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A day spent enjoying the waterways of L.A. County should not make anyone sick.

Heal the Bay today released the annual River Report Card, which assigns water quality color-grades of Red, Yellow, or Green for 27 freshwater sites in Los Angeles County. Grades are based on levels of bacteria monitored in 2018 and prior years.

Our staff scientists put a ton of work into this comprehensive study of bacterial pollution in our local waterways. We encourage you to soak up all the stats and charts we’ve assembled in the report, so we are all better informed about water quality in our region.

The River Report Card is the most comprehensive water quality report to date on bacterial pollution in popular freshwater recreation areas within the Los Angeles River Watershed, the Malibu Creek Watershed, and the San Gabriel River Watershed. These valued public places are often used for swimming, wading, fishing, kayaking, and other activities, especially during summer months when communities seek relief from hot SoCal days.

Here are some of the major findings:

  • The good news is that over half of all the water quality samples taken at freshwater sites in 2018 received Green grades – so bacterial levels were not a cause for concern at the time of the sampling.
  • However, there is a significant risk of getting sick from freshwater contact in Los Angeles County during dry weather. In 2018, 43% of water quality samples monitored by Heal the Bay came back as Yellow or Red, signaling a moderate to high public health risk.
  • The River Report Card features a Top 10 Freshwater Fails list. Taking the top spot with the worst grades overall was Hansen Dam, located in the Upper L.A. River Watershed, which had the highest public health risk (this site received Red grades in 80% of water samples taken!). Just last week, it was reported that over twenty lifeguards in L.A. developed rashes after swimming at Hansen Dam. See the full list of Freshwater Fails on page 10.
  • The River Report Card also includes a Top 10 Honor Roll list of the freshwater sites with the best grades overall. Six locations earned perfect Green scores in every sampling, including four sites in the San Gabriel River Watershed and two sites in the Upper L.A. River Watershed. Heal the Bay recommends that the public head to Hermit Falls and the East Fork San Gabriel River areas for freshwater swimming, based on the 2018 water quality analysis. Water quality conditions are subject to change so it’s best to check the latest available data when choosing a swimming hole. View the entire Honor Roll list on page 11.
  • Freshwater sites in more natural areas tended to earn better grades than freshwater sites near development. Read the report’s conclusions on page 22.
  • Better State and regional oversight and funding are needed for monitoring and public notice of water quality in freshwater recreation sites. (Our full recommendations starting on page 25) Monitoring protocols and public notification in L.A. County are not standardized, and government agencies only test for E. coli. Testing should also include the fecal indicator bacteria Enterococcus. Solely monitoring for E. coli might be putting the public at unnecessary risk. More on page 23.
  • The River Report Card includes storm drain monitoring. See which eight storm drains in the L.A. River Elysian Valley Recreation Zone need to be prioritized for runoff remediation on page 29.

Tips for enjoying and staying safe in L.A.’s rivers, streams, and creeks

Before heading to a freshwater recreation area in L.A. County check out Heal the Bay’s River Report Card at healthebay.org/riverreportcard (New data coming on Memorial Day). If water quality is poor (Yellow or Red), consider choosing a site that has good water quality.

People can also minimize their risk by limiting water contact, avoiding submerging their heads underwater, avoiding hand-to-face water contact, and washing off after contact using soap and clean water. For all water recreation, users should avoid entering the water with an open wound, if immunocompromised, or after a rainfall. Always heed official regulatory signs posted by the City or County. Swimming is always prohibited in the L.A. River main channel.

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About the River Report Card

We believe the public has a right to know about the conditions of our local waterbodies, and to make informed decisions about how they want to experience them. That’s why Heal the Bay developed the River Report Card — the most comprehensive water quality report to date on freshwater recreation areas in the greater Los Angeles area.

Heal the Bay began monitoring freshwater recreation sites in 2014 and developed the River Report Card program in 2017 to provide easy-to-use water quality information to the public. Water quality grades are based on the levels of fecal indicator bacteria (E. coli and Enterococcus) and are displayed as Red, Yellow, or Green. Green means there is a low risk of illness when there is contact with the water. Yellow indicates a moderate risk, while Red signals a high risk.

Since Heal the Bay started monitoring freshwater recreation sites and making water quality data public, some positive changes have included increased bacterial monitoring and public notification signage in L.A. River recreation zones as well as increased dissemination of water quality information to the public through emails, websites, and other online means by government agencies collecting water quality information. Our annual River Report Card 2018 includes additional recommendations for water quality monitoring and public notification protocols to be the most protective of public health.

Heal the Bay also manages the Beach Report Card, available at beachreportcard.org, which provides A-to-F letter-grades for water quality at hundreds of beaches on the West Coast.

Interested in learning more? Contact our team!



An aerial view of Kids Ocean Day 2011

Thousands of kids are coming together on May 23 for the 26th annual Kids Ocean Day! Sparking a love for nature in young kids sets them up for a lifetime of appreciation and respect for our oceans, watersheds and natural environment. Plus, they love digging their toes in the sand! At this event, kids will learn about marine animals, the importance of keeping our beaches clean, and what they can do to help.

To wrap up the day’s activities, the kids gather together in formation to create a powerful environmental message on the beach. Far above their heads, helicopters fly by to capture a photo. The result is a spectacular and meaningful image that our team at Heal the Bay looks forward to every year.

Kids Ocean Day 2019 Event Details

Date: Thursday, May 23
Time: 7:00am – 2:30pm
Location: Dockweiler State Beach, Vista Del Mar, Imperial Hwy Entrance, Playa Del Rey, CA 90293 (The end of Imperial Highway between Playa del Rey & Manhattan Beach)

Visit Kids Ocean Day Website


Kids Ocean Day Founder, Michael Klubock, on the importance of youth outreach, hands-on education, and how Kids Ocean Day makes an impact:

“Kids Ocean Day teaches school kids about how litter flows from our neighborhoods to the ocean, where it harms marine life and pollutes our natural resources. It’s where the lessons come to life. By bringing Los Angeles school children to the beach, we put them in touch with nature, while instilling good habits and stewardship that can last a lifetime. The wonder and beauty of the coast, combined with a mission to protect the natural world, is a profound experience. I see it on their faces every year and every year it moves me.

Kids Ocean Day is a way to show kids that their actions—both good and bad—have an impact. That’s a lesson worth learning at any age. Eighty percent of the pollution in the sea comes from the land as the result of runoff. We can all do something about that. Simple things like disposing of litter, picking up after your dog or joining a beach cleanup can make a huge difference.”

An aerial view of Kids Ocean Day 2014



The perfect spot for a beautiful walk, throwing a frisbee, de-stressing, digging your toes in the sand, volunteering, and much, much more. With warm weather on the way (and the beach just a Metro ride away) there are plenty of reasons to go to the beach – check out our list of things to do below!

 

1. For a relaxation day

 

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2. For the fresh air

 

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3. To foster a love of the ocean in your kids

 

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4. To soak up the sunshine

 

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5. To get a workout in

 

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6. For family time

 

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7. For some great beach games

 

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8. To take a mental break

 

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9. To do some people watching

 

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10. For a fun day with the kids

 

11. To spend quality time with friends

 

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12. To surf

 

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13. To take cute photos galore

 

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14. To play in the waves

 

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15. To listen to the waves

 

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16. To explore and reconnect with nature

 

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17. For the gorgeous sunrises and sunsets

 

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18. For a date

 

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19. To get in the mood for summer!

 

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To all our beach-lovers out there: we’ve created a new app to help you decide which beach is the safest and healthiest to go to!

We believe that no one should get sick from a day at the beach. But, it’s hard to keep track of how the rains, currents, and pollution affect your favorite beach spot. That’s why we’ve created our simple, yet comprehensive Beach Report Card with NowCast. It gives you the latest water quality ratings of beaches all along the West Coast.

So we’ll leave choosing a reason to go to the beach up to you, but we’ve got your back on picking which is the safest for you, your family, and your friends.



California Circular Economy and Plastic Pollution Reduction Act,

So, you heard California wants to eliminate single-use plastics? Here’s what you need to know and how you can help. Ready to take action? Urge our representatives to pass new policies by signing the Plastic Petition.

The California Senate and Assembly introduced two bills earlier this year that plan to drastically reduce plastic pollution. These bills are Senate Bill 54 and Assembly Bill 1080 and are referred to as the California Circular Economy and Plastic Pollution Reduction Act.

California is not alone in this endeavor to address single-use plastic at the source. Cities, nations and even the entire European Union have passed similar legislation. What do we know about these brand new bills, and what does the potential policy shift mean for California and the U.S.?

Here are some common questions and misconceptions about this important legislation.

I heard California is going to ban all plastic! Is that true?

The proposed legislation in California isn’t going to ban all plastic. Instead, the policies would set goals for the reduction of single-use disposable products and packaging, including plastics. By 2030, 75 percent of all single-use plastic packaging and products sold or distributed in California would need to be reduced, recycled or composted. After 2030, all single-use packaging and products must be effectively recyclable or compostable. As part of the shift toward a circular economy, the bills also instruct CalRecycle to develop incentives and policies to encourage in-state manufacturing using recycled material generated in California.

These targets would work similarly to California’s greenhouse gas emissions standards passed last year, which set a goal to move towards 100 percent renewable energy by 2045. The target was set and a plan will be developed to meet that target. Think of these plastics bills as a bold vision, with a specific plan to come later. Read the fine print.

What about recycling? Isn’t that important?

Yes, but, recycling as it exists today won’t solve the plastic pollution problem on its own.

Recycling is an important part of the puzzle, especially in the aftermath of China’s recently passed National Sword Policy that prohibits the United States from exporting our recyclables to China. India is quickly following suit, too. And we don’t blame them; it’s our dirty trash after all, and the United States needs a real plan to deal with it.

One of the key components of California’s bills is the standardized definition of what makes an item “recyclable”. For an item to be considered “recyclable”, it not only has to meet strict material requirements, but there also must be infrastructure in place that will ensure the proper recycling of that item, such as curbside pick-up and accessible recycling facilities.

It’s not enough for an item to be able to be recycled or composted, it has to actually happen.

Okay, so recycling is covered, but what about composting?

Just like recycling, these bills will create strict definitions and standardizations for compostable items. This clause will ensure environmental benefit by taking already defined standardizations such as “marine degradable” into account. As with recycling, the bill goes another step further and requires that items are actually being composted at proper facilities to earn the title of “compostable”.

Speaking of composting, what about compostable plastics? I heard those are okay to use!

Excellent question. It’s important to note that, although they sound sustainable, compostable plastics are not a good alternative. Compostable plastics may have benefits in the durable product world; however, they pose another set of issues for single-use products. They do not degrade in aquatic environments and require industrial composting facilities to break down, which we don’t currently have as part of the waste management infrastructure in greater L.A. The legislation being introduced in California will work to increase this infrastructure in L.A. and throughout the state so that all compostable items are being properly composted, helping to “close the loop”.

Wait, what does “close the loop” mean, and how is that related to a “Circular Economy”?

Right now, our global economies operate on what we call a “linear” system. We extract resources, produce products, and then discard the waste, known as “take-make-dispose”. Very little of those extracted resources are looped back into the economy to create new products, mostly due to cost and lack of infrastructure. A “circular economy” is the opposite system, where the raw materials used to make products are recovered to make new ones, with little to no waste. The process of moving from a linear system to a circular one is commonly referred to as “closing the loop”, and would drastically reduce our global waste and plastic pollution crisis by reducing the amount of waste we create. It’s sustainability at its simplest!

Didn’t Europe do something like this, too? Is California’s bill the same?

The European Union passed the EU Directive on Single-Use Plastics and Fishing Gear, a comprehensive plan to drastically reduce plastic pollution through a variety of different approaches. Sounds similar so far, but this directive is a bit different than what we have proposed here in the Golden State. Firstly, the main goal of this directive was to reduce plastic pollution, not necessarily reduce single-use plastics at the source. Secondly, the bill targets 10 very specific items that are most commonly found on European beaches based on beach cleanup data. Each item is then assigned one or more approaches, such as market restriction measures (an outright ban) or producer responsibility schemes (charging the maker of the product with the costs of cleaning it up). On the flip side, California is aiming to set broad plastic reduction targets, instead of focusing on specific items.

Hasn’t this already happened in some cities in California?

Sure has! We have seen the passing of comprehensive single-use plastics legislation in Berkeley, Santa Monica, and Manhattan Beach. There have also been strong plastics ordinances passed all over the state that focus on everything from single-use plastic straws to plastic foam to-go containers. A statewide act will help to strengthen already existing local legislation and give the rest of the state the incentive it needs to reduce its waste.

I’m on board! What can I do to help get this legislation passed?

We are stoked to hear you want to help! Throughout the next year, these new bills will be heard by multiple committees and by the state houses. Both bills have already moved through their first committee hearing and passed!

Now, the best thing you can do is let your state representatives know you support these bills. Sign our Plastic Petition urging the California Senate and Assembly to fast-track the approval of the California Circular Economy and Plastic Pollution Reduction Act. Call, email or write a letter to your representatives and let them know about these bills and why you support this proposed legislation. Find your representative.

And if you live in the City of Los Angeles, please contact your City Council Member and tell them you support this State legislation and want to see something similar in the City of L.A. There is some movement at the City of L.A. to enact similar legislation, but we need more voices to push it along.

Lastly, take the Plastic Pledge and spread the word! The more support this legislation gets from local communities, businesses, organizations, and people like you, the more likely it will be passed. Raise your voice and stay tuned for updates.



¡Vengan a disfrutar de las actividades familiares y aprender más acerca de la vida marina local!

1. ¡Los niños de 12 años o menor entran gratis! y el precio para adultos es de solo $5 dólares. ¡En grupos de 10 o más cada persona entra por $3!


2. Con alrededor de 100 especies de animales marinos locales en exposición, actividades para los pequeños, y programas educativos diarios, el Acuario del Muelle de Santa Mónica es el lugar perfecto para sumergirse en las ciencias marinas sin tener que mojarse.


3. ¿Experiencia Virtual? ¡Si, el Acuario de El Muelle de Santa Mónica lo tiene! La exposición virtual les dará la oportunidad de explorar la vida marina que habita las aguas de la Isla Catalina, incluyendo a la lubina gigante (giant sea bass) cual se encuentra en peligro de extinción.


4. ¡Fishing for Health! ¡Pesca Saludable! El programa de Heal the Bay, Angler Outreach Program o en español El Programa de Alcance a Pescadores, lanzo una nueva oportunidad educacional bilingüe en cual aprenderán de la contaminación de peces en el condado, el consumo de pez, y maneras de cocinar para los que pescan en los muelles de Los Ángeles. ¡El programa es incluido con la entrada a el acuario y toma acabo el viernes cada dos semanas a las 2 p.m. de la tarde!


5. ¿Las estrellas del mar no son consideradas un pez? ¡Acompáñenos cada viernes de 2:30 pm a 3:00 pm para darles de comer y aprender más sobre esta especie marina!


6. ¡Tun tun, tun tun, tun tun! ¡Acompáñenos cada domingo de 3:30 pm a 4:00pm a darle de comer a nuestras dos especies de tiburones, y a la misma vez aprenda más información! A la misma vez, puede ser testigo del baile de los bebes tiburones.


7. ¿La basura en exposición? Durante su visita a nuestra acuario podrá ver una exposición de la basura cual es normalmente encontrada en nuestros océanos. Esta basura no es solo interesante para nuestros ojos, es especialmente dañina para los animales marinos. 


8. ¡Usted puede ser un voluntario! ¡Puede participar detrás de las escenas y aprender de los animales marinos! Después tendrá la oportunidad de relatar la información con los visitantes del acuario. 


9. ¿Sabían que pueden rentar el acuario para tener un evento? ¡Una celebración junto a la vida marina! Hagan clic para ver más información de como poder tener eventos en el acuario.


10. El acuario esta directamente en el muelle de Santa Monica. Después de disfrutar del acuario pueden ir a conocer el resto del muelle y disfrutar de la playa de Santa Monica y todas sus atracciones. 

 



(Photo of Santa Monica Bay taken by Lidia Grande-Ruiz on February 16, 2019.)

Los Angeles decision-makers, and leaders throughout California, announced three major initiatives this February. The moves could dramatically shift our region and state toward a sustainable future.

What a month for our natural environment! And, no, we don’t mean this crazy weather.

Our policy leaders just took a big stand against these notorious environmental offenders: single-use plastics, fossil fuels, and wasted water. Here is the rundown on what action was taken and how it directly impacts the health of our ocean and communities.

1. Solving our pollution crisis by rethinking our waste stream

New legislation has been introduced in California, which tackles single-use waste and pollution at the source! The proposed legislation will push ALL industries to meet California’s single-use waste standards — requiring single-use plastic packaging distributed or sold here to be truly recyclable or compostable by 2030. It also requires industries to decrease single-use disposables by 75 percent through source reduction or recycling.

We are so proud to help California take the lead on reducing single-use waste. Heal the Bay volunteers have removed nearly three million plastic items from our beaches over the last three decades (the most common plastic finds are polystyrene and plastic pieces, wrappers, snack bags, bottle caps, and straws).

While the bills (AB1080 & SB54) are in the early stages of development, we are thrilled to be working on this comprehensive solution that will impact generations to come. Please stay tuned for developments. And thanks to Ben Allen Lorena GonzalezScott Wiener Nancy SkinnerLaura FriedmanPhil Ting and Tasha Boerner Horvath for leading the charge!

Read More


2. Increasing our water supply with a smart plan for wastewater

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti announced that the Hyperion Water Reclamation Plant (aka sewage treatment plant), one of the largest in the world, will recycle 100% of the City’s wastewater by the year 2035.

The water will be treated extensively and then put into our local groundwater supply for additional treatment by natural soils. Afterwards, the clean water will be pumped up to replenish our local tap water supply. Hyperion’s capacity is 450 million gallons per day and treated water currently flows out to the ocean. But with full recycling at Hyperion we can re-use that water!

Los Angeles is a big city, and pulls a significant amount of water from the Eastern Sierra and San Francisco Bay-Delta. Our local water use impacts the entire state of California. By taking smart action, we reduce our reliance on far-away water sources and become more self-sufficient.

Back in the 1990s, Heal the Bay won the fight to stop partially-treated sewage flowing from Hyperion into the Santa Monica Bay. Once again, we’re seeing the results of collective action with the new plan to treat and re-use all that water — instead of sending it uselessly to sea. Our founder Dorothy Green would be so proud of L.A. for taking this giant step forward.

Read More


3. Saying farewell to natural gas for cleaner and safer alternatives

Garcetti made another big announcement this month in favor of sustainability. He stated that the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power has a deadline to close three coastal gas-burning power plants in El Segundo, Long Beach and the Los Angeles Harbor area by 2029. The plants will be replaced by renewable energy sources and storage.

Not only does this drastic change help to reduce the emission of greenhouse gas, it also puts an end to the harmful practice of using ocean water for once-through cooling, which makes sea water more acidic and destroys marine and estuarine life in the process. Nearly 10 years ago, Heal the Bay was instrumental in advancing a policy to address the phase out of once-through cooling at coastal power plants in California. Finally, the tides are a-changin’.

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If you squint out onto the horizon, you’ll see them. Local marine animals are jumping for joy and celebrating a brighter tomorrow.

Thank YOU for your commitment to clean water. We wouldn’t be having these critical conversations about policy without your ongoing support and advocacy.



honor the ocean 2018

We are blessed to live in a place where we are rich in history, diversity and ecology. And we should take every opportunity granted to us to celebrate this.

This past fall, the Los Angeles County Marine Protected Area (MPA) Collaborative Network hosted the 2nd annual Honor the Ocean event at Zuma Beach in the City of Malibu to acknowledge and celebrate Chumash maritime culture, stewardship and science efforts to preserve and protect the ocean. From seeing dolphins to hearing stories about dolphins, here are my top 4 moments from the event.

4: Enjoying the Bay

Surfers of all ages paddled out in the water. Seeing them get on their boards was thrilling because they were so excited to catch a wave. Like Phil Edwards once said, “The best surfer out there is the one having the most fun.” Edwards makes a great point. Even though surfing is a challenging sport, you simply can’t help but have fun. The more fun you have, the more you want to practice it. And with practice comes passion. This quote can apply to anything in life, really.

3. Celebrating the Chumash People

The Chumash and the Gabrielino-Tongva peoples were the First People of the Channel Islands and Santa Monica Mountains areas. I learned so much about their traditions and culture at the event. To kick off the event we all surrounded the tomol, which is redwood sewn-plank canoe. Pretty amazing!

There was a Ceremonial Chumash blessing that was led by Mati Waiya, Founder and Executive Director of the Wishtoyo Foundation. After the blessing, we had the opportunity to talk to one of the members of the Chumash Women’s Elders Council. She encouraged all the youth to carry forward the Chumash tradition of protecting the environment for future generations. Her words and wisdom were inspiring.

2. Story time!

No amount of technology can replace the beauty of live, spoken word storytelling. At the event, the Chumash people shared a beautiful story about dolphins and how singing a special blessing can bring dolphins closer to us on land. Just as the story came to a close, the crowd spotted dolphins leaping out of the ocean. Coincidence? I think not! It was pure joy. Which leads me to what’s next…

dolphin symbol on the tomol

1. Dolphins!!!

No doubt, dolphins are awesome. And it’s truly mind-blowing to think about how much humans have in common with them. We both feel sadness, pain, anger and happiness. We protect our young and we do our best to stay together as a family (pod). It was thrilling to see a small pod of dolphins swimming by during the Honor the Ocean event. Especially since dolphins were etched on the tomol and a centerpiece during story time. What a magical moment to have witnessed.

At the closing of a wonderful day, the Chumash leaders gave us a few heartfelt suggestions that I wanted to pass along to you:

  • Bless the day that we have been given to see.
  • Give thanks for the sun that rises in the distance.
  • Less screen time, more real time!

So what are you waiting for? Go out and discover something new.

Thanks to all the Honor the Ocean event partners for a great day: Wishtoyo Foundation, City of Malibu, Chumash Maritime Foundation, Los Angeles County Lifeguards, Los Angeles Waterkeeper, The Bay Foundation, California Conservation Association, Cabrillo Marine Aquarium, Santa Monica Mountains Restoration Conservation District, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, and USC Sea Grant Program.


About the Author:

Lidia Grande-Ruiz is a Digital Advocacy Intern on Heal the Bay’s Communications team. She has also volunteered at the Santa Monica Pier Aquarium. Lidia is currently a Film Production student at Santa Monica College. Aside from her love of the ocean, she’s also obsessed with Buffy, Bones, reading, writing and orcas! 😀



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Thanks to NowCast, today is a good day for surfers who paddle out in Southern California’s prime wintertime waves and want to stay healthy.

For the first time, Heal the Bay staff scientists are running our NowCast water-quality predictions from December through March for a select few surf breaks.

NowCast predictions are the best water quality information available for beaches in California. They are made using machine-learning models, based on the most recent environmental conditions, and publicly available every single morning. By checking NowCast predictions before they go out, ocean users can reduce their risk of getting sick from polluted water.

NowCast predictions are now available each day by 7 a.m. for these very popular surf breaks:

  • Venice Breakwater
  • Manhattan Beach (near 28th Street)
  • Redondo Breakwater
  • Huntington Beach (near Beach Boulevard)
  • Santa Ana River Jetties

We want people to catch a wave, not the stomach flu. You can find NowCast predictions on our Beach Report Card website and mobile app.

We have been running NowCast successfully for beaches in the summer months since 2015, predicting water quality before swimmers hit the shore. Last summer, we provided daily forecasts of predicted water quality for 20 beaches.

If you aren’t familiar with our NowCast system, here’s an FAQ about how we are continuing to improve water quality monitoring at California beaches.

What is the NowCast system?

The NowCast system provides information similar to a daily weather forecast, but this tool predicts good or poor water quality for the day at select beaches across California. NowCast predictions are made by statistical computer models that are calibrated on years of environmental and bacteria data to accurately estimate fecal bacteria levels in the surf zone.

Fecal bacteria levels can be affected by many environmental factors such as rainfall, tide levels, solar radiation, wind, and wave action. Water quality can even be affected by human-made factors such a stormdrain flow and the presence of piers or jetties. Because the effects of these factors on water quality varies from beach to beach, site-specific NowCast models are developed for individual beaches.

Predictions are made each morning by running the models using up-to-date environmental information, and are released by 7 a.m. When a model estimates that bacteria levels at a beach comply with the health standards, the NowCast result is shown as “Good”; however, if a model estimates that bacteria levels exceed health standards, the NowCast result is shown as “Poor.”

Why is the NowCast system important?

Currently, local health agencies use laboratory analyses of water samples collected at the beach to determine if it is safe for recreational use. Unfortunately, there is a long delay in this approach: It typically takes 24-48 hours to collect the samples, transport them to the lab, and analyze them. Meanwhile, water quality can change with environmental conditions. Additionally, most California beaches are sampled on a weekly basis (although there are some beaches that are monitored more frequently). As a result, health agencies currently rely on data that is days-old to make health protection decisions.

Predictive models like those used in the NowCast system can quickly and accurately provide daily water quality information based on the most recent environmental conditions at the beach. Local health agencies and organizations like Heal the Bay can then make public notifications of poor water quality in the morning before most people arrive at the beach.

Who created the NowCast system?

The NowCast system was created through a collaboration among Heal the Bay, Stanford University, and UCLA. The project is funded by the State Water Resources Control Board, and is supported by local health agencies throughout California. For more in-depth information on the research that went into creating the NowCast system, click here.

Will there be more NowCast beaches in the future?

Most certainly. This is our first season releasing predictions during the winter season, and our plan is to keep growing our winter system each season to more and more locations. We already release predictions during the summer for 20 California beaches, from Humboldt County to San Diego County.

Are NowCast predictions available during rain events?

No. When it rains in California, water quality typically plummets. As a result, beach managers (which include local health agencies and lifeguards) issue rain advisories. These warnings last at least 72 hours, and may not be removed from the beach until after water quality samples show that conditions have returned to safe levels.

Because rain advisories are the most conservative form of public notification, we do not release NowCast predictions when they are active. For information about water quality and rain advisories (and for another spot to check NowCast predictions), check the Los Angeles and Orange County health agency websites.  

 



Heal the Bay is excited to announce its partnership with Coastal Co. and Pledgeling, which recently caught the attention of the NY Times.

As passionate surfers in the Southland, Coastal Co. founders Kevin Tighe II and Mark Healey often see plastic pollution in the water and on the beaches. This year, they decided to take action with their subscription-based, coastal lifestyle startup. As they developed a business plan and launched their new brand, the entrepreneurs made a commitment to a model that would not only promote the surfing culture that they live and breathe, but would also make a positive impact in the world by improving water quality in our oceans.

“Our mission as a company is to deliver the beach life to our members’ doorsteps every season. It’s imperative that we do our part to help protect our oceans and beaches, otherwise, we won’t have much of a beach life to deliver. To accomplish this, wanted to partner with a local non-profit who aligned with our mission and values. Heal the Bay was that perfect partner,” says Kevin Tighe.

A rewarding idea

Once a season, Coastal Co. curates the latest beach-inspired apparel, accessories and lifestyle products which it sends directly to its members’ doorsteps. The special at-home delivery takes a little bit of Cali sunshine a long way to benefit our coastline. Coastal Co. has boxes for both men and women. Each box costs $99 per season and contains over $200 of retail value inside. This Winter, female members will find items such as the limited edition “Sea La Vie” fleece from Alternative Apparel (made specifically for Coastal Co. members), a tropical scented candle from Maui Candle Company, an ethically made beanie from Krochet Kids International, a necklace from Salty Cali jewelry and more. Recent products that could be found in the men’s box include a Nixon Watch, a tee from Drifter Surf Shop in Bali, a flannel from Lira Clothing, a zip-up hoodie from Rhythm apparel and more.

Whenever anyone purchases a Coastal Co. box, proceeds fund Heal the Bay beach cleanups. The partnership funds a couple beach cleanups each month as well as other critical local ocean protection initiatives.

“8 Million tons of plastics are dumped into our oceans each year! If we all do a little, we can do a lot,” states Kevin. “That is why we’ve partnered with Heal the Bay and Pledgeling to help keep our fragile coasts pristine and clean.”

Coastal Co. is also taking steps to remove plastics from their seasonal deliveries while pushing manufacturers and suppliers to consider alternative options that are safer for the environment. In addition to curating non single-use products, the team recycles plastics they receive in the product supply chain before this waste reaches the consumer.

“If we all took one small step forward toward sustainability daily, we’d be much closer to solving our global plastic pollution problems,” says Shelley Luce, Heal the Bay chief. “Heal the Bay is excited to partner with Coastal Co. and Pledgeling because of their long-term commitment to protecting our coast.”

When businesses opt-in to major sustainability initiatives, local community collaboration is key to making an impact. Step in, Pledgeling, a Venice-based tech company that aligns brands with causes around the world to increase their business and achieve a sustainable impact.

“We are excited to bring together two great organizations – Coastal Co. and Heal the Bay – who are committed to truly making a difference. When we can link customers’ purchases to impact that they’re helping to make in the real world, people feel good about the transparency and are more inclined to trust brands that give back to causes they care about,” says James Citron, CEO of Pledgeling.

Heal the Bay Volunteer Giveaway: Win a Winter Box from Coastal Co.

To kick off our partnership, Coastal Co. is giving away a Winter Box (over $200 retail value) PLUS a $50 giftcard from Krochet Kids, a featured brand in the Winter Box! If you’d like to enter the giveaway, please make sure to comment below and follow @healthebay, @coastalcobox & @krochetkids on Instagram. It’s free to enter, but you have to be 18 or older. The winner will be selected on December 21.

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GIVEAWAY TIME for a December Aloha Friday! Today, we’re excited to introduce our new non-profit partner, @healthebay! Proceeds from Coastal Co. will fund monthly beach cleanups hosted and organized by Heal The Bay. Let’s work together to keep our coasts pristine and clean! 🏝 To celebrate the launch of our new partnership, we’re giving away a Winter Box (over $200 retail value) PLUS a $50 giftcard from @krochetkids, a featured brand in the Winter Box! If you’d like to enter the giveaway, please make sure to: • Follow @healthebay, @coastalcobox & @krochetkids • Tag three ocean lovers •The winner will be selected on December 21st! Good luck! 🌊💙 #beacheveryday #alohafridaygiveaway 📸: @richardpodjr

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If this partnership inspires you and you’re interested in doing something similar with Heal the Bay. Please contact Logan on our Advancement team.