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Heal the Bay Blog

Category: Climate Change

We’re celebrating International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month by shining the spotlight on five environmentalists who inspire us.

Women of color are impacted by environmental issues like water pollution and climate change impacts at disproportionate rates as a result of systemic inequity and injustice.1 Racism and a lack of access to education, economic status, and health resources often leave women and people of color out of the conversations and decisions that impact them the most, specifically about land use, natural resources, and environmental policy.

Despite these challenges, women of color continue to create powerful and lasting change in their own communities and abroad.

We thank the environmentalists and activists who continue to fight for what is right despite facing opposition for their bold ideas and for simply being who they are. Women and girls are leaders in their communities and agents of change. Supporting and listening to them will benefit the health of our planet and people for generations to come.

Get to know five environmentalists who have an inspiring legacy of activism.

Wangari Maathai (1940 – 2011), Kenya

Founder of the Green Belt Movement, which has planted over 51 million trees, Professor Maathai focused on environmental conservation and women’s rights. She studied biology in her undergraduate and graduate school programs and later won the Nobel Peace Prize for her vast contributions to sustainable development.

 

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Berta Isabel Cáceres Flores (1971 – 2016), Honduras

Berta Cáceres was an indigenous environmental justice activist and grassroots leader who created the National Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations (COPINH) in Honduras. She fought courageously against illegal and harmful mining and logging as well as the construction of a dam that would cut off water, food and medicine for the indigenous Lenca people. Cáceres Flores was tragically murdered in 2016, sparking international outrage. The Cáceres family continues to demand justice for this corrupt violation of human rights. 2

 

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Isatou Ceesay (b. 1972), The Gambia

Isatou Ceesay is known as the Queen of Recycling in The Gambia, and rightfully so. Though she was kept from finishing school, she created the Njai Recycling and Income Generation Group, which turns plastic bag waste into purses, creating revenue streams for local women. Ceesay also educates and empowers women through environmental advocacy.

 

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Winona LaDuke (b. 1959), White Earth Indian Reservation

Founder of the White Earth Land Recovery Project and Honor the Earth, LaDuke is an environmentalist and political activist with Indigenous communities. She focuses on sustainable development, renewable energy, climate change, and environmental justice. The White Earth Land Recovery Project is one of the largest non-profit organizations in the United States dedicated to recovering original land and maintaining tribal food, water, and energy rights. Follow Winona on Twitter and Instagram.

 

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Vanessa Nakate (b. 1996), Uganda

Vanessa Nakate founded The Rise Up Movement and uses her voice and platform to share stories about activists in Africa who are striking due to inaction against the climate crisis. Recently, she spoke at the COP25 event in Spain (the United Nations Climate Change Conference) and joined dozens of youth climate activists from around the world to publish a letter to attendees of the World Economic Forum in Davos urging them to take immediate steps to prevent further harm. Follow Vanessa on Twitter and Instagram.

 

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About the author: Mariana Estrada is a digital advocacy intern at Heal the Bay. She grew up in Boyle Heights, Los Angeles where she enjoys a lively community of close-knit families and great food. She became interested in environmental issues like air quality at an unusually young age due to living in the city. Estrada’s area of focus is combining humanities and environmental issues to create effective and meaningful storytelling that renders real results. She studies English Literature and double-minors in Environmental Systems and Society and Environmental Engineering at UCLA.

1 Gender and climate change-induced migration: Proposing a framework for analysis. Author Namrata Chindarkar. Published by School of Public Policy, University of Maryland, College Park, USA. Published on 22 June 2012. Retrieved from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/254496452_Gender_and_climate_change-induced_migration_Proposing_a_framework_for_analysis
2 Berta Cáceres: 2015 Goldman Prize Recipient South and Central America. Published by The Goldman Environmental Prize. Retrieved from https://www.goldmanprize.org/recipient/berta-caceres/



Surfrider Beach Third Point, Malibu. Photo by The California Coastal Commission 

On January 10-12 and February 8-9, 2020, head to the beach during the King Tides to catch a glimpse of what our future coast will look like with sea level rise.

King Tides occur when the sun and moon align to exert the greatest gravitational pull on Earth, resulting in the most extreme high and low tides of the year. In California, experts say that King Tides today are what we can expect our daily high tide to look like in the next few decades under climate change and sea level rise predictions.

For many people, it’s hard to see everyday impacts of climate change locally and difficult to understand real-life impacts that are here or coming. King Tides give us the opportunity to visualize firsthand what a higher sea level will be like. This is also an opportunity to get involved as a community scientist, document the King Tides through photos, and use #KingTides. These photos can be used by scientists, government agencies, and decision makers to understand, plan for, and educate about climate change impacts.

There are actions that we can all take today to minimize and prepare for coming climate change impacts. For instance, individuals can reduce their carbon footprint by driving less, adopting a plant-based diet, and demanding action from elected officials. Individuals and agencies can support and advocate for restoration of coastal wetlands, such as the Ballona Wetlands, which sequester carbon and buffer communities from sea level rise and storm surges. And governments can update their Local Coastal Programs (a planning document to guide development) to plan for sea level rise and climate change.

You can even participate in the University of Southern California Sea Grant beach walk on February 7 in Manhattan Beach, Ocean Institute’s nature walks on February 8 and 9 at 10:30am in Dana Point, City of Oceanside’s observation and discussion of King Tides on February 9 at 8:30am, or check out other local King Tides events.

Want to learn more about climate change? Request a speaker from Heal the Bay to give a climate change presentation to your school, club, or group.

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Mother's Beach, Marina del Rey 2019. Photo by The California Coastal Commission

Helpful resources for King Tides:

Learn about the King Tides Project in California: https://www.coastal.ca.gov/kingtides/

Find out what time the King Tides will be near you:
https://www.coastal.ca.gov/kingtides/participate.html#tidemap

See how to participate by uploading your photos via a web browser or app:
https://www.coastal.ca.gov/kingtides/participate.html

Check out last year’s photos on this interactive map:
https://coastalcomm.maps.arcgis.com/apps/MapSeries/index.html?appid=5e77d399c4204a59afe895ff3b91b5e0



Nancy Shrodes, Associate Director of Policy and Outreach at Heal the Bay, shares our top five reasons for opposing an ocean desalination plant in the Santa Monica Bay. Join our Anti-Desal Rally on November 18 — this is our LAST CHANCE to speak out against the proposed $480-million dollar plant that will literally suck the life out of our Bay.

West Basin, a water wholesaler for seventeen cities serving nearly one million people in LA County, is proposing to build an ocean desalination plant in the Santa Monica Bay.

West Basin released their Final Environmental Impact Report (FEIR) on October 23, 2019 for a local plant that would produce twenty million gallons-a-day (MGD), and potentially an expanded regional plant at sixty MGD. It would be placed adjacent to the coast in El Porto, using some decommissioned infrastructure from the El Segundo Generating Station (ESGS) located at 301 Vista del Mar in the City of El Segundo, California.


Why we oppose ocean desal in LA

Ocean desalination currently does not exist in the Santa Monica Bay, and its arrival would bear concerning consequences for the Bay. Heal the Bay joins many other NGOs, municipalities, state agencies, and individual community members voicing concerns about the project. We oppose the proposed ocean desalination plant for the following reasons.

1. Desal is the MOST expensive and energy intensive form of water.

It is even two times more expensive than our imported water supplies that come from the State Water Project and the Colorado Aqueduct, which travel hundreds of miles to be delivered to SoCal. In fact, just moving water from Northern California up and over the Tehachapi Mountains is the single biggest energy use in the entire state, but ocean desalination uses more energy! And in the midst of our climate crisis in which we have an eleven year ticking clock, choosing ocean desalination (the most energy intensive form of water) to augment our water supply, would be a big step in the wrong direction.

2. Ocean desalination negatively impacts marine wildlife through both the intake of ocean water and the disposal of what’s left over after desalination, called “brine.”

West Basin is proposing an open ocean intake pipe with a screen, despite the fact that subsurface intake (a less harmful method of water intake) is recommended in the State’s Ocean Plan. In open ocean intake, small larval stage animals can be sucked into the system despite the screen (entrainment), and small fish that cannot fight the velocity of the intake water (at thirty feet per minute) can get stuck against the screen (impingement). The brine left over from desalination is extremely salty, and also contains any contaminants like metals that were in the ocean water originally as well as chemicals used in the desal process. This extremely concentrated brine water is disposed of via jet diffusers back into the ocean, which can be very toxic to marine organisms. As salt is much denser than freshwater, the discharged brine can accumulate and pool along the ocean floor. Considering the negative impacts of such a project, Heal the Bay believes ocean desal should only be used as a last resort for the region.

3. West Basin’s project is currently unfunded, which means that ultimately the price tag will lie with the ratepayers themselves.

West Basin currently quotes the project at half a billion dollars, but as we saw with the Carlsbad Poseidon plant, it’s likely underestimated. Ocean desalinated water from Poseidon ended up being four times more expensive than their original projected cost per acre foot of water. And the high cost of water is an environmental justice issue. West Basin has already had high costs in their environmental review process totaling $60 million to $80 million to date.


West Basin’s Service Area includes: Carson, Culver City, El Segundo, Gardena, Hawthorne, Hermosa Beach, Inglewood, Lawndale, Lomita, Malibu, Manhattan Beach, Palos Verdes Estates, Rancho Palos Verdes, Redondo Beach, Rolling Hills, Rolling Hills Estates, and City of West Hollywood.

4. Ocean desalination should be an absolute last resort.

What about other places that have pursued ocean desalination? Santa Barbara commissioned a plant that was built in 1991 as an emergency response to drought. After four months of use, it was mothballed when the rains came because rainwater provided a much more cost-effective source of water. A similar situation happened in Australia. During a historic twelve year drought, they built six ocean desal plants. Four have since been decommissioned. Although Santa Barbara has turned their plant back on and Australia, in the face of another drought, is considering recommissioning a plant, it’s not without significant costs (you can’t just flip a switch to turn back on an idle plant). There are other places, like Israel, who have excelled in conservation and recycle almost all of their water, but still can’t meet their water demand. Since Israel had no other choice to meet their demand, they turned to desalination. Only as a last resort, once all alternative water sources are exercised to the fullest extent, should ocean desal be considered.

5. There are much more cost-effective and environmentally friendly alternatives that we can pursue.

  • Conservation is the best choicethe cheapest form of water is water not used. LADWP customers averaged eighty gallons per person per day (gpd), while some water customers in LA County use upwards of two-hundred gpd. After Australia’s twelve year drought, residents upped conservation efforts and now operate around forty-five gpd. Needless to say, we still have a long way to go towards conservation and efficiency.
  • Stormwater capture is another amazing source of local water. In an average one inch rainstorm in LA, ten billion gallons of water rush through our city streets, pick up pollution, and are sent straight out to the ocean. For a region that gets ten to eleven inches of rain per year on average, that’s a lot of local water we can take advantage of. Luckily, in November 2018 we passed Measure W, which provides funding to create and maintain stormwater capture projects! The Safe, Clean Water program is well on its way to cleaning up our water and putting it to good use.
  • Water recycling and groundwater augmentation are other great options. In fact, West Basin has been a leader in Wastewater Recycling, and we would love to see them continue in that direction. And just this year, Mayor Eric Garcetti announced 100% water recycling in Los Angeles by 2035! It makes no sense to clean the wastewater up well enough to discharge into the ocean, only to pull it out of the ocean further south. Cut out the ocean middle man with wastewater recycling. We need to continue to cleanup any contaminated aquifers, and recharge our local groundwater storage that we are so lucky to have plenty of in the region.

For these reasons, among others, the Smarter Water LA Coalition is asking West Basin to not certify their FEIR or move forward with the project. The draft EIR resulted in more than two-hundred comments from NGOs, municipalities, state agencies, and individual community members voicing concerns about the project, many of which were not adequately addressed in the final EIR. Ultimately, the five publicly elected Board of Directors will decide if they should move forward with the project or not.

Make your voice heard

Join us on Monday, November 18 at 2:15 pm in Carson for a Rally and the Special Board meeting to let West Basin know how you feel. This is our LAST CHANCE to oppose the ocean desal plant in El Segundo! Remember to wear blue, and bring your anti-desal signs.

RSVP TO RALLY

 


 

Can’t attend our Rally or looking to spread the word? We recommend taking the following actions BEFORE November 18 to make your voice heard:

  1. Send your concerns to West Basin directly by email
    • Sample Email: I oppose an ocean desal plant in El Segundo for the following reasons: Desal is the MOST expensive and energy intensive form of water. Ocean desalination negatively impacts marine wildlife through both the intake of ocean water and the disposal of what’s left over after desalination, called “brine.” Your project is currently unfunded, which means that ultimately the price tag will lie with the ratepayers themselves. Ocean desalination should be an absolute last resort. There are much more cost-effective and environmentally friendly alternatives that we can pursue. I strongly urge West Basin’s Board of Directors to NOT build this proposed plant. Sincerely, YOUR NAME, YOUR CITY
  2. Tweet at West Basin with your concerns
    • Sample Tweet: We Don’t Want Desal in the Santa Monica Bay! Ocean desalination is the MOST expensive, energy intensive and environmentally harmful way to get local water. Desal doesn’t belong in LA. I urge @WestBasin to NOT build this proposed plant. 

  1. Retweet this post: https://twitter.com/HealTheBay/status/1191511709229502464
  2. Share with your network on Facebook and Instagram:
    • I oppose an ocean desal plant in El Segundo. That’s why I’m joining Heal the Bay at their Anti-Desal Rally on Nov. 18. Desal is the MOST expensive and energy intensive form of water. Ocean desalination negatively impacts marine wildlife through both the intake of ocean water and the disposal of what’s left over after desalination, called “brine.” Ocean desalination should be an absolute last resort. There are much more cost-effective and environmentally friendly alternatives that we can pursue. Join me at healthebay.org/desalrally




Image from STAND-L.A. Facebook page

Meredith McCarthy, Operations Director at Heal the Bay, highlights the STAND-L.A. coalition and why the City of LA must take action now to protect public health and the environment, including investing in good green jobs, protecting our children’s health, buffering communities and phasing out fossil fuels.

The STAND-L.A. coalition is urging Los Angeles City Hall to take action by implementing public health protection measures, including a 2,500-foot setback between active oil wells and sensitive land uses, such as homes, schools, places of work and medical facilities. The coalition, led by Physicians for Social Responsibility and Communities for a Better Environment, seeks to phase out neighborhood drilling in order to protect the health and safety of Angelenos on the front lines of oil extraction. Low-income neighborhoods are exposed to disproportionate health and safety risks due to a history of abundant drilling within close proximity to where residents live, work and go about daily life.

Heal the Bay proudly stands in solidarity with STAND-L.A. Oil extraction is simply incompatible with healthy neighborhoods, thriving oceans and a sustainable future for our planet.

We know firsthand that fighting Big Oil is a heavy lift. Years ago, Heal the Bay helped lead a coalition that defeated a slant drilling oil project under the sea in Hermosa Beach. Now, we cannot sit back satisfied that we prevented an oil rig in the ocean only to see it turn up in a neighborhood.

We joined the STAND-L.A. coalition at City Hall on Tuesday, October 15 for the Energy, Climate Change, and Environmental Justice Committee hearing. The Committee reviewed the City’s Petroleum Administrator’s feasibility report on the proposed setbacks between oil sites and sensitive land uses. The report suggested a 600-foot setback for existing oil and gas wells and a 1,500-foot setback for new wells. Coalition members argued this doesn’t go far enough, and rightly so.

Having lived through many environmental policy campaigns—where industries claimed that our economy would collapse and jobs would be lost if we banned plastic bags, cleaned up stormwater or prevented sewage from dumping into the Bay—I expected a similar argument to justify continuing to drill. So I was not surprised as I listened to testimony at City Hall that the pressing issue of drilling in our neighborhoods, once again, was being framed as a binary debate between “good jobs” versus “healthy neighborhoods”.

The coalition argued that this foolish debate will never be won by prioritizing one issue over the other. Environmental and public health risks won’t be solved either. We can only make progress by thinking about the issue holistically – investing in good green jobs now weans us off our harmful addiction to oil. Protecting our children’s health now leads to a more equitable future. Buffering communities now builds a more resilient LA. Phasing out fossil fuels now creates new job and economic opportunities… and not to mention a more sustainable planet that’s facing increasingly severe impacts from climate change.

Time and time again, Los Angeles has made bold moves to protect public and environmental health. But, what happens when cities can’t afford to buy a healthy environment from oil drilling lease holders to protect its residents, or worse, cities choose to ignore the damage being done? This is the question that the City of LA is grappling with. Will we invest in long-term sustainability or will city leaders be tempted by temporary job gains and the promise of future revenue?

It’s important to make the connection to plastics here, too. What do plastics and fossil fuels have in common, you ask? The plastics industry uses as much oil as aviation. So when we think about oil drilling in neighborhoods, we must also think about why we are drilling there in the first place.

The more cheap energy and cheap plastic material we use, the more waste we generate and the greater the environmental costs. The search for profit has turned a blind eye to the burdens and costs of poor air and water quality that low-resourced neighborhoods must carry.

Plastics use is expected to quadruple by 2050. In 30 years, the weight of plastics is likely to outweigh that of fish in our ocean. Plastic waste is already having a profound impact on oceans and marine life. It is found inside animals throughout the ocean food chain, from mussels to sea turtles to whales, and is likely to end up in the human food chain. These are the conclusions from a new report released at Davos by the World Economics Forum, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and consultancy firm McKinsey.

Environmental costs translate directly into economic costs. We can’t afford inaction and we can’t ignore the negative impacts on our communities, from blight to toxic air.

Please take a second to call or email your City Council representative and demand good jobs AND a healthy neighborhood. Insist that our region start working toward not just a new economy, but a new generative economy. A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step and a 2,500-foot setback.

Follow STAND L.A. on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and watch this hashtag for updates #NoDrillingWhereWereLiving.



SINGLE-USE PLASTIC

It’s estimated that there will be more plastic by mass than fish in the world’s oceans by 2050.

What we’re doing: Advocating for a ban on single-use plastic in the State of California and the City and County of Los Angeles. Following the model that propelled the statewide plastic bag ban in 2014, we are fighting to rid our beaches and neighborhoods of plastic trash. Our volunteers have removed more than 2,800,000 bits of plastic from beaches in LA County!

What you can do: Encourage your favorite restaurants to go plastic-free voluntarily

CLIMATE CHANGE

L.A. County could lose more than half of its beaches by 2100 due to coastal erosion related to warming seas.

What we’re doing: Reducing our carbon footprint is a complicated endeavor involving multi-national agreements, but we’re committed to taking action locally. Our staff scientists are advocating for the restoration of the Ballona Wetlands and other natural buffers to climate change.  Our policy staff is advocating for infrastructure projects that capture and reuse treated wastewater, instead of piping water from up North at tremendous cost and energy use.

What you can do: If you own a car, take public transit once a week. If you aren’t a vegetarian, skip meat one day a week.

Credit: (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

POLLUTED WATER

There are roughly 175 impaired water bodies and 1,317 specific impairments* in greater L.A., meaning they exceed federal clean-water standards and require formal remediation plans.

What we’re doing: Heal the Bay holds polluters accountable by ensuring that cities adhere to their stormwater permits. These MS4 permits**, which will be renewed this year, allow dischargers to send runoff into the L.A. County stormdrain system as long as effluents do not exceed acceptable levels of metals, oils, harmful bacteria and trash. It’s a bit wonky, but watchdogging these permits is essential for maintaining safe and healthy water in our region.

What you can do: Pick up your pet waste … always. Patronize car washes that capture runoff. Reduce chemicals from reaching the sea by reducing your use of pesticides and fertilizers.


*A specific pollutant in a waterbody, measured at levels that exceed federal Water Quality Standards. Many waterbodies in the L.A. Region are impaired by multiple pollutants.

**Permits issued by the Water Quality Control Board that monitor and regulate pollution in stormwater runoff. 



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.

Chaparral in Southern California’s coastal zones is adapted to fire, but the frequency at which wildfires 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.

 

 



Amanda Wagner, Heal the Bay’s watershed research fellow, recently attended Gov. Brown’s Global Climate Action Summit 2018 as an official youth delegate from UCLA. Despite negative headlines about climate, she left feeling enthusiastic.

The Global Climate Action Summit, recently held in San Francisco by California Gov. Jerry Brown, brought together NGOs, governments, and private companies from all over the world to talk about climate change and potential solutions.

The event inspired me, especially at a time when climate change disasters seem to be making headlines every day and there seems a lack in leadership in Washington D.C. to address these challenges head on.

A majority of the summit consisted of politicians and CEOs announcing their commitment to a low-carbon future. But several sidebar events focused on narrower themes. Most excitingly, the Ocean-Climate Action Agenda became a key summit challenge.

In the context of climate change, oceans are crucial for maintaining a stable climate. They absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and provide oxygen in return. Maintaining a healthy ocean will be key to curbing climate change.

Unfortunately, climate change is already negatively impacting the ocean by acidifying and warming the waters. Here in Southern California we’ve already made headlines this year with record-breaking temperatures. Our oceans are also acidifying, creating hostile and deadly conditions for many marine organisms. Other negative impacts such as over-fishing and pollution further strain the ocean.

The Ocean-Climate Agenda focuses on the ocean as part of the solution to climate change, rather than a victim. Fortunately, “the ocean is resilient, and it can recover if we help,” Julie Packard, executive director of the Monterey Bay Aquarium, pointed out during her talk.

A number of politicians and researchers, including Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, former U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, former NOAA Administrator Dr. Jane Lubchenco, and the Prime Minister of Fiji Frank Bainimarama spoke with great optimism and urgency about the ocean.

Among the most pressing recommendations: creating more Marine Protected Areas and investing in fishery reform. These two efforts can dramatically increase ocean resiliency and allow the sea to absorb more carbon.

Dr. Lubchenco called strongly for more protected areas of the ocean, citing the UN’s initiative to protect 30% of the world’s oceans by 2030. Currently only about 4% of the world’s oceans are protected compared to the 15% of land that is protected.

Heal the Bay played a crucial role in establishing Southern California MPAs and we continue to monitor them through our MPA Watch program. We love MPAs and know first-hand the great benefits they can provide to both the environment and the public. Protecting the oceans can help to capture and store more carbon, increase genetic diversity and create save havens for fish. They protect coastal ecosystems, which capture and store additional carbon from the atmosphere.

At the end of the ocean specific sessions, speakers offered up business-oriented solutions to the ocean climate crisis. Daniela Fernandez, founder and CEO of the Sustainable Ocean Alliance, highlighted her Ocean Accelerator program. The eight-week program brings together start-ups, investors, and mentors to develop innovative ocean solutions using technology.

Coral Vita introduced its unique for-profit business model of growing resilient, diverse coral on land-based farms for transplant into coastal regions. Rev-Ocean announced that in 2020 it will launch the largest research vessel on the sea. The ship will serve as a floating think tank for researchers and help improve collaboration and knowledge of sustainable solutions for protecting the ocean.

I am encouraged by the work we are doing in California and at Heal the Bay to protect our oceans. We must continue to protect them and increase the amount of ocean under protection. Creating more protected areas will help the ocean recover and become a partner with us in the fight against climate change. The summit showed progress can be made when smart people – from all sectors of public life – are committed to working together toward a common goal.



¿Sabían que 86% del agua de Los Ángeles es importada de otras áreas? Esto significa que el agua cual toma, usa para bañarse, e incluso usa para regar sus plantas, no es agua local.

Los Ángeles enfrenta grandes desafíos para garantizar el subministro de agua para los 4 millones habitantes de la ciudad.

Siendo una de las ciudades más grandes del mundo, todavía esperamos que alrededor de 500 mil personas lleguen a Los Ángeles en los próximos años. El crecimiento de nuestra población nos presentara nuevas oportunidades de desarrollo, pero también nuevos obstáculos.

Para asegurar un futuro próspero, debemos proteger lo que hace nuestra ciudad grandiosa: nuestro ambiente natural, nuestra economía diversa, y nuestros residentes cual ayudan al avance de la ciudad. Nuestra creatividad entretiene e inspira al resto del mundo, y por eso tenemos que asegurar que las futuras generaciones también puedan disfrutar de un espacio saludable y económicamente prospero que además sea ambientalmente sustentable.

#OURWATERLA

¿Que es el Ciclo del Agua?

Con los recientes cambios climáticos, obteniendo agua para Los Ángeles se ha vuelto más complicado. Para entender el flujo de agua en Los Ángeles, primero se debe entender el ciclo de agua del planeta.

Durante millones de años el planeta ha hecho circular el agua acabo del ciclo del agua. El ciclo empieza cuando el sol calienta el océano y causa la evaporación del agua. Las moléculas de agua se condensan en formas de nubes y finalmente caen del cielo en forma de nieve o lluvia. El suelo absorbe casi toda el agua y la filtra atraves de capas de tierra y rocas para reponer el agua subterránea y el resto del agua fluye a los ríos y arroyos cual regresa el agua al océano para que empiece el ciclo otra vez.

Desafío en Los Ángeles

Los sistemas de alcantarillados pluviales de Los Ángeles están diseñados para mover el agua de las calles, lotes de estacionamientos y techos hacia el océano para evitar inundaciones.  En un día típico de lluvia en Los Ángeles un promedio de 10 billones de agua—equivalente a 120 Rose Bowls—fluye por los alcantarillados pluviales recolectando basura y bacteria, cual es depositada directamente al océano. Esta es la causa principal de la contaminación marina en nuestro océano y también es una perdida enorme de agua dulce para nuestra región.

Los Ángeles: La Ciudad Esponja

Presentemente, la ciudad de Los Ángeles tiene más de un billón de agua subterránea almacenada en la región, pero solo 12% del agua para consumo humano viene del agua subterránea local. Debido a la contaminación de la cuenca de San Fernando solo se puede usar la mitad de la cuenca para abastecernos. Con planes de construir el centro de tratamiento de agua subterránea más grande del mundo, la ciudad de Los Ángeles planea limpiar las aguas contaminadas.

El gobierno local ha pedido una reducción del 50% de agua importada para el año 2025 y que 50% del agua sea local para el año 2035.

¿Cómo vamos a lograr estos cambios? La respuesta es simple: Capturando, Conservando, y Reutilizando. Nuestros líderes deben invertir en una construcción de obras públicas cual capture, limpie, filtre y recicle el agua que ya tenemos. Debemos absorber el agua cual es proveída por nuestro planeta y usarla para el sostenimiento de nuestra ciudad.

Vean más información del plan de la Ciudad de Los Ángeles.

This article is part of the blog series, “Heal the Bay en Español” for our Spanish-speaking community. If you are interested in learning more about this topic in English, view more info on Los Angeles Stormwater and follow the #OurWaterLA hashtag on social media.




Katherine Teshima (on the left) and her friend near the Redondo Beach Pier.

Maayong adlaw, or good day to the Heal the Bay community!

My name is Katie, and I thought the best way to begin introducing myself was with a greeting in the language I’ve been speaking for the past 15 months. I’m currently serving as a United States Peace Corps Volunteer assigned in the beautiful tropical islands of the Philippines.

Before I hopped overseas, I grew up along the sandy shores of Redondo Beach.

There was hardly a summer day that you wouldn’t find me feet first in the sand and head first in the water. I attended Redondo Union High School from 2007-2011 where I first became aware of issues that threatened the ocean as well as opportunities to help out. I was lucky enough that Heal the Bay had broken ground as a club during my junior year, and I dove right in.

During my time at Heal the Bay, I found a new means of connecting with the ocean that I loved so much. For the first time I considered (and literally sorted through) the waste we produce and how we manage to disconnect ourselves from our actions and the environment. I felt pride in the contribution I made during beach clean ups and soon realized that volunteerism was with me to stay.

Fast forward six years and I find myself in no other occupation than a “professional volunteer” with the United States Peace Corps. On the opposite side of the world, in a small town in which I am the only American for miles, and for 27 months I fight for the same cause I took up all that time ago.

As a Coastal Resources Management Volunteer I work within a local government unit alongside small fisherfolk organizations and community groups in improving practices and governance of their environment. This can include anything from solid waste management to coastal habitat assessments and environmental education. On a smaller, more personal scale I’ve found a new place that I call home. I’ve learned a thousand times more from the people and culture than I can ever hope to give back. My perspective has been tested, flexed and grown from interacting in an environment wholly different from my origin.

It is not without difficulty that I continue “the hardest job I’ll ever love.”

As stewards of the ocean we face ever mounting challenges related to its health and sustainability. Global environmental issues are represented in different shades at all local levels and require the associated community’s participation. It is only through the involvement of local stakeholders that the unique conditions and challenges can be addressed in an appropriate and timely manner. With the participation of those individuals directly using the resources we strengthen the capacity of our communities for change.

As we set out to transform our world/community/selves, we must be resilient against the threats of frustration and doubt.

What I’ve found more important than finding a solution to any one problem is building the strength to rise and brave the tasks at hand. It is only through our collective steps forward, backward, and all directions in between that our very real, very important impact will be made.


Through this Community Mangrove Training, local leaders gained practical skills and knowledge to rehabilitate their mangrove forest ecosystems. Mangroves are a critical part of the Philippine environment, as they provide protection for communities from strong storms, nursery habitat for fish and wildlife, and water quality maintenance.


I helped assess the fishing effort in our local bay by surveying the number, GPS location and type of fishing activity. Developing sustainable fishing practices is crucial in the Philippines where more than 50% of animal protein intake is derived from marine fisheries.


The opportunity to work with students – to learn a little bit and laugh a whole lot  – has strengthened the connection I have with my community and my Peace Corps service.


I love to share my journey and inspire others to consider volunteering in their own communities and abroad.  I recently spoke about my work at Heal the Bay’s Santa Monica Pier Aquarium.


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

Make a Year-End Gift to Heal the Bay



Ballona Wetlands Nicola Buck Heal the Bay

Photos of Ballona Wetlands on September 16, 2017 by Nicola Buck.

Excuse the pun, but today marks a watershed moment for one of our region’s most important natural places — the Ballona Wetlands.

After years of delay, state and federal authorities released restoration plans Monday for the beleaguered 600-acre Reserve in the Playa del Rey area. Greater L.A. has already lost nearly 95% of its coastal wetlands, so we’re ecstatic to see officials finally moving forward to protect this ecological jewel.

But it’s not just scientists and enviro junkies who should care. Wetlands touch everyone in our region, no matter where we live.

  • Do you like more thriving open space for all Angelenos?
  • Do you like protecting habitat for local animals and native species?
  • Do you like improved water quality throughout the region?
  • Do you like natural buffers from the coming ravages of climate change?
  • Do you like providing natural spaces for young students to explore?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you already care about protecting and restoring wetlands.

Why Ballona Needs Our Help To Heal

For Angelenos, Ballona Wetlands, located between Marina del Rey and LMU, are the largest wetlands habitat in the region. Unfortunately they are not healthy or functioning well and need our help.

Decades ago, authorities building Marina del Rey dumped 3 million cubic yards of fill onto the wetlands – about 28 million wheelbarrows’ worth. Even before that, to protect against flooding, Ballona Creek was encased in concrete, removing the vital connection between land and water.

These actions served as a double-whammy – degrading natural habitat and starving the wetlands from essential sources of salt and fresh water.

Ballona Wetlands Nicola Buck Heal the Bay

One Step Closer To Restoring Ballona

Today the California Department of Fish & Wildlife and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers released their long-gestating draft Environmental Impact Report/Statement (EIR/S), which presents three project alternatives for restoration. They examine the pros and cons of each alternative to meet the overall goals of the project, which are ecosystem restoration, increased public access and enhanced recreational use.

The good news is that the lead agencies seem fully and genuinely committed to a habitat restoration project that grows public access. Our staff scientists look forward to working with them to realize the option that we think best meets the goals for a healthy wetland.

The release of the EIR/S marks the beginning of a 60-day public comment period when anyone can weigh in on the plans.

Robust Restoration Is The Only Option

Heal the Bay is working together with a coalition of leading environmental groups and wetland scientists to advocate for restoration projects that put science first and maximize every opportunity to comprehensively restore our degraded wetlands.

Over the next few weeks, Heal the Bay will dive into the details and options highlighted in the restoration plans. The coalition doesn’t have a preferred alternative at the moment but will identify one in the coming weeks. It’s a thousand-page document – without the appendices! — so our team needs some time to thoughtfully review the EIR/S.

One alternative creates a more natural creek by removing concrete from Ballona Creek to reconnect the land to the water, north and south of the Creek; another alternative keeps the concrete along Ballona Creek but allows water to enter the floodplain north of the Creek, creating a so-called oxbow. Every EIR/S also has to examine the impacts of doing no project. You can see a nice review of the various options here.

Ballona Wetlands Nicola Buck Heal the Bay

Exact details of the restoration are still being worked out. But we can say for certain that we have to do something.

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

If we just leave the Wetlands alone, and do no restoration work, they will continue to degrade. They cannot heal on their own.

It’s critical we help our local environment thrive. In L.A. County, on average we have 3.3 acres of greenspace per 1,000 residents – well below the national average for major metropolises. We can do better.

You’re Invited To Explore Ballona

Heal the Bay, along with our partners, is dedicated to Bringing Back Ballona. As part of this effort, we invite you to join us over the next month to discover the wetlands.

We’re hosting events so the general public can explore this amazing resource, see why it needs help, and understand its incredible potential.

Ballona Wetlands Nicola Buck Heal the Bay

You can pick and choose from a number of fun and educational opportunities with our staff, partners and volunteers:

And stay tuned – as we review the alternatives for restoration, we will keep you informed. We are going to need your help. We need you to add your voice to help protect this special green space.

Send in your comments

Please email short letters of support calling for robust restoration of the Wetlands to the key decision makers — the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the state Department of Fish & Wildlife. Comments are due by Feb. 5.

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

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

Ballona Wetlands Nicola Buck Heal the Bay