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Heal the Bay Blog

Author: Shelley Luce

Even though it is raining (and snowing) this week across the region, this season’s California snowpack is still well below the historical average for the start of April. Millions of Californians rely on this critical source of water for drinking and irrigation. A small snowpack points to the urgent need for us to conserve and reuse local water. Dr. Shelley Luce, Heal the Bay President and CEO, shares what was top of mind before the COVID-19 response, and why we can’t lose sight of our water.

At the end of last year, I was high up in the mountains with family and friends. We spent our time playing outside, laughing for hours and sledding on a snowy hillside. When I caught my breath, I took cold air deeply into my lungs. The mountain air felt so fresh. There was no wind, and the tall trees on either side of our sledding hill were perfectly still except for the bounding echoes of our joyful voices. It was a beautiful moment.

At the bottom of the hill the dark brown earth, which smelled of moss and mud, peeked through the white snow. I heard the sound of running water and looked closer: there was a stream of clear water flowing down through the tiny meadow toward the road. And I was struck: this is our water. This is Sierra snowmelt. This is the backbone, the source of drinking and irrigation water for millions of people in California. First seeping through a meadow that holds water like a sponge, then emerging as a trickle that builds to a stream that meets others to form a river that supplies a farm or a city. This is our water. And it’s in danger.

Far away on the coast people are drinking, cooking and showering with this very water. This very water is being washed down a drain, through a pipe to a treatment plant and then pushed out to sea. So much energy expended to take this very water from the mountains and valleys it nourishes, down to our homes and businesses in Los Angeles, to filter our waste out of it, to send it into the ocean and then to keep taking more and more every day of our lives. All of this is happening while the climate changes and the snowpack, that backbone, is diminishing and its future is in question.

However, we are changing this wasteful system. In 2019 Mayor Garcetti announced a plan to reuse all the water from our City’s treatment plants. That’s millions of gallons a day of water that will get reused here in LA, so we can stop draining it from our mountain streams. This is proof: we can adapt to climate change by changing a wasteful, linear process to a sustainable, circular system that supports people and nature.

This was our greatest victory last year and the culmination of decades of hard work. We have much more to do in this uncertain climate to protect our water and the awe-inspiring life it nourishes. Together, let’s take action. In the year ahead, we need to sound the alarm on the climate crisis, we need to enact strong science-based policies, and we need to remember the earthly moments that move our hearts and embolden us to take on new challenges with compassion and fortitude.

I look forward to working alongside you in 2020 as Heal the Bay celebrates its 35th anniversary! Thank you for continuing on this epic journey with us.

Dr. Shelley Luce
President and CEO

 

This article was originally published in Heal the Bay’s 2019 Annual Report in February 2020.

 

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HTB chief Shelley Luce talks about her appointment and shares her philosophy about protecting our state’s most precious natural resource.

California is blessed with more than 1,100 miles of coastline. The ocean is a defining feature of our geography, our culture and our economy. We are proud of its beauty, and we depend on it for sustenance, for trade and tourism, and for our own recreation and relaxation.

I am now honored to help protect our coast by serving as an alternate to California Coastal Commission member Mark Vargas. Anthony Rendon, the Speaker of the California State Assembly, appointed me to the position earlier this month. Commissioners serve four-year terms.

As an alternate member, I will vote on matters at monthly Commission meetings any time Vargas cannot attend.

It’s long been a dream of mine to serve on the Coastal Commission because I understand how important the panel has been to preserving what makes California special. I’ve devoted my career to the coast, and I deeply understand the need to balance development, conservation, and public access on 1.5 million acres of land along California’s highly desirable coastline.

The California Coastal Act of 1976 created the Coastal Commission to “protect, conserve, restore, and enhance the environment of the California coastline.” The commission remains a powerful land-use authority that must approve changes to coastal land uses, or the local coastal plans that govern those changes. All development from single-family homes up to giant commercial or resort ventures must comply with the Coastal Act or be denied a permit to proceed.

The commission is charged with protecting coastal access and views for the public, as well as safeguarding Environmentally Sensitive Habitat Areas, including all wetlands.

The demand for new development in the coastal zone keeps the 12 volunteer commissioners and approximately 150 full time staff very busy, resolving complicated issues around rights of property owners and the general public.

The panel grapples with the legal, scientific, political and human complexities of how and where property owners can profit from our coastline, while protecting unique resources for the benefit of all Californians and visitors. The work is often contentious, with public hearings occasionally devolving into name-calling and accusations of backroom deal-making.

I will always listen with an open mind to all parties involved in a given matter. And I promise to always vote my conscience, placing the highest emphasis on the continued ecological health of our ocean and shorelines. I’m confident that my education and experience will guide me well when making tough decisions.

As a Ph.D. in environmental engineering, I know we must we rely on the best science to guide our decisions. As the leader of one of the state’s leading ocean protection groups, I know that education, transparency and public engagement are the best tools to build consensus around solving thorny issues.

Please email me at sluce@healthebay.org to share your thoughts about our coastline and how to best protect it.




Shelley enjoying a session in North L.A. County

Heal the Bay president Shelley Luce reflects on a very special place in L.A. – and in her heart.

As I write this note, I’m on a long highway, headed to Yosemite for the holidays with my family. I’m surrounded by mountains, but my mind is on the ocean yet again – Leo Carrillo State Beach, to be exact.


Leo Carrillo State Beach, Photo: Dana Roeber Murray

Like Yosemite, this idyllic, sweeping cove near the L.A. County border is one of my favorite places on Earth. Sometimes I paddle my surfboard past the breaking waves and float above the kelp. The water is so clear I can see the golden kelp waving below and orange Garibaldi flitting among the rocks.

I daydream about resting at the bottom of the sea, holding fast to a rock. I want to sway with the swell, watching the other creatures flicker in and out of the dappled light. My preteen daughters paddle out with me. They squeal about the cold water before they plunge in. They roll around in the seaweed, laughing and buoyant in their slick wetsuits.

It’s a peaceful spot that I go back to in my mind, when I’m feeling stressed or when I need a mental pick-me-up. I’m so glad I can get into our ocean, enveloped by thrilling waves and thriving sea life. I’m so thankful our beaches are open to all, regardless of socio-economic status, and visited by more and more people every year. I’m glad the Bay continues to Heal.

I want everyone in greater L.A. to come to our beaches to swim, fish, play and explore. I want Heal the Bay’s Aquarium at the Santa Monica Pier to inspire people from around the world. I want our Beach Report Card to empower people to dive in with confidence – assured that the water is safe for swimming. I want people, regardless of their native language, to understand which fish are safe to eat, and which fish pose potential health risks.


Leo Carrillo State Beach, Photo: Dana Roeber Murray

I’m grateful to all of you for supporting our work to make all these things happen. We live in a place where people dream big and almost anything is possible. Every day I fight for the future we all wish to see. Heal the Bay protects the beauty and diversity we have today, and we fight to make it better.

And now, we take the time to feel gratitude for the ocean that sustains Heal the Bay – and the people like you who care enough to learn, share, volunteer and act. It’s a blessing.

Thank you. Happy Thanksgiving.

P.S. — As the holidays approach, please consider making your tax-deductible Year-End Gift to Heal the Bay early this year. Nearly 70% of individual donations are made by people like you in the next 60 days. It’s a critical lifeline for us.