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Heal the Bay Blog

“We cannot recycle our way out of our plastics problem. The only way is to eliminate its use in the first place.”  – L.A. City Councilmember Paul Krekorian.

The City of Los Angeles has long been a leader on environmental issues. The city’s plastic bag ban took effect in 2014, following years of advocacy by Heal the Bay’s science and policy team. Thanks to that effort, momentum built for a statewide ban in 2016.

Since then, we have seen a marked reduction of single-use plastic bags in the state – some 70% reduction in bag litter, according to Californians Against Waste.

This week, the L.A. City Council made more progress toward moving forward on two new and critical goals to help reduce waste locally.

First, the Council voted unanimously Tuesday to craft a plastic straws ordinance that takes the statewide ‘single-use plastic straws on request’ policy even further. The new measure would require customers to explicitly ask for a plastic straw at all food and beverage facilities in the City of L.A., with a goal of phasing out single-use plastic straws by 2021.

Heal the Bay volunteers have removed more than 2.5 million pounds of trash from L.A County beaches, rivers and neighborhoods. Most of this trash consists of plastic, polystyrene and single-use items. Since 2000, Heal the Bay volunteers have picked up more than 126,000 straws and stirrers — these materials pose serious risks to our environment and local wildlife.

It’s becoming clear that we cannot continue to look at this plastic waste problem item-by-item; we must address it comprehensively. The negative impacts of single-use plastics on our oceans are well known. If we do not change our practices, there will be more plastic than fish in the world’s oceans by 2050 (by weight), according to a recent study.

Only a few hours after the full Council voted to move forward with drafting the Plastic Straws-On-Request Ordinance with hopes of implementing it by Earth Day 2019, its Energy, Climate Change and Environmental Justices subcommittee also voted unanimously to propose an even more comprehensive zero-waste initiative to address ALL single-use plastic waste.

The zero-waste initiative instructs the Bureau of Sanitation to analyze the feasibility of pursuing alternative approaches to waste reduction (besides recycling). Examples include measures adopted by the EU (25% reduction in plastics production by 2030) and those in Berkeley (ban all single-use foodware used by restaurants and other food establishments).

The Bureau of Sanitation will report back to the Council within 60 days with a report on its findings and recommendations for further action.

Heal the Bay is heartened to see the city taking a firm stance on the critical issue of plastic pollution. As demonstrated by the plastic bag ban, the changes that we make here in L.A. can have far reaching impacts beyond our borders.

We have the opportunity to stand by California cities like Berkeley and Santa Monica, which have pursued aggressive plastic reduction efforts. Beyond curbing waste in our home, the measure would serve as a strong example for the almost 50 million tourists who visit L.A. each year.

When L.A. makes noise, the rest of the world listens.



We have just released our 2019 Events Calendar. In addition to our BIG monthly Heal the Bay cleanups that happen on the third Saturday of the month, we’re offering monthly Volunteer Orientations on the second Monday of the month.

Another exciting opportunity that’s new in 2019 is our weekly Sand Crab Science activity happening every Wednesday at Heal the Bay’s Santa Monica Pier Aquarium. Our Aquarium continues to offer Sea Star Feeding, Story Time and Shark activities on a weekly basis, too.

If you’re looking for light community service work, we suggest becoming a Wednesday Warrior to provide Heal the Bay with office support.

View Events Calendar


Wanna roll up your sleeves and become a Heal the Bay Volunteer?

We have five distinct volunteer programs that we offer. Each program has a specific training associated with it, as well as its own volunteer roles.

Aquarium – Aquarium volunteers work at our Santa Monica Pier Aquarium. They support various public programs from interpreting at touch tanks to ensuring the success of private events. They also attend outreach events and represent Heal the Bay all over Los Angeles County.

Beach – Beach Captain volunteers support our large Nothin’ But Sand beach cleanups that occur every third Saturday of the month. They are also involved in other beach programs like Suits on the Sand, and have the opportunity to attend Coastal Cleanup Day Site Captain training.

Outreach – These volunteers take Heal the Bay knowledge all over Los Angeles. Speakers Bureau volunteers present in classrooms, in business meetings, at beach cleanups, festivals and more.

Community Science – MPA Watch Volunteers survey Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in Malibu and Palos Verdes. They monitor, collect data, and get to walk along some of California’s most stunning beaches.

Youth – Middle and high school students register their school club with Club Heal the Bay to be part of a larger environmental advocacy community. In return, clubs receive recognition and rewards for their civic action projects.


Get Started at Volunteer Orientation

We’re offering the following Volunteer Training opportunities in 2019. Sign up for a Volunteer Orientation to get started. You will then be able to register for the trainings you are interested in. It is required that you attend the Volunteer Orientation first, so please sign up before the month’s listed below so you don’t miss the Volunteer Training.

  • Speakers Bureau Volunteer Training – February 2019 & July 2019
  • Street Fleeting Volunteer Training – March 2019
  • Beach Captain Volunteer Training – January 2019, March 2019, May 2019
  • Coastal Cleanup Day Captain Volunteer Training – June 2019, July 2019, August 2019
  • Marine Protected Area Watch Volunteer Training – February 2019, June 2019 and September 2019
  • Aquarium Volunteer Training – March 2019, June 2019, October 2019

Sign Up for Volunteer Orientation



November wildfires in California exacted a terrible toll, from the horrific devastation of the Camp Fire up north to the destruction wreaked by blazes in the greater Malibu area. Here we provide a detailed FAQ about how the Woolsey Fire affected the Santa Monica Mountains area, what the future holds for our region’s largest natural space, and what it all means for the Bay.

How bad is the damage in the Woolsey Fire burn areas from an ecological point of view?

The Woolsey fire burned nearly 97,000 acres and the nearby Hill Fire in Ventura County scorched approximately 4,500 acres. Three lives and many structures were sadly lost. Habitat and open space also suffered big losses; 88% of the land in the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area (SMMNRA) owned by the National Park Service burned. This total does not include land owned by partner agencies — such as State Parks, which is also considered part of the SMMNRA; however, many of those areas also burned.

Fires are a natural part of the arid, chaparral landscape in Southern California’s coastal zones but the intensity and frequency at which they are occurring is not natural. Humans cause an estimated 95% of California’s blazes. Fires can be harmful to plants, animals, and the ecosystem.

Thick black smoke and heavy flames from the Woolsey fire burn out of control in the mountains in Malibu on Sunday, November 11. (Photo by Gene Blevins)

Plant species and communities adapt to typical fire patterns over time; if that cycle changes in frequency or intensity, we may expect to see longer recovery times. Habitats often cannot recover on their own. For instance, if its seed bank is destroyed by a very intense inferno, the native plant community may not be able to regenerate. After fires, invasive species may proliferate. One plant community may convert to another less biodiverse or complex zone.

Blazes also have big impacts on streams; they change the physical state of the waterway through increased inputs of sediment. For instance, after a fire, and particularly after a rain, deep pools in streams will be filled in with sediment. These changes can last for many years until the sediment is pushed out, which only occurs after many large storms.

Map of burned area from http://www.fire.ca.gov/

What about recreation? What are near-term impacts for visitors to area State Parks and State Beaches?

Many recreational areas are closed. Be sure to check for the latest updates before you head to them.

SMMNRA: Many structures burned:  most of Western Town in Paramount Ranch; Peter Strauss Ranch; part of the NPS/UCLA LA Kretz Field Station; luckily, the Anthony C. Beilenson Interagency Visitor Center at King Gillette Ranch was spared but remains closed. The NPS recommends hiking at Rancho Sierra Vista/Satwiwa and at Cheeseboro and Palo Comado Canyons until other areas are opened.

State Parks & Beaches: Malibu Creek and Leo Carrillo State Parks sit in the burn area. They lost structures and remain closed. Structures lost at Malibu Creek State Park include: employee residences, the historic Sepulveda Adobe, the Red House, the M.A.S.H. set, Hope Ranch (also known as the White Oak Barn) and the Reagan Ranch. Structures lost at Leo Carrillo State Park include: the visitor center, sector office, employee residences, three lifeguard towers, Leo Shop structures, the Junior Lifeguard Complex, and several restrooms. Point Mugu and Topanga State Parks were not in the immediate fire zone but remain closed. The Woolsey fire burned El Matador Beach, and part of the Robert H. Meyer Memorial State Beach, which remains closed. La Piedra and El Pescador are closed but did not burn. Malibu Lagoon and Point Dume State Beaches also remained out of the fire’s path but are closed.

Check on the status of State Parks and Beaches here: https://www.parks.ca.gov

Check on road closures here: https://dpw.lacounty.gov/roadclosures/

What happened to all the animals that lived there?

Many larger more mobile animals likely escaped immediate danger, such as deer, coyotes, bobcats, and mountain lions. In fact, the beloved mountain lions of the Santa Monica Mountains fared pretty well; of the 13 tracked via radio-collars by SMMNRA wildlife biologists, 12 have been confirmed as alive and moving. Unfortunately, #P74 is now presumed dead. Much of the cats’ needed habitat is gone, their food sources are reduced, and the remaining habitat will likely be unable to accommodate the large home ranges that they all require. Smaller less mobile animals likely suffered more direct losses than larger animals. However, all animals face the ongoing long-term impacts of habitat and food loss and increased competition.

Animals that live in streams face additional challenges, particularly as sediment and toxins enter the water after rains. The endangered red-legged frog requires deep pools with year-round water; the NPS has been successfully reintroducing red-legged frogs to a few locations throughout the Santa Monica Mountains. However, a rainfall in a burned area can bring significant amounts of sediment into these pools, filling them in completely and obliterating the frog’s habitat. Luckily, the source population for the red-legged frogs survived the Woolsey fire but ongoing vigilance will be required to ensure their survival.

How long will it take for the area to recover?

A biologist from the SMMNRA told the LA Times that it will take 10-20 years for the area to recover ecologically. Restoration activities, such as planting native plants and trees and removal of invasive species, will likely be needed in many areas. It will likely take significant time for the animal populations to reestablish themselves. Ongoing and new research will be key to monitoring the health of the ecosystems and success in recovery.

How will water quality be affected? What are the biggest dangers?

Fires can have significant detrimental effects on water quality. A forest or brush fire can exacerbate natural processes, such as the leaching of organic material and nutrients from soil, by removing stabilizing vegetation and increasing the potential for sediment runoff into waterways. Additionally, the concentrated brominated flame retardants used to contain and extinguish these fires are toxic and persistent, with long-term effects on water quality, aquatic life, and plant life.

While many of the immediate environmental impacts of a fire are local, atmospheric contamination from the fire plume can travel very long distances and redeposit toxic particulate matter on land or in waterways in other parts of the state and even in other parts of the U.S. Recent fires in California have caused unprecedented loss of private property, which means that the particulate matter in the fire plumes include the chemicals that are used or stored in our homes, offices and automobiles. This includes the metals and chemicals used to construct a building, the fuel from cars, cleaning supplies, other chemicals stored in garages, and much more.

What are the potential effects on water quality when rains – and possibly flooding and mudslides – come?

Stormwater is well known to be a major source of pollution in our waterways, particularly during a “first flush” event. After a storm, pollutants that have settled on the ground are washed into our rivers, lakes and ocean. After a fire, pollution on the ground is increased by the deposition of toxic particulate matter from the fire plume. Rain washes brominated flame retardants and the rest of this contamination into our waterways.

Fires can also cause more runoff, which means less natural filtration to remove contaminants from the environment. Blazes can destabilize the ground beneath us in some areas by removing vegetation, but it can also harden natural surfaces in other areas. This can occur simply through drying out healthy soil into a hardpan. Some plants, when burned, can leave behind a waxy residue creating a water repellent barrier (from KPCC).  This combination of enhanced natural processes, the presence of new toxic chemicals and increased erosion and runoff can cause toxic water conditions, detrimental to environmental, aquatic and public health.

Why are the Santa Monica Mountains important to our local environment?

The Santa Monica Mountains provide critical habitat and open space in close proximity to urban Los Angeles. Los Angeles is located in a biodiversity hotspot; this means that we have more species of plants and animals here compared to many other areas of the country and world. Many plants and animals thrive here and nowhere else, and unfortunately, development and other human impacts threatens this bio-diversity. The Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area is the world’s largest urban national park and the area provides an incredible opportunity for Angelenos to experience and connect with the natural world.

How is the health of the coastal mountains related to the health of the Bay?

Healthy watersheds and healthy coastal waters are inextricably linked. Heal the Bay has long worked in the Santa Monica Mountains. (You can see some of our scientists at work in the photo below.)  In 1998, we started our Stream Team community science program to assess the health of the Malibu Creek Watershed (the largest watershed in the Santa Monica Mountains and second largest draining to Santa Monica Bay). For 15 years, we conducted monthly water quality monitoring at  12 sites throughout the mountains. We also removed stream barriers and invasive species. In 2013, we published a comprehensive report on the State of the Malibu Creek Watershed. Every summer, we continue to monitor the water quality at popular freshwater swimming holes in Malibu Creek State Park. The land use, management, and way we treat the Santa Monica Mountains and all watersheds directly impacts the health of our local waters for humans and wildlife.

How can we all help people that live in fire-ravaged areas?

STAY INFORMED by following the official sources for disaster relief and recovery resources, including how to donate, upcoming volunteering opportunities, urgent safety information and more:

HOST PEOPLE IN NEED of emergency housing through Airbnb. Many people have been displaced and a roof over their heads along with a warm meal can help with health and wellness, as well as provide the temporary security and comfort people need to get back on their feet.

CONTINUE HELPING days, weeks and months after the disaster occurs. Give blood. Sign up to be a disaster relief volunteer or an environmental educator. Host a fundraiser. Whatever it is you can do, keep it up!

How can people help with the restoration of these natural places?

It is too early to start restoration work right now. Once needs have been better assessed, check out these great organizations and resources for ways to get involved:

SAMO Fund This nonprofit supports the preservation and enjoyment of the SMMNRA; their Outdoors calendar lists great opportunities by many organizations.

SMMNRA  Our local National Recreation Area also offers direct volunteer opportunities.

Mountains Restoration Trust   MRT has long been a partner with Heal the Bay. MRT suffered the loss of its plant nursery in the fire but we know the group will continue to do great work of habitat restoration and removal of invasive crayfish from local streams.

TreePeople  The organization works to restore areas of the Santa Monica Mountains by planting native plants and trees, caring for them, and removing invasive species.

Will this happen again?

Unfortunately, catastrophic fire events are likely to happen again in California. Gov. Jerry Brown aptly noted “This is the new abnormal, and this new abnormal will continue.”  Experts from all fields, including CAL FIRE Director Ken Pimlott, agree that climate change is creating conditions in many parts of the world that make fires in California more likely and more severe. The Fourth National Climate Assessment estimates that the amount of acres burned by fires each year will almost double by 2060.

What is the direct connection to climate change, if any?

It would be inaccurate to say that climate change is the cause of these wildfires in California. However, the impacts of climate change have produced the ideal conditions for record breaking fires. Globally, we have seen 16 of the last 17 years documented as the hottest years on record. With climate change, we anticipate longer periods of drought, followed by heavy precipitation events in California — a weather whiplash, so to speak. We recently experienced the worst drought in California’s history, followed by a very wet winter in 2016-17. While it gave us an incredible super bloom that we could see from outer space, it also ended up leaving behind a lot of dead fuel as the record-breaking temperatures and drought conditions resumed. As a result, we have witnessed 4 of the top 20 largest fires in California  in the last two years. And 15 of the 20 these blazes have occurred since 2002. The Camp Fire, however, is the most destructive by a long shot. And unfortunately, when floods follow fire, dangerous mudslides can result.

How can we better prepare to reduce the risk of this happening again?

In the long term, the best way to reduce the risk of fires is to address the effects of climate change by reducing our greenhouse gas emissions and returning our environment to a more natural system (with healthy soils, healthy vegetation and a healthy aquatic ecosystem) that can sequester carbon. This will ensure that the conditions we are experiencing today do not get worse. And there any many small changes that everyone can make at home to help reach this goal, like using public or active transportation, making sure that your home is energy-efficient, and planting new vegetation.

However, we know all too well this these fires are not a future issue, but a risk that we face today. So what can we do today to protect ourselves, our loved ones and our property? The California Wildland Fire Coordinating Group has some tips, at PreventWildfireCA.org, including campfire safety, debris burning, and equipment use. And Cal FIRE has released a guide called Prepare for Wildfire, with instructions on how to put in fire-safe landscaping and create an evacuation plan.

 

 



Heal the Bay scientist Ryan Searcy explains why you may see people on the shore donating their body to science.

Heal the Bay knows a thing or two about water quality. We’ve provided water-quality tools to millions of California beachgoers, helping them make decisions about which beaches are safe to visit. The most important monitoring methods we have are those that determine the levels of so-called fecal-indicator bacteria, or FIB, at a given beach.

The NowCast system (in its 4th year) and the Beach Report Card (in its 29th year) provide a daily and long-term look, respectively, at FIB at California’s most popular beaches. FIB are linked to the presence of fecal-borne pathogens like Cryptosporidium and norovirus, and high levels of FIB are correlated with illnesses like skin rashes, ear infections, and gastroenteritis. So knowing how much FIB is present at your beach can help you stay healthy.

However, FIB are not always indicative of every human pathogen under the sun. For example, the presence of Staphylococcus aureus is not associated with FIB levels, and you can still catch a nasty staph infection on days where FIB levels are low. Staph gets into the ocean through stormwater runoff discharges from wastewater treatment facilities, and even human shedding at beaches.

A 2012 study of some Southern Californian beaches showed staph was present in 59% of seawater samples. Contracting staph can lead to severe skin and soft tissue infections, sepsis and hospitalization, and even death. And to make things worse, the authors of the study also found strains of staph that are resistant to antibiotic treatment (called methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA) in some of their samples.

If you are sufficiently freaked out by all this, I do have some good news.

Heal the Bay is partnering with a team of UCLA scientists, Surfrider Foundation, and USC Sea Grant to collect data on MRSA and how it affects those who frequent the ocean.

Megyn Rugh, a UCLA Ph.D. student who is leading this project, hopes to determine the ocean’s role in transmitting superbugs to humans.  It has been documented that antibiotic-resistant pathogens are frequently harbored by those who work in the meat processing industry or in hospitals. But Megyn suspects that they are also often present in frequent ocean-users, namely surfers.

Her past work has shown that there is MRSA present in the water at some of the region’s most popular surf spots. By collecting nasal swabs of surfers who paddle out at breaks in the Santa Monica Bay, Megyn hopes to prove that those with high environmental exposure to MRSA are more likely to harbor it in their bodies.

How is Megyn collecting this data, you might wonder? Well, here is a PSA on behalf of the Surfer Resistance Study:

From now through the end of the winter, Megyn and her team will be collecting samples at El Porto in Manhattan Beach every Tuesday and the Breakwater at Venice Beach every Wednesday.

If you’re heading out for dawn patrol, stop by her makeshift beach lab and get your nose swabbed. And if you’re not a surfer, for science’s sake you can still help! Megyn is taking swabs of non-oceangoers’ noses as a control, so stop by when you’re out running or walking your dog. (She’s pictured in the photo at top.)

Heal the Bay has worked hard for many years to prevent MRSA and other superbugs from getting into our coastal waters in the first place.

We know that normal staph in seawater can evolve into MRSA through transfer of antibiotic-resistant genes that come from elevated levels of pharmaceuticals in ocean water. (And you thought Halloween was over.) In 2016, the County of LA failed to enact measures that would hold suppliers of these drugs responsible for taking back unused prescriptions so that they don’t end up in the water.

If UCLA’s study can show that surfers are more likely to get sick from MRSA they contract in the water, advocacy groups like Heal the Bay will have ammunition to get polices in place that improve water quality.

Until then, our advice (as always) is to stay out of the ocean for at least 3 days after a heavy rainfall, and to avoid swimming and surfing near stormdrain outlets.

If you are interested in learning more, or supporting this project with a donation, contact Megyn Rugh at megynrugh@ucla.edu



L.A.’s wildlife is taking over just in time for the midterm elections. In this critical vote on November 6, L.A. County voters will decide on candidates, propositions and measures. There’s one item on the ballot that will directly impact local ocean wildlife and a thriving ocean: Measure W!

Check out our new series of Snapchat Lenses created by @wrld.space, inspired by underwater animals found right off the SoCal coast.

Spread the word with a Snap.

Dolphins popping out of your reusable water bottles, a whale hovering over the I-405 freeway, jellies joining you at the gym…the possibilities are endless! Remember, no matter what we do, no matter where we do it – we all are connected to the ocean.

Unlock Snapcodes:

Scan the Snapcode or follow the link to unlock each Lens and start Snappin’. Learn more.

heal the bay snapchat lens whale
🐋Whale

heal the bay snapchat lens jellies
🎐Jellies

heal the bay snapchat lens dolphin
🐬Dolphin



All political ads and posts are paid for by Heal the Bay and L.A. Waterkeeper.

Environmental groups face two challenges getting attention during election season – limited funds and limited attention spans.

It hasn’t been easy rallying the electorate for Measure W, the countywide initiative to raise $300 million for increased stormwater capture in greater L.A. Voters will decide on the measure on Tuesday.

Building a lattice of nature-based facilities across the Southland could reap billions of gallons of runoff for reuse each year. Engineers think they can harvest enough runoff to meet the water needs of 2.5 million Angelenos. That’s about a quarter of L.A. County’s population.

It’s a critical first step in ditching our outdated Mulholland-era system of water management, in which we import 70% of our water and then send much of it uselessly to the sea each day.

But let’s face it, most voters tune out when you mention the word stormwater. Infrastructure isn’t sexy.

And Heal the Bay can’t compete with industry lobbyists who spend millions to jam airwaves with ads for narrowly focused initiatives. (Is paying for dialysis really the most pressing  issue in California today?)

So what’s an earnest nonprofit to do when it wants to cut through all the clutter?

Get creative.

Heal the Bay has tapped an amazing cadre of talent over the years at L.A.’s leading advertising, marketing, communications and design companies. With hat in hand, we’ve wheedled great work out of great minds. (Did you know that Chiat Day designed our now famous fishbones logo for free?)

Our strategy has been to find the surfers at an agency. It’s not hard to do – why do you think there are so many aspirational commercials these days of bearded hipsters loading their boards into their hybrid cars?

So when tasked by a coalition of L.A.’s leading environmental, labor and social justice groups to raise Measure W’s voice amid the mid-term noise, I turned to my neighbor and Bay Street surf buddy – Kevin McCarthy.

A longtime creative director, Kevin is the force behind such Heal the Bay hits as the “Drains to the Ocean” stencils spray-painted across L.A. sidewalks. He and his team also assembled the Jeremy Irons-narrated mockumentary “The Majestic Plastic Bag,” a viral hit that has been seen 2.5 million times and helped spur the statewide ban on single-use bags.

For Measure W, he assembled a creative coalition-of-the-willing to develop “sticky” public engagements, such as a “Haunted Storm Drain” tour during Halloween festivities at our Santa Monica Pier Aquarium and a makeshift “parklet” that popped-up on a busy DTLA street during lunchtime.

But he saved his best trick for last: doing some grass-roots marketing along the L.A. River.

Literally.

Last month, Kevin sent me a mock-up of a stunt to use live sod to spell out SAVE THE RAIN, SAVE L.A., VOTE YES ON W along the banks of the L.A. River.

The idea is brilliant in its simplicity and audacity. The L.A. River is the poster child for how we waste water. Each day its concrete channels funnel millions of gallons of usable water into the Pacific.

The River is also the perfect canvas for L.A.’s graffiti crews, whose work gets maximum visibility from car and train traffic that goes by its banks. Instead of spray paint, we’d use Mother Nature to spread the word. With our grass graffiti, we’d embody the very spirit of Measure W – turning concrete into green space. The medium would be the message!

Last week we quietly secured the necessary permits from FilmLA, which cut red-tape among the entities that claim jurisdiction over the River.

The installation took place Monday morning near the intersections of the 110 and 5 freeways. The site afford views for morning commuters over nearby bridges, as well as for Metro and Amtrak train riders.

As dawn broke, our stunt crew drove down a hidden driveway onto the river floor and set up camp. As a landscape designer, my wife Erin had secured beds of sod at a discounted rate. Crack landscape contractor Robert Herrera and his crew measured, cut and placed the grass in stencils laid out by Kevin and a few of our staff.

After two hours of hauling the heavy sod up the steep banks, our tired team stood on the edge of the river to examine our handiwork. Passers-by on the trains waved to us, filling us with satisfaction.

While the stunt paid off in real-time, we knew the real dividends would come with media coverage and social-sharing.

Top-rated KTLA Morning News sent a news crew to cover the installation. Partner L.A. Waterkeeper organized our expert video team – Will Durland, Lindsey Jurca, Ben Dolenc and Tyler Haggstrom. They shot drone footage as well as capturing time-lapse images. An edited package is now being shared with press and social media channels.

I know I’m biased, but the videos are stunning.

We’ll also share powerful video testimonials from some Angelenos whose lives and livelihoods depend on water: celebrity chef Raphael Lunetta, Golden Road Brewing co-founder Meg Gill, and L.A. County Fire Department Capt. Greg Rachal (who moonlights as president of the Black Surfers Assn.)

Lindsey and Will — a professional and domestic couple — assembled these evocative mini-films. Lindsey works for sister org and sometimes competitor Los Angeles Waterkeeper. She twisted Will’s arm to pitch in during a break from his regular professional work (“Survivor”). It’s been fun to collaborate with such passionate and committed creatives.

One post-script: No grass was harmed in the filming of this movie! My wife found a youth center to pick up the sod letters at the end of the day. The grass has a new home and is being put to good use in a recreational area.

After all, plant-life  – like water – is a terrible thing to waste.

Matthew King serves as communications director for Heal the Bay.

Political Disclosure: Heal the Bay and L.A. Waterkeeper paid for all materials and staff time for installation and filming. 

photo credits — top: Will Durland; drone: Tyler Haggstrom

 



The Heal the Bay team created this brief voter guide for the November 6, 2018 midterm election in Los Angeles County. Did you know? California is one of a few states that allows “Conditional Voter Registration“. This means you can register to vote conditionally all the way through Election Day on November 6. Contact the Los Angeles County Election Office for more information if you still need to register to vote!  If you are voting by mail-in ballot, make sure to have your envelop postmarked by Nov. 6.

 

VOTE: Yes on Measure W 

The issue: Los Angeles is a water scarce region, and much of the water that we do have is polluted.  Stormwater runoff is now the number one source of pollution in our rivers, lakes and ocean.  The highly urbanized watersheds of L.A. County allow billions of gallons of stormwater to flow directly to our waterways, taking oil, trash, fecal bacteria and other contaminants with it.  In 2017, 100 billion gallons of water were wasted because we were not able to capture, clean and reuse it.  Measure W is the solution to turn stormwater from a hazard (pollution, flooding, wasted water) into an incredible resource – clean and safe water.

The stakes: Stormwater currently poses a serious risk to public and environmental health. A study conducted in Los Angeles and Orange Counties found that the regional public health cost of gastrointestinal illnesses caused by contact with polluted ocean waters was between $21 and $51 million each year.  It also brings water quality below federal standards, leaving cities vulnerable to violation fines up to $25,000 per day.  Cities throughout L.A. County have developed plans with specific projects to remove pollutants from stormwater, leaving clean water that can be recycled for beneficial uses; however, these projects cannot be completed without adequate funding.  That’s where Measure W comes in.

Our Recommendation: Save the Rain. Save L.A. County. Vote YES on W!


VOTE: No on Proposition 6 

The Issue: Transportation is currently one of the largest sources of carbon emissions, leading to poor air quality and other detrimental effects associated with climate change including ocean acidification and sea level rise.  We need to address the inadequacies of California’s transportation system, but unfortunately, California’s local public transportation agencies have faced budget shortages for more than a decade.  Proposition 6 would repeal transportation taxes and fees provisions, which voters overwhelmingly passed in 2017, that would pay for transportation improvement programs.

The Stakes: Proposition 6 would eliminate approximately $3.3 billion per year specifically earmarked to repair or replace unsafe roads, bridges and overpasses.  It would also eliminate an additional $1.7 billion per year for projects that will improve alternative transportation methods, such as public transportation and active transportation.  This includes $100 million per year dedicated to build safer bike paths and crosswalks to incentivize active transportation.

Our recommendations: Cast your ballot to protect environmental health and public safety.  Vote NO.


View more info about California Ballot Propositions:

http://quickguidetoprops.sos.ca.gov/propositions/2018-11-06

Download our Voter Guide 2018



This November, voters in L.A. County will decide whether to approve Measure W, a public funding measure to capture, treat and reuse stormwater throughout the region. Through a modest parcel tax, $300 million in funds would be made available for cities to build a lattice of nature-based projects throughout the region, such as green streets, wetlands and parks that capture and store rain and runoff. The measure would increase local water supply, improve water quality, provide more open space and reduce trash along our shorelines.

Here, Heal the Bay and our partners L.A. Waterkeeper and Natural Resources Defense Council address many of the misconceptions that have been raised by opponents of this common-sense measure.

MYTH: It hardly ever rains in Southern California. We don’t need to spend millions to capture a few sprinkles each year.

FACT: We can capture and reuse billions of gallons of stormwater and other runoff each year in L.A. County, enough to meet the needs of 2.5 million Angelenos.

In the decades to come, climate change means that greater L.A. will whipsaw from drought to floods to drought. We must use our wet years to ensure we have enough clean water when the dry ones come. Even on the driest day in August, tens of millions of gallons of runoff flow to the sea each day. During a single storm, up to 10 billion gallons of this liquid gold runs through our stormdrains and into the ocean. We need to capture, clean and reuse water – every drop, every day of the year.

MYTH: We’ve got enough water right now. We’ve got bigger problems to fix.

FACT: We take water for granted – at our own peril. 

With climate change worsening, extended periods of drought in our region are a given. We’ve got to stop importing 70% of our water at great cost and expense of fossil fuels. It’s just not smart. We now have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to replumb our region and source more water locally. Water is the lifeblood of our city. Let’s not waste it.

MYTH: This sounds like a good idea. But we simply can’t afford it right now.

FACT: The measure will pay dividends for years to come, saving taxpayers money in the long run. The average property owner would pay $83 a year to improve water quality and boost water supply.

With our current system, we are literally pouring water – and money – down the drain each day. This measure will provide a smart return-on-investment in four specific areas:

  • Enhanced public health: Hundreds of thousands of beachgoers each year get sick from swimming in runoff-polluted beaches in L.A. County each year, at a cost of nearly $200 million.
  • Reduced regulatory costs:  L.A. County is on the hook for an estimated $24 billion over the next two decades to meet strict water quality mandates set by the State Water Control Board.
  • Lower water costs: Importing water from up north is expensive and unreliable – and it only will get worse as climate change takes hold.
  • Improved economy: Dirty beaches, trashy rivers and polluted water are not conducive to tourism; we need to protect the value of greater L.A.’s $16 billion coastal economy.

MYTH: No one knows where the money will actually go. It will disappear into a rabbit hole in the General Fund.

FACT: Some 455 specific projects have already been identified by cities to help green L.A.

Some of the region’s best engineers have devised these multi-benefit infrastructure projects as part of watershed management plans that L.A. County cities must implement as a part of their stormwater permit. These projects have been approved not only by local cities, but by our regulatory agencies. We have the data-driven blueprints; now we need the funding to turn smart vision into reality.

MYTH: This is yet another financial burden on low-income communities and seniors on fixed incomes.

FACT: Low-income senior citizens would qualify for exemption from the Measure W parcel tax.

Low-income communities face the same penalties for not complying with the federal Clean Water Act, but they lack the resources to meet requirements.  Measure W provides funding for small-scale or community projects, for technical assistance and for stormwater education programs. Priority will be given to projects that benefit disadvantaged communities to assist in reaching compliance and avoiding federal fines.

MYTH: The measure penalizes property owners who have already made improvements capture rain or reduce runoff on their parcels.

FACT: Measure W includes a credit program for those who have already reduced runoff on their property (or commit to do so).

If you already installed a cistern that captures runoff from your roof, your roof no longer counts as a taxable impervious surface, and your tax estimate will go down. If you installed stormwater capture projects that eliminate runoff from your property entirely, and capture additional runoff from your neighborhood, you may receive a tax credit up to 100% of your original tax estimate.

MYTH: There is no mechanism to make sure the money is spent correctly.

FACT: A citizens oversight committee will provide transparency and accountability.

Each city will be given flexibility in spending the 40% of funds raised that go back to municipalities, while annual reporting and audit requirements will ensure it is spent responsibly on appropriate projects. The 50% of funding going to regional projects is awarded competitively and has even more stringent requirements to ensure responsible spending. Five separate committees will ensure that funding is given to projects that meet required criteria and that there is a 110% benefit return to disadvantaged communities. Spaces are reserved on the Watershed Area Steering Committee for a wide array of stakeholders, including community, environmental and business voices.

MYTH: We would all pay this tax, but it will only benefit a few people in certain areas.

FACT: All communities in greater L.A. will benefit from Measure W.

The measure will fund a wide range of project types and sizes, from neighborhood to regional in scale. The program allocates funds to areas in proportion to the taxes generated in that area. The combination of municipal programs (40% of tax revenue), regional projects (50% of tax revenue — with 110% benefit return to disadvantaged communities), and a requirement for a range of projects sizes will provide an equitable distribution of funds and an equitable distribution of benefits.

MYTH: This is a forever tax, with no “sunset clause.”

FACT: The Board of Supervisors can eliminate the funding measure in 30 years.

The tax is set at 2.5 cents per square foot of impervious surface on a given parcel. That price will never increase with inflation, which means that its value (and relative cost to the taxpayer) will decrease over time. After 30 years, property owners will pay the equivalent of approximately 1 cent per square foot, at which time the tax will be up for review by the Los Angeles Board of Supervisors. By this time, operations and maintenance will account for the vast majority of spending, so that cities do not have to dip into their general fund to keep these projects going for years to come.

MYTH: Green projects cannot reduce flood risk as well as gray infrastructure like concrete stormdrains and channelized rivers.

FACT: Nature works.

Many cities around the world are using nature-based projects to capture stormwater. Many of these initial projects are showing that green streets, wetlands and infiltration parks do reduce flood risk, while also providing many other benefits to its community. Portland, Ore., and Philadelphia are already using green solutions to meet the challenges in their rain-intensive communities, such as flooding and erosion. Here in L.A. County, the Elmer Avenue Neighborhood project has dramatically reduced flooding along streets used by residents and local school children.

MYTH: The taxing of individual property owner’s permeable surface is an arbitrary and unfair method for addressing the region’s stormwater issues.

FACT: A parcel tax is the fairest way for addressing the problem of stormwater runoff.

Fees based on the amount of impermeable surfaces make sense because they correlate directly to the source of polluted runoff. Property owners can implement project that capture their stormwater on-site to reduce their tax burden. The average parcel tax is estimated at $83, but property owners can go to a County website to determine their annual assessment. They can also appeal if they think their parcel tax is determined inaccurately.



Big news today from City Hall. Single-use plastic straws may be phased out of Los Angeles restaurants and food establishments by 2021.

L.A. City Councilmembers Mitch O’Farrell and Nury Martinez announced the citywide Straws-on-Request initiative.

“Straws on request is another step by the L.A. City Council to remove more trash from our waste-stream, a waste-stream that currently and historically flows through the communities I represent,” said Martinez.

According to City Hall’s press release, “During the Energy, Environment, and Social Justice Committee  on Tuesday afternoon, O’Farrell instructed the Bureau of Sanitation to report back within 90 days regarding the feasibility of phasing out single-use plastic straws by 2021, and instructed Sanitation to work with the Department of Disability on methods and approaches to mitigate impacts to the disabled community associated with the phase out.”

“Plastic straws endanger our marine wildlife and they foul our lakes, streams, and rivers,” said O’Farrell. “With our economy of scale here in L.A. and a phase out, all businesses and manufacturers can join the initiative and pioneer low cost, biodegradable, disposable products.”

Heal the Bay’s ceo Shelley Luce spoke at the press conference about protecting L.A. for future generations.

“Since 2000, Heal the Bay volunteers have picked up over 121,000 straws and stirrers from Los Angeles County beaches,” said Luce. “It’s heartening to see businesses recognizing the problem and becoming part of solution.”

The Mon-straw-city made unsightly appearances in DTLA and at City Hall. Shout out to Danielle Furuichi, Heal the Bay Programs Coordinator, for rocking the straw-suit. And a special thank you to Susan Lang, Super Healer volunteer, for designing this upcycled trash costume made from 1,750 single-use plastic straws that were picked up at beach cleanups by Heal the Bay volunteers.

Stay tuned for more updates at Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Take the pledge to stop sucking at LAsucks.org.



From native storytelling to underwater ROV exploration, this weekend’s Marine Protected Area celebration at Zuma has plenty to offer, writes guest blogger Melina Watts. 

When ocean systems are allowed to function, the beauty of the sea generates life and vitality.  Marine Protected Area are protected underwater parks and have become a powerful tool for healing the world’s oceans.

This Saturday, Heal the Bay is joining Los Angeles Marine Protected Area Collaborative  for an “Honor the Ocean” event at Zuma Beach to celebrate these jewels off our local coastline.

Thanks to the hard work of many committed people, the state of California has established safe havens near Point Dume, Palos Verdes Peninsula and Catalina Island. Vulnerable species, pressured by overfishing and other human impacts, now have a chance to recover and breed.

Like terrestrial wildlife preserves, MPAs only succeed in protecting marine life if they are supported by the people who live, recreate and work in or near the MPA. We are reaching out to community members, tourists, surfers, fishers and students to celebrate these special places, our own “Yosemites of the Sea.”

The diverse members of the Collaborative bring unique expertise to the event. The day will begin with a Chumash blessing ceremony next to a tomol, a hand-constructed canoe, to connect to marine traditions that have existed for millennia. Midday storytelling by Tongva and Chumash elders will share the ecological and spiritual connection to the sea that flows through both Chumash and Tongva cultures.

Using recreation as a tool to connect guests to marine protection, Malibu Makos Surf Club will offer free surf lessons adjacent to the event. Los Angeles County Lifeguards will teach sidewalk CPR, and allow guests to check out the lifeguard longboards.

Given the driving need to preserve and restore marine biodiversity, Honor the Ocean offers a remarkable array of opportunities to learn on site about local marine life, including sea mammals, fish, algae, insects and birds.

Scientists and staff from the participating groups such as Heal the Bay, L.A. Waterkeeper, the Bay Foundation, California State Parks and the Cabrillo Marine Museum will offer natural history interpretation and talks. Via a beach walk, Linda Chilton from USC Sea Grant will teach citizen scientists how to use the iNaturalist app, which allows people to document and upload their discoveries in the wild. Heather Burdick will guide participants in a scavenger hunt.

Guests will have a unique chance to see state-of-the-art science in action. USC Sea Grant will bring a new underwater remotely operated vehicle. Attendees can see footage collected in Los Angeles County’s Marine Protected Areas. California Department of Fish and Wildlife will have a warden on site to explain MPA regulations, and offer free copies of the LA MPAs Fishing Guide.

Given that ocean health depends upon healthy watersheds, both the City of Malibu and Resource Conservation District of the Santa Monica Mountains will provide insights about how human activities on shore impact marine systems.

In northern Los Angeles County, local MPAs start at El Matador (just below County Line) and come all the way down to Paradise Cove. In this area there are two categories of MPAs: the Point Dume State Marine Reserve, and the Point Dume State Marine Conservation Area.

In the Point Dume reserve area, one of the most protective of MPA designations, all fishing and harvesting is prohibited. This area stretches from El Matador to Point Dume.

In the Point Dume conservation area, limited recreational and commercial fishing are allowed and fishing is regulated by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. This area ranges from Point Dume to Paradise Cove.

Thinking globally, for the last three decades, countries around the world have created MPAs to protect marine environments and preserve biodiversity. Some 2.07% of the sea worldwide is now protected though some type of MPA.

If you plan to attend, please register for the event here. We hope you will join us in this celebration of marine life and First Nation culture!