Heal the Bay Blog

Category: Malibu / Pacific Palisades

Aug, 5, 2016 — Staff scientist Katherine Pease launches our Freshwater Friday blog post, providing weekly updates on the latest bacterial exceedances at popular recreational zones

Heal the Bay’s inaugural study of Los Angeles River microbial water quality that we published last week and last year’s study on swimming holes in the Santa Monica Mountains called for more readily available public water quality information. The public has a right to know about water quality conditions in these freshwater recreation areas so that they can make informed decisions on how to minimize the risk of getting sick.

So beginning today with our Santa Monica Mountains sites, we will be posting a blog post every Friday during the summer with water quality information from our weekly sampling of freshwater recreation sites in Los Angeles County. (You can see this week’s findings at the bottom of this page, but first we want to explain our intent and methodology.)

We envision safe swimmable rivers and creeks throughout Los Angeles County. However, a number of recreational waterbodies are not regularly monitored or monitored at all. We know thousands of Angelenos use these aquatic resources.

As such, Heal the Bay would rather provide some information about the water quality they are immersing themselves into rather than no information. The idea is to prompt the user to ask questions about these waterbodies: What is the origin of the water? Can I get sick from it? What types of illnesses can I get? How do I get more information? We will be posting a Frequently Asked Questions document next week to help answer some of these questions.

Heal the Bay has been monitoring water quality in streams and rivers since 1998 through our Stream Team program. In 2014 we initiated a pilot study to monitor human use and water quality at freshwater swimming spots in the Santa Monica Mountains, focusing on bacterial pollution and public health implications.

The A-to-F grading system of the Beach Report Card took years of work to develop and fine-tune. We are only in the very early stages of thinking about an analogous River Report Card. But we want to start by making basic water quality information available to the public in a timely manner.

We will be providing weekly information about levels of fecal indicator bacteria at five sites. We will report on whether the sample from the current week exceeded limits set by the Regional Water Quality Control Board and US EPA and what the microbial water quality has been over the summer sampling season thus far.

We will report on two types of fecal indicator bacteria, or FIB: E. coli and Enterococcus. FIB, while not harmful themselves, indicate the possible presence of pathogenic bacteria, which have been found to cause ear infections, skin rashes, respiratory illnesses and gastrointestinal illness. High levels of FIB are particularly concerning in areas where people come in contact with water through activities like swimming, fishing, and kayaking.

Excuse us for getting technical in this next section, but we just want to be clear about what we are measuring and what constitutes an exceedance.

We compare bacteria levels measured at each site to water quality objectives from the Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDL) for Bacteria in the Malibu Creek Watershed and EPA’s 2012 Recreational Water Quality Criteria (RWQC)

The freshwater regulatory limit for E. coli is set in the TMDL at 235 MPN/100ml for a single sample and 126 MPN/100ml for the geometric mean. (A geometric mean is a type of average that results in a number that is not as heavily affected by very high or very low values).

We calculate geometric means from all samples over the last 30-day period (usually four or five samples). For Enterococcus, we used EPA’s statistical threshold value (for an illness rate of 32/1,000 (the more protective rate), which is 110 MPN/100ml for a single sample and 30 MPN/100ml for the geometric mean in a fresh waterbody designated for recreation.

For each site, we will report on the number of criteria that exceeded four standards. A site can have 0-4 out of four exceedances. A sample exceeds if:

E. coli single sample > 235 MPN/100ml 

E. coli geometric mean > 126 MPN/100ml

Enterococcus single sample is > 110 MPN/100ml

Enterococcus geometric mean is > 30 MPN/100ml

So, what does that all mean?

The greater the number and magnitude of exceedances at a site, the worse the water quality is, indicating a potentially increased risk of getting sick.

Deciding what to do with this information depends on the risk level you are comfortable with. Single sample values give you an indication of the most recent water quality, while geometric mean values give you an indication of the ambient water quality over the last 30 days.

However, it is important to note that the single sample gives information for the day on which the sample was taken and conditions can change throughout the week until the next sample is taken.

The thresholds that the US EPA and the RWQCB have put forth are based on epidemiological studies and risk. An increased risk of illness is not a guarantee that you will get sick. Certain activities are more risky when water quality is poor; for instance, swimming and submerging your head is more risky than wading; swimming is more risky than kayaking; kayaking is likely more risky than hiking (at least with regards to picking up a waterborne illness), and so on, with the risk dependent on how likely you are to ingest or contact water.

We recommend following these best practices to stay safe and healthy.

  • Swimming: In waters known to exceed bacterial limits, swimming is not recommended, particularly submerging one’s head. Elevated bacteria levels can occur at any time. Swimmers should use caution when entering the water by checking the latest water quality results, avoiding contact immediately after a rainfall, if they are immunocompromised, or if they have an open wound. If there is any water contact, then rise off with soap and water afterward.
  • Kayaking and Fishing: In waters that are known to exceed bacterial limits, people should limit water contact, especially avoiding hand-to-face water contact. Users should not enter the water with an open wound, if immunocompromised, or after a rainfall. If there is any water contact, then rinse off with soap and water afterward.

Malibu Creek State Park

for the week ending August 3, 2016

1. Rock Pool: Three exceedances

Three of the four criteria exceed the threshold values this week at Rock Pool site in Malibu Creek. For E. coli, the single sample and geometric mean values were over threshold values; the single sample Enterococcus value was under the threshold of 110 MPN/100ml but the geometric mean value was over the threshold value. Since June 15, 2016, we have documented exceedance rates (for single samples) of 43% for E. coli and 14% for Enterococcus at this site.

2. Las Virgenes Creek at the bridge: Three exceedances

Three of the four criteria exceed the threshold values this week at Las Virgenes Creek at the bridge. The single sample E. coli value was below the threshold of 235 MPN/100ml but the geometric mean for E. coli was over 126 MPN/100ml, and both the single sample and geometric mean values for Enterococcus were over their respective thresholds. Since June 15, 2016, we have documented exceedance rates (for single samples) of 29% for E. coli and 57% for Enterococcus at this site.

June 29, 2016 — Heal the Bay celebrates a concrete win in the decades-long fight to clean up polluted beaches in Malibu.

Malibu is one of the most breathtaking and desirable places to live in Southern California, but it has a dirty little secret – septic systems in and around its cultural center have fouled nearby coastal waters for decades.

Malibu Creek, Malibu Lagoon, and the surrounding ocean, including Surfrider Beach, are critically polluted and numerous studies point to septic systems as a major contributor. Swimmers who recreate in these waters run the risk of all kinds of illnesses.

But today Heal the Bay staff and members celebrated an important milestone in what has been a long and protracted fight to reduce water pollution in Malibu – groundbreaking on a Civic Wastewater Treatment Facility.

For more than 15 years, Heal the Bay has called for the Malibu Civic Center’s septic systems to be replaced by a centralized wastewater treatment facility. It has been a long and bumpy road, with officials complaining about costs and some residents worried about the specter of development if sewers are put in. But our advocacy is finally starting to yield tangible results.

The Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board adopted a Septic Prohibition in 2009 that required the phasing out by 2019 of all septic systems in the Malibu Civic Center Area (think Malibu Pier, Pepperdine, Malibu Bluffs Park). And in 2015 the Malibu City Council unanimously certified the Civic Center Wastewater Treatment Facility Final Environmental Impact Report and later secured funding for the facility.

Malibu City Councilmembers, along with members of the California State and Regional Water Control Board, were all in attendance today to put golden shovel to dirt.

“The facility will enable Malibu to protect the natural environment that we cherish, while meeting state mandates to end the use of septic systems in the Civic Center area and producing recycled water to reduce Malibu’s reliance on potable water,” said Laura Rosenthal, Malibu’s current mayor.

Ground breaking at MalibuIt was especially gratifying to see Mark Gold, past Heal the Bay president and current board member, in attendance. Amid often fierce opposition from city officials and some Malibu property owners, Gold led the charge to demand an end to septic tanks in the Civic Center area for many years. He helped broker an MOU between the city and the regional water board that phased out septic tanks and mandated the building of a more modern treatment facility. (You can read more about his war wounds in one of his blog posts here.)

While today’s groundbreaking is a big step, the journey to better water quality is far from complete. Septic tanks are still in the process of being phased out and water quality in Malibu Creek, Malibu Lagoon, and local beaches isn’t likely to show improvement until the facility actually begins to treat local wastewater.

The wastewater treatment site is located at the intersection of Civic Center Way and Vista Pacifica. The facility will treat wastewater from properties in and around the Civic Center, and use the recycled water produced by the facility for irrigation of local parks and landscaping.

As the construction advances, we promise to remain vigilant and keep you updated.

Peter Shellenbarger, a Heal the Bay science and policy analyst, tries his hand at Hollywood with a hotly anticipated “soup opera.” As the Septics Seep is his artistic interpretation of the Malibu Civic Center Septic Saga, where Mrs. Water Quality and Mr. Civic Center navigate the sordid, stinky world of Malibu water politics.


As The Septics Seep

Any relationship has its ups and downs—especially one between a coastal city and its water quality.

The backstory

In 2006, Malibu Creek, Malibu Lagoon, Malibu Beach, Malibu Surfrider Beach and Carbon Beach (in the Malibu Civic Center area) were placed on the Clean Water Act’s list of impaired and threatened water bodies. Septic system discharges were identified as contributors to this impairment in 2009 and a Septic Prohibition was issued. In 2011, the City of Malibu agreed to build a centralized wastewater recycling facility to phase out septic systems in the Civic Center area. However, just this month, the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board approved an extension for the phase-out, giving commercial and residential properties 20 extra months and three years, respectively, to remove their septic systems. These extensions undermine the Septic Prohibition and will allow the City of Malibu to continue discharging septic system effluent into already critically polluted waterbodies. This month’s decision is another setback for water quality in Malibu and showcases the Regional Board’s historical inability to hold the City of Malibu accountable for their septic system discharges, which impact human health and aquatic life in and around Malibu Creek and Lagoon.

Cast (in order of appearance)

Sheriff U.S. E.P.A.: Tall, stern water quality enforcer
Mrs. Water Quality: Peppy environmental scientist
Mr. Civic Center: Distinguished landowner of Civic Center Area in Malibu
Officer L.A.W. (L.A. Regional Water Control Board): Overworked, tired water quality engineer

Season synopses

S1 Sheriff E.P.A. comes to town and nails Malibu Creek, Malibu Lagoon, Malibu Beach, Malibu Surfrider Beach and Carbon Beach for public intoxication. Loaded with bacteria and nutrients, she places these waters on the critically polluted list for further investigation and future cleanup. Mrs. Water Quality begins to investigate the cause of pollution…and catches the eye of Mr. Civic Center in the process.

S2 Mrs. Water Quality identifies septic systems as a source of bacteria and nutrient pollution at Mr. Civic Center’s residence. Officer L.A.W. assesses the situation, conducts further studies, consults with other officers and creates a Septic Prohibition at Mr. Civic Center’s residence. This will require him to phase out septic system discharges at his commercial and residential properties by November 5, 2015, and November 5, 2019, respectively.

S3 To implement the Septic Prohibition, Mr. Civic Center and Officer L.A.W. agree to build a centralized wastewater recycling facility to replace septic systems polluting Malibu’s coastal waters. Mrs. Water Quality is sufficiently impressed by Mr. Civic Center’s commitment to the environment and finally agrees to date him.

S4 Mrs. Water Quality and Mr. Civic Center are seen publicly all over the Westside, and soon move in together and begin planning their romantic wastewater recycling facility hideaway. But Mr. Civic Center reveals himself to be all talk, delaying construction of the project by 9 to 12 months. He assures Mrs. Water Quality it will be completed before November 5, 2015. Mrs. Water Quality has heard that one before.

S5 Mr. Civic Center and Officer L.A.W. arrange to extend the commercial septic phase-out deadline by 20 months—and the residential phase out deadline by 3 years. Officer L.A.W. approves the extension despite a lack of public support and passionate opposition from Mrs. Water Quality—who feels betrayed by both Mr. Civic Center and Officer L.A.W. Mrs. Water Quality moves out of Mr. Civic Center’s residence.

What will happen to this tragic duo in S6? Will they patch up their differences or has their love truly tanked? One thing is certain: In addition to being a heartbreaker, Mr. Civic Center will continue to harm human health and aquatic life with his septic obsession.


As the Septics Seep: A Malibu Soup Opera

Just in time for the last hurrah of summer, beachgoers on the West Coast can head to the shore this Labor Day secure that they’ll be swimming and playing in healthy water.  According to the 2013 End of Summer Beach Report Card®, beach water quality in California, Oregon and Washington was excellent for the fourth consecutive summer.

We collected water quality data at more than 640 monitoring locations along the West Coast between Memorial Day and Aug. 21, 2013. Then we assigned an A-to-F grade based on bacterial pollution levels. Nearly 96% of California beaches earned an A or B grade. Washington earned A or B grades at 91% of its beaches, and Oregon earned all A grades for the fourth consecutive year. 

To find out which beaches didn’t make the grade and how your county stacks up, consult our 2013 End of Summer Beach Report Card®:

Beachgoers can find out which beaches are safe, check recent water quality history and look up details on beach closures using our Beach Report Card. On the go? Download a free Beach Report Card mobile app for iPhone or Android.

The Beach Report Card Summer Shades Contest

APP UPDATE: We are currently experiencing some issues with the Beach Report Card App due to opperating system changes. In the meantime, please go directly to for all your healthy beach reporting needs!

Is the water quality at your favorite California beach shady? Find out in the Beach Report Card (BRC) Summer Shades Contest! Watch the water quality at your favorite beach and you could win an exclusive pair of Heal the Bay shades.


We’re giving away ten pairs of our limited edition “I Heal the Bay” sunglasses over the next ten days. Every day, starting Tuesday August 6th, we will pick a winner and announce them on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. To win a pair of shades, be the first to answer the daily trivia question found on our Facebook page.

To enter, download the Beach Report Card mobile app and leave your answer as a comment in the feedback tab including the hashtag #SummerShades.

Here’s How To Leave Feedback on the Beach Report Card App:

How-To Leave Feedback on the Beach Report Card App


Amy Smart sporting Heal the Bay sunglasses at Bring Back the Beach

In honor of the first Swimmable California Day, a few of us at Heal the Bay felt inspired to share our favorite beaches for swimming, surfing and kayaking because today we celebrate California’s healthy waters and the legislation we’ve enacted to protect them. Now go get in the ocean!

Bay Street, Tower 20

Bay Street is my go-to surf spot. It’s close to the Heal the Bay office, so I can get a quick morning surf session in before heading to work. Several Heal the Bay staffers call this break home, making it a great place to meet up and surf with friends. The waves aren’t the best in the bay, but I always have a blast when I’m out there in the water. It’s a good place to learn how to surf by riding the white wash, and the waves can get pretty gnarly and powerful so it teaches you how to navigate strong surf. It’s where I learned how to surf, and I’ll never forget the first time I made the drop on what was a HUGE wave for me – average for anyone else – and got totally stoked. Another thing I love about Bay Street is the historical significance it holds as the home break of Nick Gabaldon, a barrier breaker in the history of surfing. When I’m out in the water I imagine Nick putting his longboard in the water and starting his 12 mile journey north, paddling to ride the epic waves at Surfrider in Malibu (see below). You can find me out there practicing most mornings, working on my own journey, hoping someday to be good enough to surf alongside Sarah and other surfing greats at Surfrider! 🙂

 —  Ana Luisa Ahern, Interactive Campaigns Manager

Catalina Island

Slicing through the emerald green saltwater with my kayak paddle, I enjoy the expansive view of Catalina’s craggy island coastline. If I look closely, I might spot a grazing bison on the hills or a soaring bald eagle searching for fish. I beach my kayak along the narrow isthmus beach and head up towards the small SCUBA shop to check if my tanks are filled from this morning’s dives. I treasure my summer weeks at Catalina Island, diving right off our sailboat to be submerged within an underwater world filled with garibaldis, bat rays, and giant kelpfish. No sounds of cars, crowds, or sirens – just the ocean breathing, people laughing, and boats cutting through the water. Catalina Island’s isthmus is my favorite swimmable beach, and my little ocean paradise.

– Dana Roeber Murray, Marine and Coastal Scientist


Some people seem a little shocked when they ask my favorite place to surf, and hear my response, “Malibu.” Malibu, Surfrider, 1st Point are all names for the long peeling right break just north of the Malibu Pier (pictured right). And, despite its water quality problems, it is my favorite wave, which I feel a little shame admitting as a scientist at Heal the Bay. During dry weather, Surfrider can score A’s on our Beach Report Card®, but during rainy weather or when Malibu Lagoon breaches, it’s not surprising to see it score F’s. Even with the crowds, I can’t get enough of the glassy long ride, whether it’s knee surf or overhead.

It’s too bad the questionable water quality haunts the minds of most surfers at Malibu, which is why California Swimmable Day is important – it reminds us that all beaches should be safe for swimming, and that clean-up efforts at dirty beaches need to be implemented to meet this goal. Sometimes it’s hard to stay out of the surf after a rain, especially with a nice storm swell, but the risk versus reward has to be weighed.

Some of my favorite spots near Malibu include: the veggie Farm Sandwich at John’s Garden, the refreshing smoothies at The Vitamin Barn, nighttime grunion runs on the beach during the spring and summer, catching a quiet sunrise over the Bay, spotting surfing dolphins (a rare but rewarding moment).

 –– Sarah Sikich

Science and Policy Director, Coastal Resources

Santa Monica Pier

I love summer time in SoCal for so many reasons.  One of my favorite reasons is the longer days.  More sun means more of a chance to swim before or after work.  One of my favorite spots to swim is to the south of the Santa Monica Pier, right near Tower 18 (the second tower south of the Pier).  It’s close enough for all the Pier amenities, and the long beach allows the waves to just roll in.  On a Thursday night, I can watch the opening act for the Twilight Concert Series as I body surf or boogie board.  With a backdrop of the sun setting behind the Santa Monica Mountains, those summer moments are hard to beat.     

— Tara Treiber, Education Director

Torrey Pines State Beach

Torrey Pines State Beach is my favorite beach to visit when I am in San Diego.  Torrey Pines offers everything you need to have a great beach day-good waves year round, beautiful natural environment, plentiful parking, and Mexican food within walking distance!  I love to surf and Torrey Pines always has waves.  I have been surfing here since I was a kid and whenever I am in San Diego, I try to surf Torrey Pines at least once because it reminds me of my childhood and I always seem to feel better off when I leave.

 —  Peter Shellenbarger, Science and Policy Analyst, Water Quality


On Saturday, July 27, 2013 LA Waterkeeper will host two events to celebrate! Bring your family for a fun day in the water!

Enter the California Coastalkeeper Alliance photo contest by uploading your favorite ocean action photos on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram with #SwimmableCA. CCKA will announce a grand prize winner on August 1, as well as top swimmable pet and youngster entries, and wettest photo. 

Cool clear water cascades softly above glistening rocks, as a California newt munches on some caddisfly larvae. Brilliant Humboldt lilies peek over the earthen creek bank, where a California chorus frog hopes to catch an unsuspecting eight-legged meal. Hard to believe that just a short distance downstream, we are confronted with the effects of man-made barriers and pollution as well as non-native plants and animals in Malibu Creek.

Heal the Bay’s Stream Team has collected data from the Malibu Creek Watershed for 12 years and compiled their findings into our first comprehensive report: Malibu Creek Watershed: An Ecosystem on the Brink. Heal the Bay has identified three key problems facing the watershed and offered solutions for each, but despite the degradation and deterioration, we also discovered three hidden gems in the Malibu Creek Watershed:

Hiking the Cold Creek Lower Stunt High Trail. One of the most pristine spots in the watershed and plenty of shade to escape a hot day. Keep your eyes peeled for native amphibians, such as California newts and Pacific and California chorus frogs. To access the Cold Creek trail, travel approximately 1 mile on Stunt Rd. from Mulholland Highway. Park at the lot and hike down to Cold Creek.

Visiting Malibu Creek State Park Rock Pool. A fine spot to picnic, rock climb or swim (although we encourage swimmers to take precaution, and avoid ingesting the water or swimming when you have an open wound). We are working with State Parks to notify swimmers about poor water quality in Malibu Creek State Park. (Malibu Creek State Park, 2028 Las Virgenes Rd., Calabasas, CA 91302)

Taking a scenic drive from Malibu Creek State Park to Kanan Rd. along Mulholland Highway, ending at Rustic Canyon General Store & Grill for a bite to eat (the onion rings are yummy!).

Read more about Heal the Bay’s findings on the Malibu Creek Watershed.

Join us March 19 for “State of the Malibu Creek Watershed” public workshop and discussion.

They’re exotic, and not in a good way, but why should you care about weeds? If you want to hang on to your favorite local nature spots, constant maintenance and eradication of these non-native, invasive plants, a.k.a. weeds, is an absolute necessity.

Here’s a primer, written by Tim Rosenstein, Mountains Restoration Trust Project Manager, on the problem with weeds.

Plants will often have natural defenses that keep them from being eaten by anything that hasn’t developed the tools necessary to take advantage. Plus there are simply huge physiological differences between species, which means an insect that can feed on one part of one type of plant, say soft leaves, won’t be able to eat a different sort of plant with hard, waxy leaves.

 The result of a diversity of plants then is a diversity of insects or varying specialty. Each plant supports a varying number of insects, some of which will feed on other plants, some of which will only feed on that plant. This diversity of herbivorous insects will then support a diversity of carnivorous insects, and the insects support small animals, which support other animals, etc., etc., you get the picture.

Weeds, because they evolved elsewhere, don’t support many insects. An infestation of weeds therefore decreases the amount and diversity of insects, which decreases the amount of small animals, which decreases larger animals, etc., etc., you get the same picture but this time in reverse. For a specific example the “common reed” Phragmites australis, an East Coast invasive that’s been studied extensively, supports 170 species of insects in its native Europe. Here in the U.S. it only supports five insect species.

Weeds Alter Natural Cycles

These “exotics” destroy habitat almost as completely as paving it over does. If weeds take over a landscape that area just isn’t going to support much wildlife, and it’s the interaction of wildlife and plants that make an ecosystem work (for more on this concept search the web for ‘ecosystem services’). 

But that’s not all! Weeds can also change natural fire cycles, affecting the frequency and intensity of fires. Plus weeds interrupt natural succession cycles after disturbances like fire. When there’s a fire in a stand of coastal sage scrub, what naturally happens is the first thing to pop up are fire-following annuals like grasses and wildflowers, things you don’t see much except after a fire.

These will dominate for a few years and the area will effectively be like a grassland until other non-fire-following plants and shrubs start to come up; bigger, longer-lived plants that, while sometimes present in mature coastal sage scrub, are not very common. These plants will proliferate and become more common for a while but eventually the dominant plants (sages, buckwheat, coyotebrush and the like) will reassert themselves and suppress the other species. That’s how it normally works. When weeds are present however this is how it works: After the fire weeds sprout first and dominate everything forever and ever the end.

Weeds Starve Natives

OK,  I’m being slightly dramatic. But only slightly.  Here’s another problem with weeds: They suppress the germination of native seeds. Many weeds have allelopathic properties, meaning they produce chemicals that affect the lifecycle of other plants. So not only do weeds germinate more and get established earlier than natives, starving natives of water and nutrients, they chemically suppress the germination and growth of natives as well. 

They also suppress the germination of native fungal spores. This is exceedingly important because much of our native plant life requires the help of what’s called mycorrhizal fungi in order to survive. It’s a symbiotic relationship– the fungi needs the plants and the plants need the fungi– and a hugely important biotic component in a Mediterranean climate such as ours. Weeds can suppress the germination of the fungal spores and the growth of the fungus itself, effectively killing the very soil they grow in, making it that much harder for any native to ever grow there again. So when I say: “Weeds sprout first and dominate everything forever and ever the end,” I’m just barely exaggerating.

 Sometimes people will ask me why we don’t just let “nature take its course” and let the weeds grow until a balance is reached. The thing is invasive species take over, that’s why they’re called “invasive.” There is no natural process by which an ecosystem can rid itself of weeds. Habitat is degraded when they enter the system, outright destroyed when they dominate it.

It is actually very much like cancer in a body, there is no “balance” to be had; either you fight the weeds or you let them win, there’s not much in between. I don’t want to be too dramatic but next to habitat loss from development the second greatest cause of habitat destruction is invasive species. Weeds, those innocent looking plants from the other side of the world, are pretty much an ecological nightmare.

Next up: We answer the crucial question; “How did weeds get here in the first place?”

Ready to help rid Malibu Creek of these harrowing invasives? Sign up now to volunteer on Sunday, February 10. If you can’t make it, no worries. Check Heal the Bay’s Calendar of Events for upcoming restorations.

Free Bird! You might be grateful to hear your favorite band cover this song…or not.

At Heal the Bay, we can say without irony that we are grateful to Freebirds in Agoura Hills for teaming with us to restore the Malibu Creek Watershed in January. Not only did a group of Freebirders join us, but they surprised us and brought burritos! It was an awesome day, pulling weeds, planting mulefat, eating burritos. Thank you, Freebirds!

A big thanks to the Gesso Foundation for their longtime support of our Key to the Sea program.  Due in large part to their generosity, we’ve successfully provided thousands of Los Angeles County-based students and their teachers (K-5th grade) with high-impact environmental education and memorable field trip experiences. For many of these students, participation in the program marked their first chance to explore the beach environment and witness marine life up close! 

The Gesso Foundation was created in accordance with the wishes expressed in the will of acclaimed artist Frank Moore, who died in 2002. The Foundation’s purpose is twofold: to preserve, protect, and expand awareness of Frank Moore’s art; and to support non-profit organizations devoted to the arts, social justice, environmental or AIDS-related causes.Morphing Swallow by artist-philanthropist Frank Moore

Much like Mary Poppins herself, moms rely on Mommy Poppins LA, consulting the site for non-boring, low-cost activities to do with kids. Meanwhile Heal the Bay and our Aquarium couldn’t spread the word about our kid-friendly, fun AND educational happenings without their help. As parents and as youth educators, we thank the staff at Mommy Poppins LA for being such a helpful resource.

Do you devote your free time to volunteer with Heal the Bay? Then it’s time for us to thank YOU. Please join us on February 19 at Bodega Wine Bar as we celebrate you and all that you do to help protect our Bay…and beyond.

Join us to help revive Malibu Creek by removing weeds and planting natives on February 10. 

Climate change is happening now. Here in Los Angeles- not just in the Arctic. In our backyards, our ocean, our mountains, our beaches. Of course it’s important to keep reducing carbon emissions, but at this point climate change is occurring – we don’t have a choice, we need adapt to the change. Investing time and resources into identifying and advocating for environmentally-sound adaptation solutions is imperative- climate change could be one of the biggest challenges we face.

Some of the ongoing and expected climate change impacts here in coastal Los Angeles include increased storm intensity, ocean temperature increases, changing currents, sea level rise, species range shifts, coastal erosion, and ocean acidification. To make matters worse, when a combination of impacts collide—such as high tides, sea level rise, storm surges, and inland flooding—projected inundation could severely impact our freshwater supplies, wastewater treatment plants, power plants, and other infrastructure… not to mention public health and the environment.

According to NOAA, in 2012 the U.S. experienced our warmest year on record, which might sound nice and toasty at first, but really means that we had more extremely hot days and heat waves than in years past. This type of climate change not only has immediate impacts to public health, but can also affect nature’s timing—prey, predators, and pollination may not match up as they have in past years—which can have profound effects on our local and migrating species, upsetting the natural balance native species have established for centuries.

At Heal the Bay, we’re committed to advocating for environmentally sound climate change adaptation methods through participating in local stakeholder groups such as Adapt-LA, analyzing and commenting on proposed plans and policies, and educating the public about the coastal threats associated with climate change and how everyday people can be involved in sound solutions that protect our critical natural resources.

Some areas we’ve been involved with for a while will help with climate change adaptation – like encouraging water reuse and conservation, or supporting and advocating for low-impact development. Also, by supporting the restoration and protection of specific ecosystems- such as wetlands and eelgrass beds- we are also not just adapting to climate change, but trying to offset it. Wetlands and eelgrass beds can act as a carbon sink, natural places that absorb more carbon from the atmosphere than they release.

One of Heal the Bay’s larger efforts over the past five years, and one of the key slices of my personal work at Heal the Bay is the establishment and implementation of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), which help to maintain and create healthy ecosystems. How are MPAs and climate change related? Healthy ecosystems can better withstand the pressures of climate change much more effectively than a stressed ecosystem, and MPAs house more resilient habitats and species. By focusing on reducing overall stressors to the environment, such as pollution and overfishing, we can buy time for species to adapt to stressors that we cannot control- namely, climate change. A more resilient ecosystem can rebound and adapt after an extreme event. Also, by supporting a network of MPAs, rather than just single areas, we are planning ahead for species shifts to northern waters as ocean temperatures rise- our California MPA network provides a continuity of protected habitats.

I was encouraged to hear our President bring up climate change in his inauguration speech this month, and am ready to face the challenge and help implement solutions for our community, our environment, and for future generations- I hope you are on board too!

–Dana Roeber Murray, Marine & Coastal Scientist


You can get on board by joining the Forward on Climate rally in L.A. on February 17.

Or consider supporting Heal the Bay’s coastal resiliency efforts.