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Heal the Bay Blog

Category: Climate Change

Take Action for Our Ocean

Our ocean needs our help—from fighting for environmental justice and urgently addressing the climate crisis that impacts People of Color and low-income communities at disproportionate levels, to blocking a new federal attack on Marine Protected Areas that dampens progress for wildlife biodiversity, to stopping fossil fuel development and single-use plastic manufacturing that pollute our water, air, soil, and bodies. There is so much work to do.

Together, we need to tune in to the waves to recognize how much our ocean provides for us and raise awareness about our individual and collective duties to protect safe and healthy water for all people and marine life.


Support Ballot Initiative Against Plastic Waste

We have a chance to bring a groundbreaking plastic pollution reduction act directly to voters on the 2022 ballot in California, but to get it there we need signatures from people like you.

The California Recycling and Plastic Pollution Reduction Act is on track to qualify for the statewide 2022 ballot thanks to signatures from hundreds of thousands of Californians. This act would require a 25% source reduction of single-use plastics by 2030 AND hold Big Plastic financially accountable for their pollution.

Help us get this on the ballot and up for a vote: Print. Sign. Mail. Done.

GET PLASTIC ON THE BALLOT

 


Fight the Federal Rollback on a Marine Protected Area

Our nation is in crisis. Yet quietly, in the background and for the first time in history, the federal administration has rolled back protections on a National Marine Sanctuary. The Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument protects ocean biodiversity and is invaluable to marine resource protection.

Sign this petition and urge for the reintroduction of protections for this marine protected area.

PROTECT MPAs

 


In Solidarity

Heal the Bay stands in solidarity with the Black community demanding justice for ongoing tragedies caused by systemic racism as well as social and environmental injustices.⁣⁣⁣

Black, Indigenous, and People of Color need to be protected. Black lives matter. The fight for this protection starts in our hearts by examining our own privileges and roles in systemic racism.

Environmental and social justice issues are intertwined. And it must be acknowledged that the hard work to dismantle systemic environmental and social barriers should not be a burden that continues to fall on BIPOC and marginalized communities who are most impacted by these issues.⁣⁣ We, who have access to a clean and safe environment, must fight for access, equity, and safety for all.⁣⁣

READ OUR FULL STATEMENT

 


Journey to Environmental Justice

In our latest two-part blog series, Heal the Bay Outreach Coordinator Danielle shares her environmental justice journey and what equality, equity, and justice can look like in the environmental movement.

READ: EJ JOURNEY

READ: EQUALITY, EQUITY, JUSTICE

 


Tune In to the Waves

Today’s Knowledge Drops webinar is all about the history of #WorldOceansDay and the Giant Sea Bass. Dive in with us to learn more about the ocean’s benefits, all the life it supports, and our duty to use its resources sustainably and equitably. Tune in at 1:30PM PDT.

REGISTER

 



Luke Ginger, Water Quality Scientist at Heal the Bay, discusses our disappearing Los Angeles County beaches due to climate change, and what we can all learn from the COVID-19 pandemic as local beaches begin to reopen. Luke fights for the environment’s rights by advocating for water quality regulation and enforcement. But he’s also looking out for the humans who go to the beaches, rivers, and streams by managing the Beach Report Card with NowCast and the River Report Card.

The beach has always provided me with happiness, fun, comfort, and adventure. As a kid, my parents had to pry me and my siblings away from the beach every time we went – we would have gladly tried our luck sleeping on the cold damp sand rather than get into our minivan. Two decades later, most of my beach days end with me reluctantly walking back to my Prius clutching my beach accoutrements with pruney fingers and purple lips from staying in the water too long. Only now I don’t have to convince anyone to stop for ice cream on the way home!

The ocean always has and always will be a fixture in my life. And, the same is true for many people living in SoCal. Beaches are where families gather, where people go to relax and have fun, and where anglers provide food for their families. The beach is a priceless resource woven into our lives providing us with happiness, memories, and sustenance. This makes it hard to accept the bitter reality that we will lose many of our beaches due to impacts from climate change and coastal development. 

Climate change is causing our oceans to warm up. When water warms up it expands, leading to sea level rise. The melting of glaciers and ice sheets also contributes to sea level rise. This puts our local beaches at risk because the ocean will gradually get bigger and eat up more sand and land. 

Our coastline is also shrinking because coastal development exacerbates beach loss by acting as a barrier to the natural movement of beaches inland as well as by cutting off natural sources of sand that would have nourished our beaches.

Depending on our response to sea level rise and our approach to coastal development, Southern California is predicted to lose between 31% and 67% of its beaches. What’s even more devastating is the fact that we cannot make that figure 0% because there has not been enough done to stem climate change both locally and globally. The hard truth is losing beaches is an inevitability due to humanity’s inaction to properly safeguard them.

The COVID-19 pandemic has given us a dire glimpse into what our future holds. It is telling that many beaches in California had to be shut down during the pandemic because too many people were drawn to them. The beach gives us opportunities to exercise and offers moments of mental peace and relaxation, especially during difficult times. While beaches in Los Angeles County start to reopen this week for active recreation activities only, we still face the reality that soon there will be less beach for all of us to enjoy. 

These facts are hard to live with. But, we need to harness our emotions and use them for action. Our actions now can ensure we give our disappearing beaches a fair chance at being saved.

Here’s what you can do right now to help save our remaining beaches:

  1. Become civically engaged! Support policies that reduce pollution and wane our dependence on oil and fossil fuels. Heal the Bay supports California Senate Bill 54/Assembly Bill 1080, which requires companies to reduce their single-use plastic packaging (derived from oil) by 75%. We also support the end of drilling in neighborhoods as well as on the coast. If there are no climate action policies to vote on, or if you can’t vote, become an activist and participate in local events like Fire Drill Fridays or volunteer with organizations like STANDLA.
  2. Change your behavior! Consider personal lifestyle changes such as eating more plant-based meals and reducing your dependence on single-use plastics. See our list of climate action tips to help you. If we all take steps to reduce our individual climate impacts, we can have a huge impact. But we can’t rely solely on our individual actions; we need policies at all levels of government that will reign in polluting industries. Learn more about why we need to make systemic changes along with personal changes.
  3. Volunteer with Heal the Bay! We offer many opportunities for individuals and groups to help make an impact on protecting the environment. Register for a virtual volunteer orientation. Once we are back up and running, you can join us for a beach cleanup, help educate the public at Heal the Bay Aquarium, and participate in our community science programs.  
  4. Enjoy the beach safely! Tackling climate change requires widespread public support and for all of us to adapt to new realities. Whenever you visit the beach, make sure you are following all signage posted in the area as well as health and safety guidelines. And before you go in the water, make sure you check the Beach Report Card for the latest water quality grades and information.
  5. Increase coastal access! Heal the Bay supports coastal access for all, and it concerns us that many local communities in California have no access to open space. Nature heals us, and everyone should be able to enjoy the outdoors. As we continue to prioritize the COVID-19 response, and look toward the gradual reopening of outdoor spaces and related services, it is crucial for our state to work with diverse stakeholders to set clear health and safety guidelines so our outdoor spaces can reopen to all people and for a variety of activities. You can take action by urging your local and state government to prioritize safety, equity, and access when creating reopening plans for our beaches, parks, and trails.


In part two of this two-part blog post, our Heal the Bay team dives into the causes and impacts of climate change. Check out part one.

Why is it critical for us to make a strong commitment to climate action now? Well, to start, we are emitting 152 million tons of green-house-gas (GHG) pollution into our atmosphere every single day. Oceans have been our buffer for decades, absorbing much of this air pollution and heat, not to mention all of the stormwater pollution, plastic, and other contaminants that end up washing out to the coast.

Our persistent and destructive actions have altered the oceans’ natural processes. Absorption of GHGs has changed the pH of our oceans causing ocean acidification, which negatively impacts the entire marine ecosystem. Rising ocean temperatures affect ocean circulation, which not only prevents efficient transport of nutrients but also makes it harder for the ocean to continue to naturally absorb our GHGs. 

As we continue to dump pollution into our environment, we have begun to feel the impacts of this climate crisis here on dry land, as well, with longer droughts, more intense storms, erosion along our shorelines from sea level rise, air pollution, more devastating fire seasons, and an increase in record breaking temperatures contributing to the impact of widespread heat islands (urban areas that are much hotter than their rural or natural surroundings because of human activity). As a result, we are facing heat and flood related deaths, food shortages, and an increased spread of disease. 

Professor Hugh Montgomery acknowledged climate change as a medical emergency back in June 2015, but the fact is we have been experiencing a climate induced emergency worldwide for decades. We are all impacted by climate change; however, the burden of these negative impacts is not distributed equally across communities. 

A history of racially discriminatory land and environmental policies has caused an unjust and disproportionate impact on overburdened communities. We are seeing this disparity in the current pandemic and it continues to be felt in the climate crisis.

Low-income communities of color have significantly less access to parks and green space, which exacerbates the heat island effect. And despite the fact that higher-income households have a larger carbon footprint, the highest concentration of oil wells in Los Angeles are in low-income neighborhoods whose residents face higher rates of health-related problems as a result. These disproportionate and location-specific rates of health-related problems like asthma and upper respiratory illness are direct consequences of systemic environmental racism, and the reason low-income communities of color are at a higher risk to contract and die from COVID-19. To amplify this burden, the same communities also bear significant socioeconomic impacts as a result of the response to this pandemic.  

Additionally, a lack of community representation in local government and decision-making processes makes adequate access to resources to prepare for and combat the impacts of climate change even more difficult. The compounding social, economic, and environmental impacts of climate change make just, sustainable, and immediate climate action vital. 

How is Heal the Bay Fighting for Systemic Climate Action?

In addition to calling for individual actions, Heal the Bay is taking our own climate action now by demanding systemic changes. 

We push for climate resilient policies within local city and county offices as well as many state agencies like the State Water Resources Control Board, the Fish and Game Commission, the Coastal Commission, and the Ocean Protection Council. We track the activities of each agency so that we can advocate for science-based climate actions such as creating sustainability plans, setting aggressive goals to address ocean acidification and deoxygenation, and approving a strong MS4 Permit to reduce the pollution that exacerbates those issues.

We also advocate for the restoration of our ecosystems that have the ability to buffer against climate change by sequestering carbon, reducing the heat island effect, and protecting us from flooding. Our work on Los Angeles River ecological health, Ballona Wetlands restoration, and Marine Protected Areas all serve to create healthy watersheds and a thriving ocean, natural climate buffers, and important natural resources on which we depend.

In addition, we engage in programs to implement environmentally friendly and sustainable projects like wastewater recycling and stormwater capture that provide multiple benefits (improving our water quality, increasing our water supply, restoring our watersheds, etc.). These projects not only help us prepare for the impacts of the climate crisis, but they also restore natural processes that can help us to fight climate change. In addition, we actively oppose expensive and environmentally harmful projects like ocean water desalination, so we can put our limited resources toward more sustainable multi-benefit projects.

And we work to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels by forcefully opposing offshore drilling in the Santa Monica Bay and in neighborhoods, negotiating with the City of LA for a just transition to renewable energy, and banning single-use plastic (a product of fossil fuel).

Of course, the greatest asset we have is YOU: people who read our blogs, people who volunteer at cleanups, people who come by our table at public events or visit Heal the Bay Aquarium, people who invite us to speak at schools and events, people who take the time to learn and then share their knowledge with others.

To overcome the climate crisis in a way that is just and sustainable, we need both individual action and systemic change. But, most importantly, we all must acknowledge how injustices in our communities affect the impact of, and our responses to, climate change in order to create a resilient future for all.



In part one of this two-part blog post, our Heal the Bay team encourages you to take climate action on Earth Day and every day. Check out part two.

We have all been impacted by COVID-19. Thousands have lost their lives and millions more have lost their livelihoods. During these devastating times, something has happened that many thought wasn’t possible: coordinated collective action around the world to defeat a common threat. As we tackle the climate crisis, we want to carry over that same momentum of collective action, while ensuring that health and safety does not come at the cost of frontline communities.

As we continue to band together to save lives through our individual actions across state lines and international borders—physically distancing ourselves and wearing protective gear to slow the spread of COVID-19—we must also make a commitment to take climate action.

Greenhouse gas emissions by humans have thrown Earth’s natural processes off track, causing longer droughts, more intense storms, sea level rise, air pollution, hotter temperatures, devastating fire seasons, and more. Underserved communities bear the brunt of these negative impacts, which are now linked to higher COVID-19 death rates

Heal the Bay has committed to taking climate action by educating thousands of volunteers about the climate crisis, advocating for climate resilient policies, and engaging in the restoration of our ecosystems (natural climate buffers). Can you make the commitment too? Here is how you can take the climate challenge to lower your carbon footprint and advocate for the systemic changes necessary to tackle the climate crisis.

Take the Climate Challenge

Just as our personal actions during the ongoing COVID-19 response have helped flatten the curve, so too could our individual actions help slow down the onslaught of the climate crisis. However, wider systemic changes are also required to make the sweeping revolution our planet needs. And you have an important role in that transformation, too! 

The current pandemic places limitations on what we can do. It is a privilege to have the time, energy, and financial resources to make environmentally conscious choices and take action against climate change. Yet for many communities the decision to take climate action now or later can mean the difference between life and death. 

So let’s do our best to get creative and be intentional with our actions and resources. Whether you have money, time, creativity, passion, or something else entirely your own, we all have a unique contribution to make in the fight against climate change. Start by picking one action you can take today to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. Use #fightclimatechangefromhome and let us know how you are fighting climate change for Earth Day!

Don’t stop there! Consider the skills, experiences, and resources you have to offer and create a personal list of climate actions. And because every day is Earth Day, take this list with you and do what you can when you can with what you have. 

Here are some ideas to get started…

Where We Live

  • Pick up trash around your neighborhood 
  • Ditch single-use plastic and switch to reusables at home
  • Remove any hardscape or lawn on your property and replace it with a vegetable garden or drought tolerant native vegetation 
  • Start or join a community garden
  • Sign up for Green Power or install solar panels
  • Reduce your energy needs 
    • Turn off lights, unplug unused electronics, and swap out old lights with LEDs (once the bulbs burn out)
    • Bring in a professional to insulate your home, or find simple swaps around the house like adding thick curtains around your windows  
    • Set your thermostat for maximum energy savings, or regulate temperature without a thermostat by opening/closing windows and using those thick curtains
    • Wash clothes in cold water, and hang dry rather than using the dryer
  • Decrease your water usage

How We Commute

  • Telecommute if it is an option
  • Choose public transportation
  • Walk or skateboard for shorter distances
  • Ride a bicycle
  • If you must drive
    • Carpool
    • Invest in a hybrid or electric vehicle
    • Use car sharing services with electric vehicles
    • Make sure your vehicle is in tip top shape for optimal efficiency (secure gas cap, inflate tires, etc.)

What We Eat

What We Learn

How We Vote

  • Vote in local, statewide and national elections!
  • Support just and equitable environmental policies in support of:  
    • Climate resiliency
    • A tax on carbon
    • The end of fossil fuels
    • Regenerative agriculture
    • Renewable energy
    • A reduction in plastic waste
  • Be an advocate
    • Attend local City Council meetings and town halls
    • Send a letter to your local representatives so they know climate action is important to you
    • Participate in public demonstrations and rallies
    • Sign petitions
    • Give public comments
    • Take part in the Census 2020
    • Create climate inspired art and share it with the world
  • Join existing efforts by Heal the Bay and partner groups to demand climate action now 

We hope you are feeling inspired to take climate action today. Take a deeper look at the climate crisis and see how Heal the Bay is pushing for systemic changes in California.

And while many of our usual activities have been put on hold until the threat of COVID-19 has subsided, we are still here with new virtual presentations, online events, blogs, and much more to help keep you informed and engaged.



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.