. To cheers, Zooey talked about making smarter choices as consumer: “You weigh the options — single-use plastic vs. a healthy planet … get rid of that single-use plastic! It’s not worth it. It’s convenient filler. It doesn’t do ANYTHING for you. It doesn’t make you laugh or cry!” Well said.

Other supporters making waves: Meg Gill, an HTB board member and founder of Golden Road Brewing, sampling the newly revised version of Heal the Bay IPA with other beer lovers. (Gill is an avid swimmer, who still holds the female record for the fastest 50-meter swim ever recorded in the Ivy League!); Black Surfers Collective leaders Jeff Williams and Greg Rachal charming “Jumanji” co-star Ser’Darius Blain into participating in our upcoming Nick Gabaldon Day; a determined and persistent online bidder from New Jersey who triumphed at our Live Auction to secure a private Goodyear Blimp tour of the Santa Monica Bay.

Major props to the musical talent for the evening – the James Gang. The multi-player party band had supporters boogieing to the very end with their diverse chops, from spirited covers of Dr. Dre to soulful send-ups of Van the Man. They sent many a guest shimmying to their awaiting Lyft rides.

And a deep thank you to our dinner co-chairs: Malibu architect David Hertz and South Bay champion Kim Conant-Blum. Their boundless energy proved to be the ideal one-two punch for a successful evening under the stars.

A final thank you to our dynamic team of Heal the Bay volunteers, staff, leadership, Board, our incredible photographers Colin Young-Wolff, Dan Do-Linh and Nicola Buck, our brilliant event producer Natalie McAdams of NAMEVENTS and all of the gracious staff at the Jonathan Club.



Wildlife along our inland waterways are getting ready for their Heal the Bay close-ups, writes staff scientist Dr. Katherine Pease.

If you live in L.A., you know it’s not too hard to find its wild side. We all know our share of party animals. But let’s talk about the real-life fauna  — the wildlife that has found a way to co-exist in the concrete jungle of L.A.

Heal the Bay has joined a new consortium of environmental groups working together to collect data about the amazing animals that call the area around the L.A. River home.

We’re working with the National Park Service to use “camera trapping” to monitor wildlife activity along the L.A. River corridor. Cameras are set up in the wild, triggered by motion and heat and left out for weeks to months at a time to document passing animals. It’s similar to the now-famous camera-trap photos of mountain lion P-22 in Griffith Park and other animals throughout the Santa Monica Mountains. (In the photo above, you can see a screen grab of an active coyote.)

The new photographic data will help us understand urban biodiversity and how animals use the L.A. River corridor. We expect lots of shots of our urban wildlife neighbors, including opossums, squirrels, coyotes and raccoons.  The information will help inform protections for wildlife, which will certainly be impacted by the city’s ambitious $1-billion plan to revitalize the river.

Some 39 cameras are being placed near the L.A. River from its headwaters in the Woodland Hills areas to south of downtown L.A. The sections are broken up into grids and different organizations are “adopting” grids. Heal the Bay has adopted grid #9. This grid covers the Sepulveda Basin Area and upstream from there to Reseda. Each grid has (or will have) three cameras and the cameras will be deployed for a month at a time in the months of April, July, and October.

Heal the Bay staff and volunteers are responsible for deploying the cameras, checking on them mid-month, and taking them out at the end of the month. We will help clean up the photos (remove photos of ourselves, vegetation, etc.) and then the images will be uploaded to Zooniverse. Anyone using the site can help tag and identify wildlife in the photos.

Heal the Bay has been monitoring water quality in the Sepulveda Basin recreation zone since 2015, so we are excited to see what wildlife is using this area in addition to the humans who boat, fish, and hike there.

The new camera-trapping initiative also supports recent City of L.A. efforts to promote and protect biodiversity in our region. Last year the City Council funded an index to assess urban biodiversity, policies and project to enhance biodiversity, and options for community engagement and outreach strategies. Heal the Bay is serving as a member of the Biodiversity Expert Panel to help inform this city-wide effort.

And the County of L.A. is just beginning an update of its L.A. River Master Plan. Heal the Bay is proud to be a member of the Steering Committee. We want to ensure that the L.A. River Revitalization plans include ecological and water-quality improvements. Data on wildlife and biodiversity of the River will guide planning by providing basic baseline information on what wildlife is there. We can use that information to set goals for ecological restoration and to assess success.

Stay tuned for more photos and updates over the upcoming months. Once the project is established in Zooniverse, we will share it with you all so you can pore through the many photos.

Other organizations participating include Friends of the Los Angeles River, The Nature Conservancy, LA Conservation Corps, Friends of Griffith Park, and others. The project is part of a nationwide effort to understand the impacts of urban development on wildlife. Currently, eight cities are part of this Urban Wildlife Information Network and another 12 cities are expected to participate in the next two years.

More information can be found in this post from the National Park Service.



Vice president Sarah Sikich exits Heal the Bay this week after 13 amazing years of service to our coastline and inland waterways. She’s moving to Carpinteria with her husband and young daughter, taking on a new challenge as a Director of Development for Principal and Leadership Gifts at the University of California at Santa Barbara. She’ll stay connected to the ocean, helping strategize and fundraise for marine and environmental sciences, among other duties. Here she shares some thoughts about her accomplished career at HtB:

A friend and mentor, Paula Daniels, recently asked me what I was most proud of during my Heal the Bay tenure. Surprisingly, I found it an easy question to answer.

Three campaigns immediately came to mind:

  • Helping design and establish Marine Protected Areas in Southern California;
  • Contributing to the passage and defense of California’s single-use bag ban;
  • Producing the State of the Malibu Creek Watershed report, with recommendations based on Heal the Bay-led citizen science.

That’s not to diminish the other important work I’ve had the privilege to complete over the past 13 years. There’s just something about these three efforts that resonates with me. Personally, I’m proud of the inner tenacity I found to reach the finish line in each race – often in the face of stiff opposition. Professionally, it feels good to have helped lead initiatives that will provide environmental protection in California and beyond for decades to come.

The campaigns were all incredibly complex and protracted, and I only played a small part in making them happen. But, they each challenged me in ways that I couldn’t have imagined, and helped me learn a lot about myself and qualities necessary to succeed in the environmental arena. Here are some lessons learned:

Plastic Bag Ban:  Policymaking isn’t a sprint …

When Heal the Bay first started to work on statewide plastic pollution prevention legislation in 2007, we sponsored a flotilla of five bills collectively called “The Pacific Protection Initiative.” Each bill addressed a specific aspect of pervasive plastic pollution: pre-production plastic pellets or “nurdles,” lost fishing gear, polystyrene food containers, toxic plastic additives and plastic bags. The bills all supported actions called out in the Ocean Protection Council’s landmark 2007 resolution on marine debris. Naively, I thought the plastic bag ban had the best chance of passage because it seemed like a no-brainer. Society already had a readily available alternative to single-use carryout bags — reusable bags! Alas, only one bill passed though — AB 258, which prohibits pre-production pellet discharge at plastics facilities.

It took a full decade to go from concept to reality for California to become a plastic bag-free state, thanks to the voter passage of Proposition 67 in November 2016. No single person or entity can claim ownership of this victory – it required leadership from dozens of municipalities, environmental groups, community groups, scientists, agencies, businesses, and legislators. Some close friendships grew through this effort, with people I will carry forwards with me, including Angela Howe, Kirsten James and Meredith McCarthy. And, for me the statewide bag ban is the archetype for the wise words of my friend and mentor, Leslie Tamminen: “Policymaking is not a sprint, it’s a marathon.” Even with a practical alternative, it took California 10 years to enact its plastic bag ban.

Marine Protected Areas: The value of compromise

Designing Southern California’s network of marine protected areas (MPAs) required enormous amounts of diplomacy and compromise. On one hand, environmental groups felt very strongly we had to protect our most valuable ocean habitats from fishing pressures; on the other, the angling community felt very strongly that reduced fishing access placed an unreasonable burden on its members. As one of 64 people negotiating about where these underwater parks should be located, progress could not be made without building alliances and finding common ground. It was difficult to hone the diplomacy skills required to figure out the moments to give in and when to stay firm. Finding common ground often proved elusive, given the diverse set of stakeholders – from commercial and recreational fishermen to environmental groups and municipalities.

I had seen the mediation and science-based deliberation prowess of my colleagues to the north – Karen Garrison, Kate Wing, and Kaitilin Gaffney — who had gone through a similar process establishing MPAs off California’s Central Coast. And, I worked hard to channel their knowledge and approach. Still, in the toughest of times I found myself frustrated, exhausted, and in one moment overcome by tears.

I now realize that the strenuous process made me tougher and stronger. All that hard work means that I can take my young daughter kayaking, snorkeling, and tidepooling within MPAs that I helped design for Southern California. I can show her rich areas of life that are more abundant and diverse, and now protected, because of the work so many devoted people, including her Mama, did. It is a source of pride.  I will forever be grateful for the support of colleagues who became friends during the toughest moments of MPA design and adoption – Dana Murray, Jenn Eckerle, Samantha Murray, Marce Graudins, Phyllis Grifman, Lia Protopapadakis, Calla Allison, and others.  Even when it took a circuitous route, the compromises made throughout this process allowed for California to go from less than 1% to roughly 16% of our coastal waters safeguarded by MPAs.

Malibu Creek Watershed Report: Take the high road

Heal the Bay’s niche in the water world is advocating for science-based solutions to environmental problems. Our methods vary, from making policy recommendations based on citizen science and scientific literature to partnering with university researchers to advance new studies to fill data gaps. Our recommendations often stir controversy – and downright anger. They often require behavior change and/or financial outlays that some opponents resist quite vigorously.

Heal the Bay’s effort to revitalize the Malibu Creek watershed marks one of the most involved and contentious projects on which I have ever worked. We evaluated over a decade of water quality and habitat data taken through our Stream Team citizen science program to inform a comprehensive report on the State of the Malibu Creek Watershed. The data compilation and analysis efforts required meticulous work by our entire scientific team, including Katherine Pease, Mark Gold, Shelley Luce, and Sarah Diringer. The final report included pages of recommendations, many of which have been realized. These include the restoration of Malibu Lagoon, certification of a strong Local Coastal Plan for the Santa Monica Mountains, and the current work of Las Virgenes Municipal Water District to greatly increase water recycling at its Tapia wastewater treatment facility. All these efforts will reduce pollution in the watershed and Santa Monica Bay, while protecting habitat and wildlife in one of L.A.’s most important natural areas. But as with many issues in the Malibu area, local residents dug in their heels to fight what they perceived as environmental overreach.

After we released the report and advocated for its policy recommendations, my colleagues and I experienced name-calling and bullying, and attempts to undermine our credibility from people who didn’t agree with its findings. I even had people viciously calling me out in the lineup at Malibu as I surfed the waves at First Point. At times it was tough to keep focus on the work and not feel deflated by all the personal attacks and distractions. But, the success of the report’s outcomes is a strong reminder that there is great value in taking the high road. It is incredibly rewarding see the positive results of projects with science on their side, like the Malibu Lagoon restoration that has greatly improved water quality and wildlife diversity in this important wetland habitat.

I feel great pride in the protections that I’ve helped advance for the vibrant coastal and ocean resources throughout Southern California. And, after over a decade of work at Heal the Bay, I realize that it’s not the natural resources that move me the deepest. It’s the dedicated people working so hard to protect what we love. I hold a particularly special place in my heart for the women water warriors that I’ve come to know through this work, as they are a powerful and impressive force of positive change-makers.

I had the treasured opportunity to work with Dorothy Green, Heal the Bay’s founding president, for a few years. In the brief time we shared, she taught me the importance of empowerment. She had an amazing ability to help people reflect on and find the individual value that they could bring to a cause, empowering them to take leadership in that area and be the change. She did that for me when I was fresh out of graduate school beginning work on my first project at Heal the Bay – ocean desalination.

By that time she had moved on from Heal the Bay, and I imagine that she had no idea who I was or what I could bring to the topic. But, she listened to me and made me feel valued, as if she knew I would provide meaningful contribution to the effort. I’ve carried that support with me throughout my time at Heal the Bay, and have tried to invest it back into Heal the Bay’s staff, interns, and volunteers as I’ve grown in my career. This type of empowerment made a huge difference for me, and I believe it is imperative to continue to cultivate in future leaders. We need to help smart young leaders grow and learn so they can be ready to conquer challenges yet to come.

As I wrap up my final days at Heal the Bay, it’s hard not to get lost in the check list of tasks to close out and set forth a path of transition. Of course that’s just the nature of work, but it’s also probably a bit of a coping tactic to avoid sitting with the deeper feelings of working at a place that has meant so much to me personally and professionally. Heal the Bay is such a big part of my heart and identity. Working on environmental issues about which I am deeply passionate, and around such amazingly bright and dedicated people has been a true gift that I will carry forward with me to new endeavors.

 



Party People, we’ve got some good news to share about our huge gala next month.

We’ve got an eclectic list of honorees for our annual “Bring Back the Beach” bash, drawing from the worlds of politics, entertainment and media.

We’re super stoked to salute the good work of three leaders who embody the spirit of protecting what you love: Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, Univision news anchor Gabriela Teissier and sustainability advocates Zooey Deschanel and Jacob Pechenik.

All guests of honor will mingle on the sand with us May 17 at the Jonathan Club in Santa Monica. A lively mix of artists, surfers, policy wonks, engineers, business owners and everyday ocean lovers always turns out for the year’s biggest beach party.

Mayor Eric Garcetti has a long history of collaboration with Heal the Bay, starting with his days as an L.A. City Council member. (He’s pictured above on the L.A River). His administration has made significant progress in making our region more environmentally healthy and economically prosperous under his ambitious 20-year Sustainability pLAn. He is the first L.A. Mayor to design and implement a master sustainability blueprint for the city. Under his leadership, the city has partnered with Heal the Bay and other nonprofits to meet a goal of producing 50% of our water locally by 2035.

Gabriela Teissier is a longtime supporter of our work. Led by her vision and editorial direction, Univision has provided thoughtful coverage of such issues as plastic pollution, climate change, contaminated seafood, and beach safety. By covering these issues, the region’s leading Spanish-language broadcaster has connected Latino audiences to the shoreline, to their watershed and to each other. Her husband, famed surfer and chef Raphael Lunetta, is also a longtime fixture on Venice and Santa Monica beaches.

Zooey Deschanel, a native Angeleno, may be best known for her work in film and music. But the actress and singer spends considerable creative energy on The Farm Project, an initiative to connect people directly to their food. Together with entrepreneur husband Jacob Pechenik, they help reduce carbon emissions – and warming seas – by empowering city residents to easily grow their own food at their home or business through their new service Lettuce Grow.  The couple also has been creating awareness around the dangers of plastic pollution in our ocean and food chain through short-form videos.


We hope you can join us May 17 to celebrate good people doing good work. The event is loose and fun, but it’s seriously our biggest fundraiser of the year. We rely on the support of the community on this one night to sustain us year-round

Seats always sell out each year, so please purchase your table or individual tickets today to avoid being disappointed. Here’s a visual roundup of last year’s gala in case you missed it.

See you on the sand!

 

 



After months of thorough reading, analysis and discussion, Heal the Bay and our fellow Wetlands Coalition members this week submitted formal written comments on the Ballona Wetlands restoration project. Heal the Bay strongly supports Alternative 1, a plan that would reconnect land and sea, create the most wetland habitats and provide ample trails and overlooks for all to use.

You might remember that back in September, the state Department of Fish & Wildlife and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers released much anticipated (and long delayed) plans for the restoration of the beleaguered Ballona Wetlands, the nearly 600-acre ecological reserve near Playa del Rey.

The Ballona Wetlands are the largest remaining wetlands in L.A. County and have suffered decades of neglect and abuse. The restoration plans presented three options (along with a no-project or do-nothing alternative) to improve the damaged and degraded wetlands.

The restoration proposals focus on a few major desired outcomes: reconnecting the wetlands to the sea, enhancing habitat for wildlife and creating more public access.

To do this, the options ranged from taking out nearly all concrete channels from the reserve and removing millions of cubic yards of dumped fill (related to the building of nearby Marina del Rey decades ago), to leaving concrete flood channels in place and making smaller changes.

When the agencies released the draft Environmental Impact Report/Study, interested stakeholders and the public had 60 days to review the plans and submit comments on them in writing and in person at a Nov. 8 public hearing.  The lead agencies wisely extended the review period to Feb. 5. The move gave the public more time to understand and digest the lengthy and technical document, which provided a thorough, science-based analysis of current conditions and potential projects.

So, that brings us to this past Monday when the public comment period ended and we hit the send button, crystallizing months of hard work in a single moment.

Heal the Bay enthusiastically supports Alternative 1, the option that best achieves the goals set forth by the state of California, which include among others:

  • to restore, enhance, and create estuarine and associated habitats
  • to establish natural processes and functions that support estuarine and associated habitats
  • to develop and enhance wildlife-dependent uses and secondary compatible on-site public access for recreation and educational activities.


Source: ballonarestoration.org – This Alternative 1 rendering may not be representative of the final plans.

Alternative 1 best addresses the degradation that the Wetlands have suffered by removing the most fill, removing the most concrete along Ballona Creek, and by restoring, creating, and enhancing the greatest amount of tidal salt marsh habitat.

Alternative 1 also creates the greatest local resiliency to climate change and sea level rise while providing the greatest level and quality of public access.

Alternative 1 is composed of two phases. The first phase will create a naturalized creek. The second phase establishes even more natural tidal flow and connections between the land and sea. These proposed restoration activities will result in wetlands that are the most self-sustaining and require the least amount of on-going maintenance, providing benefits for wildlife and people.

We submitted comments individually and also with our Coalition Steering Committee (made up of Friends of Ballona Wetlands, L.A. Waterkeeper, Surfrider Foundation South Bay Chapter, and the Trust for Public Land).

Our Coalition Steering Committee came to a consensus to support Phase 1 of this plan with some modifications. The group wants to see that the state-endangered Belding’s savannah sparrow bird is protected, that public access paths be increased in certain areas and restricted in sensitive areas, and that additional information about proposed parking lots be included in the final document.

We came to this consensus through many meetings filled with hard work, technical analysis, and long discussions over the last four months. It was not always easy and we didn’t agree on every small detail but our overarching positions were always aligned. We followed our nine Principles of Wetland Restoration, which prioritize ecosystem function, scientific basis, resiliency, appropriate scale, and ecological balance.

Heal the Bay and L.A. Waterkeeper also supported Phase 2 of Alternative 1, which removes more concrete and tide gates along the Creek.

Now, the lead agencies have the task of reviewing and responding to all the comments they have received. The comments and responses will be made public through the Final EIR/S, which we hope to see within a year’s time.

The Final EIR/S will have a chosen Alternative and at that point, funding and permits can be obtained and the project can get started at long last. We still have a lot of work ahead of us and we are committed to advocating and fighting for the robust restoration of Ballona Wetlands so they are healthy, functioning and open to all Angelenos.

THANK YOU to all who joined us AND our partners at the Ballona Wetlands over the last four months and who have engaged and advocated for the restoration of this unique and precious resource. Stay tuned for ways to get involved and ensure that the wetlands get the help they need.

Read our Heal the Bay’s comment letter and our joint Coalition comment letter.

 



Nelson Chabarria always dreamed of being a chemist. Then life got in the way. With his Koreatown family needing help to make ends meet, Nelson had to hang up his lab coat and love of science after graduating from Los Angeles High in 2001. He took a job working in L.A.’s Garment District.

Some dreams die hard, but thanks to Heal the Bay, Nelson is back in the lab – testing water samples from the Los Angeles River for harmful pollution. Nelson and four classmates from Los Angeles Trade Technical College spent the summer working with Heal the Bay staff scientists to monitor newly opened recreational zones along the river.

The good news is that all of Nelson’s hard work has paid off. Because of his team’s monitoring, we demonstrated that popular recreational zones are riddled with bacteria that can make kayakers and swimmers sick. After we publicized the results, the city of Los Angeles launched a formal protocol for posting troubled areas of the River and notifying the public about potential threats.

Here Nelson, now 34, tells what the program means to him as an East L.A. native and how it has affected his life:

We were in the school library – finishing up some data entry. The River Report Card had been released a week prior and we were about to refresh it with the latest bacterial test results. Weeks and hours and sunburns went into the grades, and to make them publicly available was simply gratifying. This moment felt pretty cool.

I was born and raised here. I’ve seen this “river” as I crossed the bridge to and from East L.A. I always thought of it as a ditch that divided the city. I am glad I was wrong about this. The river has its own ecosystem and interested groups that are invested in it.

I started classes in LATTC to come out of it working with some sort of water filtration or conservation leaning career. I want to be able to contribute in some way to making sure my city is smart in how it treats and uses the water we receive.

I never gave storm drains a second thought while driving. The few times they took my attention was during heavy storms where they flooded – the pooled water splashing unlucky pedestrians as cars passed. Sometimes I was unlucky. Now I am aware of their function, their contribution to the way water is handled here, and the importance of NOT contaminating streets with trash or toxic waste.

On a personal note it was great to be featured in an LA Times newspaper article. I had explained the work to some family, but not all. I never expected to talk to a reporter about my background and the work I do in the river. Once the article was released it spread to people that were unaware of the work I was doing. The bombardment of questions, congratulations and support was one of the best feelings to come out of this program. I cannot thank Heal the Bay enough for making this possible.

My job was the same each week. I went out and collected water samples. The next day they were read and the data was collected and posted. Even though it was the same every week, each time was always filled with new experiences. The memories come both from the people we met on the river and the dynamics of our great team.

Heal the Bay’s internship program covered a wide range of public service opportunities in the water systems of Los Angeles. The idea, team and process meshed right in with what I am interested in. It is one of the main reasons why I decided on coming back into school during the summer!

Our work isn’t possible without the real passion, action and commitment from people like Nelson and you. Help us spark more positive change in our region, up and down the coast, and around the world.

Make a Year-End Gift to Heal the Bay

 


Photo of Nelson in the L.A. River. (Summer 2017)

Photo of Nelson in the L.A. River collecting samples and observing conditions, by LA Times. (Summer 2017)

Photo of Heal the Bay’s L.A. River water quality monitoring team in the LATTC lab discussing water test results. (Summer 2017)

LA River Report Card - Heal the Bay - Water Quality MonitoringPhoto of Heal the Bay’s L.A. River water quality monitoring team. (Summer 2017)



In a guest blog post, Mark Gold, our former president, reflects on the lasting legacy of the late jurist Harry Pregerson — a man who truly healed the Bay.

When one thinks about the esteemed and distinguished career of U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Harry Pregerson, his leadership on environmental protection is not what first comes to mind. However, his Clean Water Act decisions were nothing less than transformative for the City of L.A. and the Santa Monica Bay.

In the mid-1980s, Judge Pregerson was the presiding judge on the groundbreaking Hyperion Sewage Treatment Plant case that led the City of L.A. to invest more than $4 billion into modernizing the treatment plant to meet the full secondary treatment requirements under the Clean Water Act. The resulting federal consent decree also required the replacement of significant portions of the city’s sewer system and the initiation of a stormwater pollution abatement program.

The highly contentious case was brought by the state and federal government and the newly formed environmental group Heal the Bay — a friend of the court on the case. Shortly after the settlement, I began volunteering for Heal the Bay and meeting with Judge Pregerson, the city, the state, and the U.S. EPA at semi-annual consent decree meetings. More than any other experience in my career, these meetings taught me how to affect successful environmental change, and Judge Pregerson was the reason why.

Judge Harry Pregerson, who passed away last week at the age of 94, was about the most unassuming person you have ever met. He was folksy and put everyone at ease, even when the animosity between the disputing parties was at its greatest point. By the late 1980s, he still was not an expert on sewage or even the Clean Water Act, but he was masterful in getting disparate parties to find common ground and even to develop mutual respect.

Subsequent to the Hyperion case, he was the key figure in litigation from the then Santa Monica Baykeeper over the city’s chronic sewage spills into L.A. waterways. The result: new investments amounting to more than $1.5 billion in sewage infrastructure and a seven-fold reduction in annual sewage spills.

Despite these extraordinary successes, I most admire Judge Pregerson for standing up to Mayor Richard Riordan’s administration in their attempts to get out of the Hyperion Consent Decree. The state was in a recession and upgrading Hyperion was deemed a waste of money by leaders in the administration. With no fanfare and no media, the sludge-judge shut down the effort. Ethics triumphed over cost cutting and the environment was the beneficiary.

Judge Pregerson was a highly ethical, humorous, and incredible human. As a result, he presided over one of the most successful urban environmental transformations in U.S. history. Foes became lifelong friends and the Santa Monica Bay went from having a dead zone, routine enormous sewage spills, and fish with tumors, to an unparalleled environmental success story. None of this would have happened without the quiet, unassuming leadership of Judge Pregerson.

It is hard to believe that Judge Pregerson is gone. We will still see his name on the 105 freeway, at the Harry Pregerson Child Care Center, and on the lab building at Hyperion. And, I’ll continue to think about all he has meant to Los Angeles’ environment when I look at my office bookshelf to see the commemorative cowboy-hat shaped hardhat so many of us received during the Hyperion Full Secondary celebration in 1998. He bettered the lives of so many and always fought for what was right. L.A. is a better place because of him.

You can read more of Mark’s thoughts about sustainable L.A. by following his blog posts.



Bay lovers, here’s your one big chance to make your voice heard about the planned restoration of the Ballona Wetlands Ecological Reserve in Playa del Rey.

As we’ve been telling you, this highly degraded ecosystem is one of the few remaining coastal wetlands left in greater L.A. It needs some TLC – a lot of it, actually.

Even if you don’t live near the Reserve, you should care deeply about its future. Wetlands are incredibly important for water quality, flood control and open space in our increasingly urbanized region.

Heal the Bay staff and the other members of our Wetlands Principles Coalition will attend a public meeting on Wednesday, Nov. 8 to discuss various alternatives for bringing this area back to full life. The California Department of Fish & Wildlife “CDFW” will be holding its only scheduled meeting to provide an overview of various restoration alternatives and gather public input.

In September, the CDFW and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers released a draft Environmental Impact Report/Study for the restoration of the Ballona Wetlands Ecological Reserve. The public comment period has been extended to Feb. 5.

The Ballona Wetlands are highly degraded from landfill, are too high in elevation and lack the critical interactions between land and water. In addition, more than half the Wetlands Reserve has been taken over by non-native invasive plants, reducing economic, ecological, and social value.

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Given that Los Angeles County has already lost 95% of its coastal wetlands, it’s critical that the state act to protect Ballona. Wetlands are unique habitat that connect land and sea.

Right now, only 3% of Ballona’s roughly 600 acres is functioning habitat. That simply is not enough. To be clear, there are a few vocal opponents who contend that no work should be done to restore the wetlands. But our coalition believes strongly that we must act now, guided by the best science, to prevent further irreversible deterioration.

Our Wetlands Principles Coalition has been busy analyzing the highly technical EIR document. We have been examining the various Alternatives for four key desired outcomes: increased habitat quality to benefit native wildlife, greater protection from flooding, improved water quality and increased public access to trails for education and nature appreciation.

Attend the hearing and tell officials that you want a robust restoration of the Ballona Wetlands that:

  • Maximizes natural wetland habitat and function
  • Protects native wildlife and plant diversity
  • Increases natural buffers against climate change
  • Minimizes negative disturbance
  • Provides open space and access for all
  • And most of all you want to BRING BACK BALLONA!

The public meeting will be held at Burton Chace Park. RSVP for the public hearing and we will provide you with more information about how to prepare and be heard.

If you cannot attend the meeting, you can also send your comments by email to:

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers: Daniel.p.swenson@usace.army.mil

California Fish & Wildlife: BWERcomments@wildlife.ca.gov

Read more about our efforts to “Bring Back Ballona” and also register for our Explore Ballona events this month, ranging from bike tours to habitat restoration.