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Heal the Bay Blog

Along the L.A. River, Heal the Bay’s communications director Matthew King comes face to face with our civic shame – our growing homeless population. Fortunately, a solution is at hand on the March 7th ballot in L.A. County: Measure H. #YesOnH

A stocky Latino man rubs the sleep from his eyes. Yawning deeply, he stretches and greets the dawn. Bending over his sink in central Los Angeles, he rubs water through his thick, coal-black hair. He brushes his teeth, gargling loudly as he rinses. He slips into black polyester pants and a starchy white shirt. Jumping onto a beat-up mountain bike, he wobbles off to work.

A ritual like this occurs in thousands of bathrooms each morning, as Los Angeles’ working class comes to life. But this scene unfolded before me in a much more disturbing spot – along the concrete bank of the Los Angeles River, below the intersection of the 5 and 110 freeways.

The man – one of L.A. County’s nearly 50,000 homeless individuals – had turned to the river for basic sanitation. The channelized waterway served as his sink, his latrine.

I watched all this last year, during a live TV news segment I arranged to promote Heal the Bay’s river cleanups. We had arrived at the underpass in darkness, but as morning broke I noticed makeshift shelters wedged between the freeway and the river embankments. A maze of tarp-and-plywood structures resembled a favela in Rio.

A small group of homeless men came to life at first light, scuttling down to the river, like crabs emerging from rocky crevices. After the initial shock, the sight stirred fear, disbelief, and then shame.

Working in the water-quality arena, I wanted to warn the men about washing in the bacteria-filled river. But an uneasy feeling of privilege and futility swept over me. I stayed quiet. It was clear: They simply had no other place to bathe.

Welcome to L.A. – the homeless capital of the United States. Clinging underneath highways, sleeping in underbrush, passed out on doorsteps, roaming parks and beaches, these largely forgotten souls haunt our public spaces and our civic conscience.

The face of homelessness in Santa Monica. Photo taken by permission.

The river camp is at odds with assumptions many hold about the homeless. Colleagues at fellow nonprofit Chrysalis tell me that many homeless individuals are employed. While some people living on the street are mentally ill or drug addicted, most are not. And most would willingly move into permanent housing if Los Angeles had enough resources to serve those in need.

And while many live in the shadows, most homeless hide in plain sight.

On the loading dock of our Santa Monica offices, I frequently see the destitute setting up for the night on cardboard pallets. In the morning, they’re gone, leaving behind a depressing wake of cigarette butts and human waste. During my lunch break, I’ve stepped around bedraggled people sleeping in the middle of a bustling sidewalk. I often hear the terrifying shriek of homeless schizophrenics from my office, shouting senseless profanities to no one and everyone.

The loading dock at Heal the Bay’s offices. Photo taken by permission.

I’ve become calloused to these sights and sounds. Many Angelenos also feel numbed by habituation and helplessness. But the crisis is growing, with a nearly 20% increase in homelessness in L.A. County over the past three years. L.A.’s Skid Row continues to fester into a national disgrace. Did you know Skid Row only represents about 10% of the homeless population in L.A. County? As an L.A. local or tourist will tell you, homelessness is everywhere in L.A. County from San Pedro to San Fernando Valley, and, from Venice Beach to Griffith Park.

Fortunately, a comprehensive solution is at hand – a countywide funding measure to end homelessness for 45,000 individuals and families. On the March 7th ballot, L.A. County voters will be asked to approve Measure H, a quarter-cent sales tax increase to provide roughly $355 million for rental subsidies, emergency shelter, mental health and substance treatment, employment services and case management.

Explore the facts about Measure H via a printable fact sheet (PDF): English / en Español

Unlike previous fragmented initiatives, Measure H is driven by 47 specific recommendations housed in an integrated, cross-departmental plan. The county’s housing, public health and mental health units are unified in a manner atypical of the county’s often byzantine bureaucracy. Instead of just dangling keys, this 10-year campaign offers comprehensive services and support to get the destitute off the street. A citizens committee will perform annual audits to ensure money is spent wisely and real-world results are achieved.

Yes, there’s concern about taxpayer fatigue, with Angelenos recently voting to support separate transportation and open-space initiatives via Measure M and Measure A.

Trains and parks are critical, but now it’s time to invest in people.

A spirit of resolve is palpable among the community and business groups supporting the initiative, which includes Heal the Bay. I felt it in the packed, cheering room when the Board of Supervisors unanimously approved the ballot measure late last year. A wide swath of the county’s elite, from LACMA chief Michael Govan to billionaire philanthropist Eli Broad, voiced their support.

Homelessness is foremost a moral issue for Heal the Bay. To be clear, water quality suffers in our ocean and rivers when the homeless lack access to basic sanitation. But our focus is ensuring basic human dignity and access to clean water for all.

Now is the time for everyday citizens to uplift our region’s most vulnerable populations. We can’t wait any longer. It’s easy to get lost in the alphabet soup of initiatives on crowded ballots. But this measure is easy to remember and hard to ignore – H is for humanity.

Measure H can only be implemented if enough people vote Yes on the March 7th ballot.

Will you help us make waves by spreading the word about #YesOnH? It’s simple:

  1. Print this poster (or make your own!): http://bit.ly/votingyesonhbecause
  2. Write in the reason why YOU are voting Yes on Measure H.
  3. Take a picture with your sign OR make a short video telling us why you believe Measure H is the vital solution L.A. County needs to end homelessness.
  4. Share on Twitter and Facebook with the hashtag #YesOnH.


Heal the Bay has been making Southern California safer, healthier, and cleaner since 1985. Using the best science and grassroots community action, we mobilize campaigns that have lasting impact on our shorelines and neighborhoods. Here’s a sneak peek at the year ahead:

Thriving Oceans

Our local waters should be teeming with wildlife, not trash.

Rethink The Drink

Beverage-related items form the bulk of trash collected at our cleanups – plastic water bottles, straws, bottle caps, and bits of Styrofoam cups. To stem the deluge, we’re launching a community campaign encouraging people to go reusable, while our policy staff pursues regulations that hold dischargers responsible for drink-related waste.

Why It Matters: It’s estimated that plastic will outweigh fish in the ocean by the year 2050. We simply must end our addiction to single-use plastics if we want to reverse this frightening trend.

How You Can Help: Skip the straw. Pass on the plastic bottle. Forget the foam.


Healthy Watersheds

Vibrant shorelines depend on fully functioning urban creeks and rivers.

Cleaning Our Creeks

Our science and policy team will dramatically expand its water-quality monitoring program by launching regular analysis at more than a dozen locations along the L.A. River and Ballona Creek. Modeled after our A-to-F Beach Report Card, the new grading program will support public health and aquatic well-being throughout the watershed.

Why It Matters: We can’t expect our beaches and wetlands to be clean if the waters that feed them are filled with harmful pollutants. As we fight for tougher limits on polluters, this advocacy requires consistent and scientifically gathered data.

How You Can Help: Take a tour of the L.A. River or the Ballona Wetlands to understand the stakes. Curtail polluting runoff to our creeks by cleaning up after your pet, opting for copper-free brake pads, and curtailing fertilizer and pesticide use.


Smart Water

Los Angeles imports over 80% of its water – a number that’s far too high.

Re-Plumbing L.A.

The Southland needs to move beyond its centralized approach to water, which relies heavily on massive infrastructure – be it pumping water from the Sacramento Delta or Hyperion discharging millions of gallons of wastewater into the sea. Instead, Heal the Bay will lead the charge to invest in nature-based solutions, such as the L.A. City Council’s proposal to require “green street” capture-and-infiltrate features in all street, median, and parkway projects.

Why It Matters:  A resilient L.A. depends on the widespread adoption of strategies that maximize on-site management of all forms of water. No single entity can win the water wars single-handedly. Local water agencies, business, homeowners, and renters all need to manage water more wisely. Making the most of our local water resources will help keep more environmentally harmful and costly options, like ocean desalination, at bay.

How You Can Help:  Rip out your grass lawn. Break up a driveway. Support civic investment in stormwater capture.



Leslie Griffin, Heal the Bay’s chief water quality scientist and Beach Report Card manager, likes to kiss and tell. Here’s her list of the cuddliest spots for couples along the California shoreline.

Wanna enjoy a long walk on the beach this Valentine’s Day?

I know it sounds like a line, but this lovers’ activity is a cliché for a reason. A seaside stroll proves both calming and romantic, with the vast ocean rippling along the shore while your toes sink into the cool sand. Or maybe your dream beach date consists of gazing at a gorgeous sunset while you enjoy a seaside picnic.

Either way, we are all about getting a little sandy this February 14, whether with a loved one, a friend, or for a little solo escape into the outdoors for some dedicated me time.

Here are 10 spots we love for love (and their great water quality too!):

Torrey Pines, San Diego

Source: Dan_H, flickr


What we love about it: Torrey Pines State Beach has picturesque views of the San Diego coastline and the adjacent Torrey Pines State Reserve is filled with little trails leading down to the shore. We recommend that you only take marked trails and watch your footing, but the views are worth the adventure.

What to do here: We love the Torrey Pines Trail to Black’s Beach in the morning for a beautiful way to start your Valentine’s Day. Fair warning: some nudists like to visit this beach as well.

Water Quality: The only sampling site at Torrey Pines is at the Los Penasquitos Lagoon outlet. That site received good grades in our most recent annual Beach Report Card.


La Jolla, San Diego

Source: Wikipedia Commons


What we love about it: This spot is great for lovers and families alike, with plenty of adventure to be had by all ages.

What to do here: This is the perfect spot for a SUP (stand up paddleboard) adventure, snorkeling, kayaking, or even just a picturesque walk along the beach. For stunning ocean views over dinner, check out the Marine Room at the La Jolla Beach and Tennis Club.

Water Quality: La Jolla shores received great grades in our annual report last year.


Victoria Beach, Orange County

Source: Daniel Peckham, flickr


What we love about it: Straight out of a fairy tale, this shoreline spot is guarded by La Tour, a 60-foot castle-inspired tower.  Built in 1926, the structure provided beach access for a home on the cliff above.

What to do here: Looking to be someone’s knight in shining armor this Valentine’s Day? Look no further. To get here, walk to the north end of Victoria Beach in Laguna Beach, around the bluff and past another sandy section of beach. (This is a privately owned structure, so while you can walk up to it, please do not try to go inside or climb on the structure.)

Water Quality: Victoria Beach received A+’s across the board in our last annual report.


Crystal Cove State Park, Orange County

Source: Wikipedia Commons


What we love about it: With such a long swath of open sandy shores, this is an ideal spot for a romantic seaside stroll, or perhaps for a love-inspired photoshoot.

What to do here: If you’re looking for post-beach walk eats with an ocean view, the Beachcomber Café is a fun option.

Water Quality: Crystal Cove has great water quality in the summer or whenever the weather has been dry. Given the buckets of rain we have (thankfully) gotten this year, make sure to heed any beach posting signs you may see.


Palos Verdes Peninsula, Los Angeles

Source: Mark Esguerra, The Marke’s World


What we love about it: We love the PV areas so much, we had to lump the whole peninsula together as one of our top locations. Palos Verdes wraps around from the base of the South Bay down to San Pedro, and features beautiful neighborhoods, coastal trails, clean beaches, and tidepool adventures.

What to do here: If you’re looking for some marine biology-inspired adventure, time your visit for low tide to go tidepooling at Abalone Cove. For a short hike and a hidden rocky beach, check out Palos Verdes Bluff Cove.

Water Quality: The Palos Verdes area is home to multiple Honor Roll beaches, including Abalone Cove Shoreline Park.


El Matador State Beach, Malibu

Source: Elliot McGucken, 500px


What we love about it: This was easily the top rated romantic spot by Heal the Bay staff. Dramatic cliffs and coves (and even secret sea caves) make this beach feel like the backdrop of a steamy Hollywood romance scene. Whether it’s energizing a new flame or a longtime squeeze, you can expect El Matador to light your fire.

What to do here: Explore the dramatic landscape, take Instagram-worthy photos, find little hideaway spots for you and your date to share secret kisses, and wrap up your evening with a gorgeous sunset view.

Water Quality: El Matador is an Honor Roll beach with awesome water quality.


Arroyo Burro, Santa Barbara

Source: Damian Gadal, flickr


What we love about it: Santa Barbara is the perfect little getaway for a weekend of romance. If you’re looking for some time together to rest, rejuvenate, and rekindle the fire, Santa Barbara is the perfect place.

What to do here: We love Arroyo Burro for a sunset walk, and with plenty of parking and restroom access it’s a stress-free beach walk experience.

Water Quality: Arroyo Burro has great water quality in the summer or whenever it has been dry enough that the creek hasn’t breached. Make sure to heed any beach posting signs you may see if you’re feeling like taking a dip. But if the creek is flowing, be sure to stick to the sand over the waves.


Big Sur Coastline, Monterey

Source: Wikipedia Commons


What we love about it: Another area that is just so beautiful, we can’t limit it to just one beach. The shoreline in Big Sur is renowned for its rustic coastal beauty. A drive along the twisty coastline is certain to inspire awe. Pull off whenever your heart desires, and be sure to take photos so you can revisit the view whenever you like.

What to do here: McWay Falls is a stunning spot where you can watch a perfect little waterfall pouring directly to the beach. The Bixby Canyon Bridge is another cult favorite, and there’s even a Death Cab for Cutie song to match. There are plenty of hiking trails, camping sites, and little cafes to warm up in.

Water Quality: Monterey water quality testing only extends as far south as Carmel, so while there aren’t any sampling sites to rely on, the area is un-urbanized and thus less likely to have bacterial problems.


Baker Beach, San Francisco

Source: Wikipedia Commons


What we love about it: If you’re in the Bay Area and looking for an ideal view of the Golden Gate Bridge, this is our favorite sandy spot.

What to do here: The dramatic backdrop makes this spot ideal for a photo shoot, or even just a quick selfie-sesh. We’d recommend cuddling up for a romantic picnic and enjoying the sunset together.

Water Quality: Just be sure to avoid swimming near the creek outlet if you’re looking to take a penguin dip this Valentine’s Day.


Point Reyes National Seashore, Marin County

Source: Wikipedia Commons


What we love about it: The farther north you go in California, often the more dramatic and rural the coastal landscape. This National Seashore is a prime example of that raw beauty, and it is sure to take your breath away.

What to do here: There a quite a few campgrounds and hiking trails within the area if you’re looking to get back in touch with nature.

Water Quality: Marin County no longer samples within this area. The closest active sampling station is Bolinas Beach (another beautiful spot), just south of Point Reyes.


Heal the Bay’s Beach Report Card is the only comprehensive analysis of coastline water quality in California. We monitor more than 500 beaches weekly from Oregon to the Mexico border, assigning an A to F grade based on the health risks of swimming or surfing at that location.



Every year around Valentine’s Day, our Santa Monica Pier Aquarium celebrates its love for whales – just in time to mark the annual migration of the Pacific gray whale.

Pacific gray whales undergo a gargantuan 10,000-mile roundtrip journey between the Arctic and Mexico each year. These gentle giants breed and give birth in the warm Baja waters in late fall/early winter before heading back north with their calves around February. The migration takes the whales through the Santa Monica Bay – sometimes close enough to be spotted from the West end of the Pier.

A photo posted by Dale Frink (@dalefrink) on

Make sure to stop by for Whale of a Weekend at the Aquarium (Feb. 11 and 12, from 12:30 – 5 pm). From baleen to blubber, you’ll leave with a ton of knowledge. Be sure to take a peek through our binoculars from the observation deck; you might just spy a whale!

Our Top Ten Facts About Whales

  1. Whales only breathe through their blowholes – they can’t breathe through their mouths.
  2. There are two categories of cetaceans (whales): those with teeth and those without.
  3. Toothless whales, called baleen whales, include the Pacific gray whale, blue, humpback, fin, and right whales.
  4. Toothed whales include orcas, belugas, dolphins, narwhals, porpoises and sperm whales.
  5. Nearly 90% of all cetaceans are toothed whales.
  6. Baleen whales are the largest mammals on earth but they eat some of the smallest creatures in the ocean: tiny zooplankton.
  7. Baleen whales have two spout openings (like having two nostril openings).
  8. Toothed whales only have one spout opening.
  9. Narwhals actually only have two teeth. One of those teeth is the large spiral shaped ivory tusk that develops through their upper lip.
  10. When baleen whales blow air out of their spout, it creates a spray that sometimes comes out heart-shaped.

Don’t miss out on Whale of a Weekend for an ocean’s worth of fun, and don’t forget to celebrate World Whale Day on February 18!



summer camp in los angeles

When school is out, camp is in. Whether it’s during spring break or summer vacation, our aquarium camp at the Santa Monica Pier Aquarium offers the perfect balance of fun and learning for your child in an environment that fosters interaction with 100 species of marine life.

Registration is now open for Spring Break and Summer Camp sessions for youth from kindergarten through fifth grade, with sessions available in April, June, July and August 2017. Our space is limited and camp sessions can fill up quickly, so please enroll sooner than later to ensure your child gets a spot that works in your schedule.

Wondering what your child can expect at camp? Here are some of the fun activities young marine biologists can look forward to at our Santa Monica Pier Aquarium camp:

1. Interact with live animals.

Whether you’re having a staring contest with a wolf eel or getting a hug from a sea urchin, you’re sure to fall in love with the animals that call Santa Monica Bay home.

 

2. Explore the beach like a scientist.


Become a beach detective by looking for clues of life and living animals. The Santa Monica Beach is home to lots of cool critters and we regularly find sea birds, sand crabs, worms, striped shore crabs, and more.

 

3. Play awesome games.

It wouldn’t be camp without time to just run around and play in the sand, sea, and sunshine.

 

4. Let your creativity shine with arts & crafts.

Crayons, check. Glue, check. Scissors, check. Streamers, check. Put it all together and you get…an eviscerating sea star! Our ocean crafts are super fun and add the “A” for “Art” into STEAM education.

 

5. Satisfy your curiosity with hands-on science.

The minute our campers walk through our doors, they become scientists with us. From looking at plankton under the microscope, to running a test on water density, to dissecting a squid, our camps encourage scientific questioning and experimentation in a safe and educational environment.

 

6. Have fun with your friends – both new and old.

Whether you come to camp with your buddies, or meet new ones here, camp is always better when you have someone to share the experience.

 

7. Help protect your favorite animals by becoming an ocean steward.

Just like our Heal the Bay mission, our camp focuses on ways we can protect the ocean and its inhabitants. As we clean trash off of the beach and brainstorm ways to go green, our campers earn the right to call themselves Planet Protectors.


And here’s what some parents are saying about our camps:

“Amazing counselors, well-organized, enthusiastic children and overall excellent!”

“My daughter loved dissecting squid and all the beach activities. This is the second year she has gone to Santa Monica Aquarium Camp and it is her favorite camp of the summer. She loved her counselors and how exciting they all made marine science and ecology to her – she wants to be a marine biologist!”

“First day my son said, ‘I learned a new word, Bioluminescence’ to multiple people!”

So what are you waiting for? Let’s dive in!

Registration for Aquarium Camp is now open for both the Spring Break and Summer sessions. Please visit healthebay.org/camps for more information and enroll today.



The new administration ordered funding freezes of EPA grants and contracts yesterday. Communications Director Matthew King examines five ways this directive could harm the Bay.


UPDATE 2/1/17: Today members of the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works boycotted the vote to confirm Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt’s nomination to lead the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. A vote will be rescheduled in the coming days. Add your voice to this petition now urging the U.S. Senate Committee to reject Pruitt’s nomination. Tell our elected officials to maintain strong EPA funding for programs that affect our Bays nationwide.


These are strange and unsettled times in Washington, D.C. Many conservatives and populists are euphoric about the promise of a new administration, while progressives grow increasingly pessimistic with each passing day.

It’s also safe to say these are strange and unsettled times here in our offices, as we process what the actions of the Trump administration could mean for our work and the Bay.

As a trusted watchdog, Heal the Bay is guided by the best science, not emotion. And when a federal action from the new administration threatens the health and well-being of the Bay, we speak out forcefully.

Well, this week is one of those weeks.

Coming into work yesterday morning, we learned that the new administration had imposed an immediate freeze on grants and contracts by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The startling move “threatens to disrupt core operations ranging from toxic cleanups to water quality testing,” according to a ProPublica record search.

In all, the U.S. EPA dispenses some $6.4 billion in federal grants each year to support testing, cleanup and remediation initiatives, including several Heal the Bay programs.

Transition officials insist the freeze is merely a pause and allows incoming managers to assess if the programs should move forward. But longtime U.S. EPA employees and seasoned advocates paint a different picture – hiring freezes happen, but grant freezes are unusual and can threaten to disrupt contracted work.

Here’s how one U.S. EPA contractor responded to questions from a stormwater management employee, per ProPublica: “Right now we are in a holding pattern. The new U.S. EPA administration has asked that all contract and grant awards be temporarily suspended, effective immediately. Until we receive further clarification, this includes task orders and work assignments.”

Many questions remain about the EPA freeze, such as how long it will last and which contracts it impacts.

As recipients of nearly $200,000 in yearly U.S. EPA grants, we are rightly anxious. Similarly, many of our partner organizations receive federal funds that power collaborative initiatives with Heal the Bay.

We still have more questions than answers, but here’s a look at our top 5 issues that could be affected by grant freezes:

 

1. Regular Monitoring of Beach Water Quality

Our Beach Report Card provides weekly A-to-F water-quality grades for more than 500 California beaches, protecting millions of oceangoers each year from getting sick. U.S. EPA grants underwrite the weekly sampling and testing of beaches conducted by many county health agencies throughout the state. No money = no testing = no data = no Beach Report Card = compromised public health. We’ve faced this issue with temporary budget reductions in the past, and have scrambled to piecemeal some bridge funds to keep some monitoring alive. But, there is no current plan for the state or other funders to pick up the pieces dropped by EPA if funding for beach programs is slashed.

 

2. Keeping Our Local Streams Healthy

The health of the Bay can’t be separated from the health of the waters that feed it. Fully functioning and thriving creeks, streams and rivers provide numerous environmental benefits – habitat, improved water quality and recreational space. U.S. EPA grants to our Stream Team program fund our staff scientists’ ongoing monitoring and education efforts along the L.A. River. Programs, like U.S. EPA’s Urban Waters Grant programs are specially designed to support restoration and protection of the important waterways that flow through communities in places that are most in need of open and natural space. Loss of programs like these is particularly devastating for L.A.

 

3. Protecting Our Dwindling Wetlands

L.A. has already lost 95% of its coastal lagoons. With climate change and urbanization encroaching on our few remaining wetlands, it’s critical we act now to defend critical habitat. Through its National Estuary Program, the U.S. EPA funds work to coordinate protection and restoration of important habitats throughout Santa Monica Bay, like Ballona Wetlands and coastal dunes. Sarah Sikich, Heal the Bay’s vice president, serves as a Vice Chair of the Santa Monica Bay Restoration Commission Governing Board, the state partner of the National Estuary Program. Without this Commission, protection and revitalization of habitats and water quality in the Santa Monica Bay would be seriously hamstrung.

These are essential initiatives for the long-term health of the Bay and Southern California. Freezing or cutting back on these programs would truly be pound foolish.

 

4. Getting Rid of DDT in the Bay

Many people don’t realize that the Bay is home to an EPA Superfund site – a tag applied to some of the nation’s most dangerously polluted sites. A 180-acre swath of ocean floor off Palos Verdes is the world’s largest deposit of the pesticide DDT, the legacy of chemical dumping in the ‘50s and ‘60s. The EPA’s decades-long plan to clean up this mess should not be in limbo, because a legal settlement requires it to be cleaned up to protect animal life and people alike.

 

5. Preventing the Unsafe Consumption of Locally Caught Fish

Most fish caught in Santa Monica Bay are safe to eat. Some species, however, are contaminated with toxic levels of DDT, PCB and mercury. Thanks to an EPA grant, our award-winning Pier Angler Outreach team has canvassed local fishing spots and directly warned nearly 150,000 people about what fish are dangerous to eat in a variety of languages from Tagalog to Spanish. Because this is contract work required under a legal settlement, it is buffered against today’s freeze.


These grant and contract freezes are part of a set of bigger concerns. The new administration has begun to advance real threats to roll back clean water programs and regulations that protect public health; offer habitat protections for wetlands and streams that buffer communities from climate change impacts and safeguard wildlife; and many other important environmental achievements. Muzzling its agencies from communicating about their important work and the status of our environment also does a huge disservice to the public, keeping Americans in the dark about important research findings and the state of environmental resources.

In the coming days, we promise to share more information about changes at the U.S. EPA as we receive it. And as concerned as we are about the actions of the past few days, we remain on high alert for the realization of any roll-backs of federal regulations that have been discussed, which may impact California. If you care about these issues, now is the time to make your voice heard. Contact your representative to urge them to protect important environmental policies and programs. We will also soon be posting an Action Alert that will allow you to urge policy makers to maintain strong EPA funding for vital programs that affect the Bay. Stay tuned.

While we strategize on a more formal response to this week’s funding freeze, we encourage you to consider a donation to help support our work to protect the Bay.



Heal the Bay, in association with Storystation.co, is hosting a unique pop-up event at the Santa Monica Pier Aquarium on Jan. 26. Here, the Aquarium’s outreach manager Randi Parent reveals a sneak peak of the evening’s exciting lineup.

What better setting for an evening entitled: “Life Aquatic – Ocean Dwellers + Storytellers,” than the Santa Monica Pier Aquarium?

On Thursday, January 26, in association with Storystation.co, Heal the Bay is hosting a lively, local group of storytellers ready to share unscripted tales inspired by their personal connections to the ocean. Musical improv and the Aquarium’s tanks teeming with marine life serve as the perfect accompaniment for this unique pop-up storytelling event.

Snag your event tickets while space is still available. All proceeds benefit Heal the Bay.

Storystation.co, which produces the pop-up storytelling event series has revealed part of the lineup for our event on Jan 26th, including the following speakers and musicians.

Sneak Peek: Lineup for “Life Aquatic – Ocean Dwellers + Storytellers”

Jeff Ho

Take a cultural trip back to Santa Monica’s “Dogtown” days with storyteller Jeff Ho, Santa Monica’s legendary surfboard manufacturer and creator of the Zephyr skate team.

Marion Clark

Join Marion Clark of Surf Academy and Surf Bus Foundation, as she takes us to the powerful waves of the North Shore to accept an unexpected invitation.

Gregory Bonann, Two Days After “The Rescue” In 1989.

Hear 47-year LA County Lifeguard and Baywatch co-creator Gregory Bonann’s story, as he takes us back to an unforgettable tour of local beaches, while he introduced the original team of Baywatch writers to the world of lifeguarding, and how he ended up earning the Medal of Valor.

Michelle Packman

Add a few more awesome storytellers and ace musicians – including cellist and LA/OC teacher Michelle Packman, singer and songwriter Kira Lingman, as well as Jim “Kimo” West, famous for his slack key guitar playing, and his 30 years playing with “Weird Al” Yankovic – and this will be an evening of eclectic, surprising, and inspiring experiences not to be missed.

Tickets are $20, with all proceeds going to Heal the Bay. Space is limited, so please RSVP in advance.



The L.A. Kings and Heal the Bay are lacing up their flip-flops for a multi-site beach cleanup on Jan. 25. Here, communications director Matthew King muses about sports stars on the sand.

OK, I’ll admit it. I’ve become a little jaded after participating in dozens of beach cleanups.

As a Heal the Bay staffer, I know exactly what we are going to find (a disheartening mix of chip bags, plastic bottles, and bits of Styrofoam). And I know exactly what participants’ reactions will be (“OMFG, look at all these disgusting cigarette butts!”).

I have another admission to make – like most Angelenos, I’m a bit star struck. You’d think after years of working as an editor at The Hollywood Reporter early in my career, I’d be more blasé about celebrity. But I still get a charge out of seeing stars out in the wild – especially at one of our events. I still proudly carry my green reusable bag signed by #4 Luke Walton, former forward and current coach of the Los Angeles Lakers, at our downtown rally in support of L.A.’s plastic bag ban.

Cleanups and celebs are an interesting mix. The stars usually come on their own time and out of their own volition, without makeup artists or publicists in tow. So out of respect, I’m not going to name names. But we’ve had several Oscar- and Emmy-winning performers roll up their sleeves with us and humbly mingle with the general public. I’m proud to say I haven’t seen an ounce of ego or attitude.

As a hopeless sports junkie, I’ve had the most fun working with L.A.’s professional sports teams. I’ve picked up trash with former Lakers center Andrew Bynum, probably the only time I’ve participated in a cleanup with someone taller than I am. (I’m 6’6” – Kobe Bryant size, as I like to say.)

Ex-Laker center Andrew Bynum helps pick up trash off of the beach.

Former All-Star Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp and I scoured for bottle caps beside the Santa Monica Pier. (I think he was dating Rihanna at the time, and I can tell you he is one handsome dude.)

Former Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp weighs his trash totals.

But my favorite cleanup of all time was with the L.A. Kings in 2008, the year I started working at Heal the Bay.

I even allowed my young teenage son to skip school that day and help out, just to show him that working at a nonprofit has a little bit of cool to it. Hockey is my favorite sport, but that isn’t what made the day so memorable.

When a sports team hosts an event with us, two or three athletes will typically attend. But at the Kings cleanup in Redondo Beach, every player on the roster, except one, participated. This was 10 a.m. in the morning following a tough game the night before at Staples Center! I don’t know if the Kings have a culture of strict discipline or genuine community connection, but seeing two dozen players happily canvassing the sand on a foggy morning really impressed me.

Since then the Kings have gone on to win two Stanley Cup® championships. (I was in the house when defensemen Alex Martinez tucked in a reflex rebound at Staples Center to secure their second Cup against the New York Rangers!)

They’ve also grown into a great partner with Heal the Bay and have been honored at our annual Bring Back the Beach gala for their community outreach programs. Check out the video below to learn more.

Defensemen Matt Greene lent his voice to one of our most important battles – last year’s successful coalition effort to reject a ballot measure that would have allowed oil drilling beneath the Hermosa Beach seafloor. And all the other Kings live along the South Bay shoreline, so it’s no surprise they care about our local beaches.

In advance of this year’s NHL All-Star Game at Staples Center, we are hosting a volunteer cleanup at three locations on Wednesday afternoon, January 25. You can register and get more details here. (You might have to play hooky from work, but we can have one of our two staff Ph.D.s write you a doctor’s note!)



Is all this rain a good or a bad thing for greater Los Angeles? It all depends on your point of view, explains Communications Director Matthew King.

As a surfer, I hate the rain. As a Californian, I love it.

The recent series of downpours has kept me out of the ocean for weeks. I’ve gotten violently ill from surfing in water polluted with runoff and have learned my lesson. Maybe the deluge up north has been a boon for our parched state. But we are not out of the desert yet…

Below, we’ve answered our top 10 most frequently asked questions about what the #LArain really means:

1. Does all this rain mean the drought is over?

The recent rain might temporarily relieve drought effects, but it is not a cure-all. Yes, reservoirs up north may be filling again, but SoCal reservoirs are still dry. It will take years for our depleted groundwater aquifers to catch up. A good analogy is relating the drought to your credit card: a series of big storms is like paying off the minimum balance. You have temporary relief, but you still have a lot of water debt to pay off from the water you took out before. We require much more water to reach healthy and secure levels.

Locally, our regional infrastructure is not set up to store rainwater or capture runoff, and reuse it. The system is currently designed to move rain water to the ocean as fast as possible. Only 12% of Southern California drinking water comes from locally captured rainwater seeping into our groundwater.

 

2. What is “stormwater capture” and why is Heal the Bay so excited about it?

The L.A. region now imports more than 80% of our water from Northern California and the Colorado River watershed, using enormous amounts of energy and capital to do so. In an era of permanent drought, we simply must do a better job of using the water we already have by investing in innovative infrastructure projects that capture and reuse stormwater. We need to capture and infiltrate water on-site, replenishing aquifers instead of funneling runoff uselessly to our seas via the stormdrain system.

Current mood ☂️🌧

A photo posted by Sol Angeles (@solangeles) on

 

3. What needs to be done to improve stormwater capture in Los Angeles?

Runoff — if held, filtered and cleansed naturally in groundwater basins — can provide a safe source of water for human use. That means building so-called multi-benefit projects like green streets, water-smart parks and low-impact commercial development. Philadelphia and Portland have made enormous strides in treating stormwater as a resource rather than a nuisance, and so can we. The city of Los Angeles, for example, has created an ambitious master plan for stormwater capture. But all this innovative replumbing requires capital. Heal the Bay has joined a broad array of environmental and business groups asking regional lawmakers to craft a public-funding measure, perhaps in the form of a reasonable parcel tax. It’s a needed investment, one that will replace outmoded ways of thinking and pay dividends for years to come.

A video posted by Manolow (@manolow) on

 

4. The rain increases supply, but what about reducing demand?

Most conversations about water in our state revolve around supply. We often fail to talk about demand, and how we can reduce the strain put on our unreliable delivery system by simply being smarter about the water we already have. Los Angeles residents have done a remarkable job of reducing their average daily per-gallon usage over the past decade, but we can still do better. The average DWP residential customer used about 68 gallons per day in November, compared to about 42 GPD in Santa Cruz. A good place to start is rethinking our love affair with gardens and lawns in arid Southern California. Nearly 50% of water used residentially in greater L.A. goes to watering lawns and other landscaping.

 

5. I thought rain was a good thing. Why is Heal the Bay worried about it?

Yes, we desperately need rain. But rain creates urban runoff — the No. 1 source of pollution at our beaches and ocean.

 

6. How does rain create pollution?

Rimmed by foothills and mountains, Los Angeles County is like a giant concrete bowl tilted toward the sea. When it rains, water rushes along paved streets, picking up trash, fertilizer, metals, pet waste and automotive fluids before heading to the ocean via the region’s extensive stormdrain system.

 

7. How do stormdrains trash the beach?

With memories of historical deluges on their mind, engineers designed L.A. County’s 2,800-mile stormdrain system in the ‘30s and ‘40s to prioritize flood prevention.  Moving stormwater out to sea quickly was their number one goal. But it also has the unintended function of moving trash and bacteria-laden runoff directly into the Santa Monica and San Pedro Bays, completely unchecked and untreated. An average one-inch storm will create about 10 billion gallons of runoff in L.A. County stormdrains. That’s 120 Rose Bowls’ worth of dirty water!

A photo posted by Josh Choo (@joshchoo4444) on

 

8. What does all this runoff have to do with the ocean and marine animals that call it home?

Hundreds of thousands of animals each year die from ingesting trash or getting entangled in human-made debris. Seawater laden with chemicals and metals makes it harder for local marine life to thrive and reproduce.

 

9. What about the human health impacts?

Beachgoers who come in contact with polluted water after storms face a much higher risk of contracting illnesses such as stomach flu, ear infections, upper respiratory infections and skin rashes. A UCLA epidemiology study found that people are twice as likely to get sick from swimming in front of a flowing stormdrain than from swimming in open water.

 

10. How can ocean lovers stay safe during the storms?

  • Wait at least 72 hours before entering the water after a storm
  • Stay away from storm drains, piers and enclosed beaches with poor circulation
  • Go to Heal the Bay’s BeachReportCard.org to get the latest water quality grades and updates
  • If you find a gutter that’s blocked, call the City’s Storm Drain Hotline at (800) 974-9794 so that L.A. Sanitation can remove the debris

 


You can support Heal the Bay’s efforts to make L.A. smarter about water. Here’s how:

  • Come to a volunteer cleanup to learn more about stormwater pollution and what can be done to prevent it. Invite family and friends to help spread the word
  • Share information on your social networks and support our green infrastructure campaigns
  • Become a member. Your donation will underwrite volunteer cleanups, citizen data-collection efforts and advocacy efforts by our science and policy team to develop more sustainable water policies throughout Southern California.


Dec. 16, 2016 — Once again, rain is falling throughout the Los Angeles Basin.

Angelenos are expected to experience heavy rainfall during winter months. This weekend’s storm is predicted to generate an inch or two of precipitation throughout the basin, with some areas receiving as much as four inches.

How much water is that?

The County of Los Angeles estimates that during a typical storm event upwards of 10 billion gallons of storm water flushes into the ocean. That’s enough to fill nearly 120 Rose Bowls. Thinking about it another way, 10 billion gallons would provide enough water for a city the size of Santa Monica for more than three months.

Dang, that is a lot of water! Wait… Aren’t we in a drought?

Why are we letting this precious water resource flow into the ocean without trying to capture it? That is odd given we Angelenos import nearly 80% of our potable (safe to drink) water.

What a waste.

Our historic single-use approach to water has long shaped our hydrologic infrastructure, yet the non-use of large quantities of storm water is wasteful. In case you didn’t know, the gutters and catch basins at the end of almost every street in Los Angeles drain to a local river, stream, or creek, and ultimately out to the ocean.

More galling than the opportunity cost lost from not capturing rainwater and instead allowing it to flow out to sea, is the actual cost incurred from these events.

The usual, depressing detritus littered Santa Monica beaches after the recent storm.

The usual, depressing detritus littered Santa Monica beaches after the recent storm.

Almost every storm event brings physical debris, mostly plastics, to our rivers, creeks, and oceans. In addition, poor water quality after a rainstorm can make rivers and oceans unhealthy for aquatic organisms and recreational users.

In Los Angeles County alone, there are more than 70 major outfalls that spew trash, animal waste, pesticides, automotive fluids, and human-gastrointestinal viruses into our county’s bodies of water. This urban micro-brew of pollution can accumulate in just a couple days on sidewalks and roadways – 12 million people in a highly urbanized landscape – before being washed into the storm drains after a rain event.

The storm drain system is responsible for discharging this pollution into our rivers, creeks, and ocean. This causes potential human health risks, harms marine life, and dampens the tourist economy by littering shorelines.

The more we know, the better the flow.

Rainwater runoff can be captured for future use, whether we are in a drought or not.

Water literacy is a way of understanding the connections between the drought and imported drinking water, local storm water runoff and sewage, land-use and flooding, water quality, and water use.

Rain provides an ideal opportunity to explore water scarcity.

As individuals, we must reflect on our daily water consumption, our own ability to conserve and capture water, and evaluate with a critical eye the systems that handle water. Let the rain hit you, let it revitalize your thoughts on water, and then let’s begin to learn how to use it more efficiently.

Tips for Angelenos after rain storms:

  • Stay out of the water. The County of Los Angeles Environmental Health Department and Heal the Bay urge residents and visitors to avoid water contact at Los Angeles County beaches for at least 72 hours following rain event. In some locations and for long-duration rainstorms, staying out of the ocean for more than five days may be more appropriate.
  • Know the flow. Test your water knowledge, and share insights about rainwater runoff and where Los Angeles gets its water in your community.
  • Be a responder. Heal the Bay’s volunteer Storm Response Team goes on scene at local beaches after big storms to remove the nasty debris flushed from across Los Angeles before this waste ends up in the ocean. Get alerts for more info.