Heal the Bay Blog

Category: South Bay

This fact sheet is presented in partnership with the Surfrider Foundation.

Together, we’re committed to protecting Southern California’s waters.


The City of Hermosa Beach has a moratorium in place that prohibits oil drilling. After years of legal battles, a settlement was reached between E&B Natural Resources and the City of Hermosa Beach that could potentially allow the community to be opened up to oil drilling by putting the moratorium up for reconsideration. Hermosa Beach residents will vote March 3, 2015, on a ballot measure to allow slant-drilling into the Bay. E&B Natural Resources wants to erect an 87-foot drilling rig and up to 34 wells on a 1.3-acre plot in a residential neighborhood, extracting up to 8,000 barrels of oil each day by slant-drilling under the seafloor and surrounding beach communities. E&B had an existing lease arrangement before the current moratorium was put in place.

If voters repeal the existing moratorium, the City would have to pay $3.5 million to E&B, and the company would pursue permitting for the proposed oil drilling operation. If voters uphold the moratorium, drilling would be barred. But the city would have to pay $17.5 million to E&B under a complex settlement brokered by past city councils.

MYTH: This is a relatively small project that only affects a small slice of the Bay and really is an issue for Hermosa Beach to decide.

FACT: Oil spills know no boundaries. With nearly 50 million annual visits to Santa Monica Bay beaches and a coastal economy worth over $10 billion, a spill off Hermosa Beach would be a financial and ecological nightmare for all of Los Angeles.

oil covered plastic bottle on beachSlant-drilling into the Santa Monica Bay from Hermosa poses significant environmental and economic risks throughout Los Angeles County and the entire Bay. This project would also be precedent-setting: There are no drilling projects currently accessing oil under the Bay. Slant-drilling from onshore under offshore waters raises many of the same concerns as any other offshore oil drilling project, in terms of increasing the risk of a coastal oil spill, causing air and water pollution and contributing to global climate change. The proposed drilling operation is only six blocks from the beach. If a spill cannot be contained, oil will ultimately reach the Santa Monica Bay and surrounding communities.

MYTH: Given all the new technology, there’s really very little chance of an oil spill actually happening.

FACT: A revised EIR (Environmental Impact Report) states that there is a 12% chance of an oil spill from the proposed project.

Oil spills have the potential to significantly impact marine life and habitats in the Bay and throughout the Southern California Bight because they can spread rapidly over great distances and can be difficult to detect and clean up. A 12% chance of a spill is simply not worth the risk. An oil spill that originated in El Segundo in the 1990s reached Malibu Lagoon, and the infamous 1969 Santa Barbara oil spill spread along the coast for more than 35 miles. Furthermore, any oil spill is likely to have an impact on tourism and the coastal economy. Our state and local community has made significant investments to protect and enhance marine and coastal habitats in the Bay, such as establishing marine protected areas in Malibu, Palos Verdes and Catalina Island; restoring Malibu Lagoon; Santa Monica Bay Restoration Commission’s National Estuary Program; and the planned restoration of Ballona Wetlands. An oil spill would directly undermine these long-term efforts.

MYTH: Hermosa Beach will reap a great deal of economic benefit if drilling moves forward.

FACT: The royalties proposed by E&B Oil may seem attractive in theory, but they are theoretical and wildly speculative.

Oil spill in city street

The final cost benefit analysis (CBA) and supplement added in January 2015 show a significant drop from initial revenue estimates for Hermosa Beach from the proposed project. Projections state that only $25 million to $77 million could go toward the city’s general fund over the 35 year life of the project—less than $1 million per year. And that’s with the price of oil pegged up to $95 per barrel. With current oil prices at about $40-$45 per barrel, revenue to the city’s general fund may only equate to half that income. Additionally, should the project be approved, the CBA estimates that the project will cost the city $19 million to $26 million to relocate the City Yard where the operation would be sited, remove contaminated soil from the site and to displace a revenue-generating storage facility.

In addition to the substantial project costs cited above, the CBA predicts a 10% drop in property values for home near the drilling site should voters approve Measure O.

But there are no guarantees when it comes to oil exploration. No one can accurately predict the productivity of proposed wells. Furthermore, the use of royalty payments is highly restricted, given that the majority of the revenue will come from drilling in the Tidelands. State law blocks vast majority of funding on services like police and street improvements. Despite promises of the project being a boon for local schools, according to the updated supplement to the CBA reflecting current oil barrel prices, the Hermosa Beach City School District is only projected to receive net revenues of approximately $900,000 over the 35-year life of the project. That pencils out to be about $26,000 annually—enough to cover the education costs of less than five Hermosa students. This is a small benefit when weighed against the health risks associated with drilling in a residential area.

MYTH: Hermosa Beach can’t afford to pay a $17.5 million penalty to E&B if voters uphold the moratorium.

FACT: The city has already set aside $6 million for this purpose, and staff is researching other fiscally prudent ways to pay the remainder of the $17.5 million over time that would not put undue hardship on city budgets.

The city’s cost-benefit analysis estimates loan payments to be roughly $750,000 to $800,000 annually (over 30 years). That amount totals about 3% of the City’s annual budget – not an insignificant amount, but certainly not enough to cause severe financial stress. The study also estimates that if a payment plan was based on levying taxpayers, the average cost would be $150 a year on the average home price of $1 million—a modest insurance policy against the almost-incalculable financial burden of an oil spill. However, in a financial presentation provided by City of Hermosa Beach experts at the Hermosa City Council meeting on January 27, 2015, it was clearly stated that the City does not need to raise taxes to pay E&B if Measure O is defeated. In fact, there are compelling indications in the new supplement to the cost-benefit analysis that Measure O’s defeat would actually be less costly than its passage.

MYTH: The drilling operations will pose very few risks to community health.

FACT: Noxious gasses released from the site may cause air pollution and odor issues, which have led to respiratory problems, eye and skin irritation, headaches and other ailments in communities where oil drilling already occurs.

Activist in Hazmat suit at hearing Keep Hermosa Hermosa Campaign to Stop Oil DrillingHermosa Beach is the most densely populated coastal community in California, with about 13,670 people per square mile. It also attracts nearly 4 million visitors annually. The proposed project site lies in close proximity to schools, parks, neighborhoods, trails, businesses, and the beach. Thus, public health impacts are a major concern for Hermosa Beach residents and visitors alike. The Health Impact Report was finalized in September 2014, and other studies of the potential health risks posed by oil drilling operations elsewhere cite heightened rates of respiratory ailments and depression. The H.I.A. identifies a 28% increase in nitrogen dioxide, which is associated with asthma in children. Noise and other quality-of-life issues also pose a community health concern, as drilling operations are proposed to occur day and night. Seniors, children, and people with existing medical conditions represent the populations most vulnerable to these health threats.

MYTH: The proposed drilling operation raises few safety concerns.

FACT: Nearly half of Hermosa Beach residents live within a half mile of the proposed drilling site. The project would have significant negative impacts on safety, aesthetics, odors, wildlife, water quality and noise.

Drilling would occur within 100 feet of homes, businesses, and widely used greenspace, which raises serious health and safety concerns. For comparison’s sake, homes, businesses, and schools in Dallas are protected from oil drilling by a 1,500-foot setback requirement. Oil drilling operations can also be dangerous and have caused blowouts and hazardous spills in other communities. The Environmental Impact Report asserts that the project would have significant unavoidable impacts in 9 areas: aesthetics, air quality (odors), biological resources (wildlife), water quality (spills into subsurface soils/or ocean through storm drains), land use (open and residential spaces), noise, recreation, safety and risk of upset (e.g. blowout during drilling). The project also has the potential to threaten the municipal water supply, exacerbate seismic instability, and cause subsidence (caving in or sinking of land from drilling activities).

MYTH: The drilling operations will not affect the aesthetics and livability of surrounding neighborhoods

FACT: The proposed slant drilling operation introduces a major industrial use that raises compatibility concerns with Hermosa Beach’s family-friendly and artistic community character.

Surfer covered in oilThe oil project would occur within 10 feet of heavily trafficked Valley Drive, and less than 100 feet from homes, businesses, and the Hermosa Valley Greenbelt. The 87-foot drill rig and associated 110-foot work over rig will introduce a visually dominant, industrial feature to the community of Hermosa Beach. And, although they will not be permanent features, E&B proposes to use them for drilling and redrilling efforts over the 35-year lifespan of the project. A 35-foot wall will permanently surround the site in attempt to buffer noise impacts. Additionally, traffic is a major community concern. E&B estimates an additional 10,500 miles of heavy truck traffic during the first 10 months of construction alone, and 32 truck trips daily during subsequent phases of the project.

MYTH: Los Angeles County already has numerous oil wells, so there is precedent of safe drilling in the region.

FACT: Although there are many oil wells throughout Los Angeles County, safety remains a concern with all forms of oil drilling in densely populated regions.

10,000-gallon crude oil spill in Atwater Village looked 'like a lake'On May 15, 2014, 10,000 gallons of crude oil spilled in Atwater Village, Glendale, when an above-ground pipeline burst, sending a geyser 20 to 50 feet into the air. In March, Wilmington had crude oil running down its residential streets due to a ruptured pipe. Communities elsewhere along the California coast, like Goleta and Carpinteria, have successfully fought slant-drilling proposals. Most recently, the City of Carson rejected a bid by Occidental Petroleum to drill within city limits. The proposed operation in Hermosa Beach poses great risk to the economic, environmental and community health of the Santa Monica Bay and the greater Los Angeles region. Allowing drilling to take place underneath the seafloor in Hermosa Beach would set a terrible precedent for future protection of Santa Monica Bay. It opens the door for further exploitation of one of our region’s greatest natural resources and recreational havens.

What can you do to prevent oil drilling from taking place in Santa Monica Bay?

Check out our Hermosa Activist’s Toolkit.

Looking for citations? Contact us.

Staff scientist Dana Roeber Murray provides an update on proposed oil drilling under the Hermosa Beach seafloor. She’s read the 1,000-page EIR and there’s much to be concerned about.

Imagine a sunny spring day on your favorite South Bay beach.  Maybe you’re playing volleyball on the warm sand, breathing in the salty sea air. You watch little shorebirds run along the shoreline as the waves ebb and flow. Your small children dig a moat in the sand.  It sounds like a typical beach day in Santa Monica Bay. We love this lifestyle. This is why we live in coastal Southern California.

Now picture a different type of day, after a community decision to allow oil drilling just a handful of blocks from the very same beach.

Ahhh … take a deep breath and inhale diesel exhaust and the nauseating aroma of oil hydrocarbons wafting in the air. Listen to the sound of your kid coughing as you walk about the neighborhood greenbelt trails, which sit just across from the new corporate oil drilling site in town. Now imagine the unthinkable  — an oil spill emanating from the supposedly safe facility. Inky, stinky, thick black oil runs down your street and into the storm drains that lead to the ocean.

This isn’t the stuff of fantasy. This nightmare scenario could well play out in Hermosa Beach if a controversial oil drilling plan is approved in the coming months.

The city is now reviewing an active proposal from E&B Oil to develop an onshore drilling and production facility that would access offshore oil reserves in Santa Monica Bay. Under a complex legal settlement, voters in Hermosa Beach will weigh in on a ballot measure to repeal an existing moratorium on oil drilling within city limits, likely this November.

Heal the Bay and a coalition of other environmental and community groups have spent the past few weeks reviewing a draft Environmental Impact Report for the proposed slant drilling operation.The draft lays out numerous unavoidable and significant impacts to the community and environment, should the project go forward. Our staff scientists reviewed and prepared comments on the Biological Resources, Geological Resources/Soils, Water Quality, and Water Resources sections of the EIR in a 38-page letter.

Oil rigs line Huntington Beach by J. Baylor RobertsAt a recent Hermosa Beach city council meeting convened to discuss the draft EIR, a room packed with project opponents shared many of their concerns.

According to the draft EIR, there’s a 34% chance of an oil spill from the proposed facility pipelines. So an oil spill in Hermosa really isn’t a far off notion. In fact, the report states that “spills and ruptures from the installed Pipelines could result due to geologic hazards, mechanical failure, structural failure, corrosion, or human error during operations.”

You probably don’t need to be reminded about the impacts of an oil spill. We’re now remembering the 45th anniversary of the devastating Santa Barbara oil spill, which helped kick off California’s coastal environmental movement. More recently, wildlife still suffer from the disastrous effects of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and explosion disaster in Louisiana. History and experience tell us that the long-term impacts of oil spills are felt decades later. Significant, adverse effects on native species and habitats, whales ingesting toxins, pelicans smothered with oil, accumulation of oil toxins in the food chain for years to come … these are realistic possibilities.

Dozens of threats are identified in the draft. The words significant and unavoidable are routinely used throughout the report to describe the risks of the proposed drilling operation. Sure doesn’t sound safe to me.

Listening to speakers at the city council meeting, it became clear that the idea of this project makes many residents sick. If just the idea of this project makes people sick now, can you imagine how sick people may get living next door to a project like this?

We’ve heard many concerns from South Bay residents about the geologic stability under homes, streets, and community infrastructure if this project moves forward. Hermosa Beach is a geologically complex and seismically active region that is subject to earthquakes and potentially strong ground shaking. So seismically-induced soil collapse, onshore subsidence, and sinkholes could occur. The area proposed for drilling is underlain by loose dune sands and similarly loose fill material. According to the EIR, these soils would be subject to sloughing and caving during excavations and could potentially destabilize offsite structures located immediately to the north. The impacts are considered significant.

Activist in Hazmat suit at hearing Keep Hermosa Hermosa Campaign to Stop Oil DrillingWhat about our local water quality? As stated in the EIR, “although mitigation measures would reduce potential water quality impacts associated with a large spills, the residual impacts to water quality would remain significant and unavoidable, based on the severity of impacts.”  We’re talking about groundwater contamination, polluted oceans, and poor beach water quality. Is this really the vision for the South Bay? Is this our future? Our legacy to future generations?

The draft is 1,000+ pages filled with facts outlining the real environmental risks of oil drilling in a small beach community. I don’t expect most people to read it. It’s technical and very depressing.

But, you can rest assured that environmental scientists at Heal the Bay have gone over this EIR with a fine-toothed comb and are well-versed in the “significant” and “unavoidable” impacts associated with drilling along Santa Monica Bay. We are prepared to fight Big Oil along with our community and NGO partners and keep oil drilling out of our Bay.

The city of Hermosa Beach is expected to issue a final EIR later this summer, which will incorporate the feedback given at the public meeting and formal comments from stakeholders.  It’s still unclear exactly when voters in Hermosa will be asked whether they want to repeal the existing moratorium. We are still operating under the assumption it will be on November ballot. (Update: The election is now scheduled for March 3, 2015.)

In the meantime, please join the fight and make your voice heard. You can sign up for updates and action alerts from Heal the Bay on this topic. And please join hundreds of your fellow ocean lovers at Heal the Bay’s Nothin’ But Sand beach cleanup, to be held May 17. We will be asking participants to stand together in opposition to oil drilling anywhere in our Bay.

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. 

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.

Do you care about clean water in your community? Love putting on a show? Want to make change (not just the money kind)?

Join our elite Speakers Bureau team to help raise educational awareness across Los Angeles in schools, workplaces and social groups.

For more than 25 years, Heal the Bay has relied upon people just like you to help spread the word about ocean pollution.

Last year we were able to reach 55,000 people! Obviously, we can’t do this on our own: We need you!  

Our winter training sessions begin on Tuesday, March 5, 1-4:30 p.m. at the Los Angeles River Center. Sessions run through the month on Tuesdays in March  (the 12th and the 19th), with a talk on Saturday, March 16, 9:30 a.m.-noon at Venice Pier. Attendance at all sessions is mandatory.

Register for Winter Speakers Bureau Training.

As representatives of Heal the Bay, we often get asked: “Is the bay healed yet?” People know we’ve been at this a long time (more than 25 years). While the answer is a qualified “yes,” we still work every day to fulfill our mission to make southern California’s coastal waters and watersheds, including Santa Monica Bay safe, healthy and clean. Our tools?  Science, education, community action and advocacy.

Each year we discuss where we’ve been, where we’re headed and how we’re going to get there. It’s a valuable process requiring that we all know what our HtB colleagues are up to: whether we’re teaching school kids at our Aquarium, coordinating our next advocacy campaign or analyzing water samples in Malibu Creek.

Here’s what we came up with for our goals of 2013:


Marine Protected Areas and Fisheries

In 2013, we plan to continue to build our MPA Watch program. We will review data collected by MPA Watch volunteers and interns, and share it with management, enforcement, and other monitoring agencies to help understand and evaluate how local Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) are being used. We also plan to inform and evaluate the development of fisheries management plans for key southern California fisheries, including spiny lobster. Additionally, in 2013, we will work with local and statewide partners to advance the statewide sustainable seafood policy developed by the Ocean Protection Council (with Heal the Bay’s involvement) and local efforts to promote sustainable seafood. On the education front, we are playing a leadership role in creating new MPA curriculum for teachers with the Southern California Aquarium Collaborative.  

Stream Team

Heal the Bay will continue to develop our Stream Team program. We plan to begin evaluating watershed impacts associated with agricultural development in the Santa Monica Mountains, including vineyards. Additionally, we hope to inspire residents and recreationists in the watershed to become Creek Stewards, and help scout for watershed health impacts throughout these mountains.

Malibu Creek Watershed

We will educate local partner groups and management agencies about the findings of Heal the Bay’s State of the Malibu Creek Watershed report. We will also work with watershed partners and policymakers to prioritize and implement recommendations detailed in the report aimed at improving local stream and watershed health.

Predicting Beach Water Quality

Heal the Bay will continue our partnership with Stanford University in developing a predictive beach water quality models. The models will use oceanic and atmospheric factors (i.e. tides, waves, temperature, wind direction etc.) as inputs to forecast indicator bacteria concentrations at beaches, as means of providing early “nowcast” warnings of human health risks (our current methods take 18-24 hours to process, leaving the public with day-old water quality information). We plan to develop simple models for 25 different California beaches that will rapidly “predict” when beaches are in or out of compliance with water quality standards. Additionally, these models will be helpful in identifying and prioritizing beach cleanup and abatement priorities.


Youth Summits

To take student learning beyond the classroom into community action and civic engagement, Heal the Bay will organize more youth summits. Students learn how to protect what they love through adjusting their own behavior, speaking publicly to businesses and governments and educating others in their local communities.  This year we will focus on scheduling these events quarterly, formalizing their structure, and expanding their reach throughout Los Angeles County high schools.     

Teacher Opportunities

Heal the Bay will expand our teacher education and professional development opportunities in 2013.  New workshops and field experiences will be offered to help increase teacher expertise in teaching environmental principles and concepts, marine and watershed science knowledge, and best practices for melding field and laboratory activities into their own classroom curricula. 

Santa Monica Pier Aquarium

To further educate the 75,000-80,000 annual visitors to the Aquarium about water conservation, we plan to overhaul the Green Room, named after Heal the Bay’s founding president Dorothy Green, with a new exhibit in her honor. The education room will include interactive, bilingual exhibits on watershed education and the urban water cycle, as well as a space dedicated to Dorothy’s accomplishments and inspirational vision.

Classroom Enrichment

In 2013, we’ll expand our environmental education outreach to more low-income communities and to a wider range of age groups. Through our partnership with the Discovery by Nature program, we’ll be able to reach classrooms in underserved communities, where public education in the sciences — as well as field trip funding — are limited.


A “Yes” for Clean Beaches

In the new year, Heal the Bay will mobilize support for the Clean Waters, Clean Beaches funding measure, which will drive an extensive and multi-faceted water quality clean up and conservation program in Los Angeles County.  The proposed measure would address contaminated drinking water, polluted stormwater runoff as well as toxins and trash in the Los Angeles and San Gabriel rivers, among other challenges.

Plastic Bag Bans

In 2013, we will take a leadership role in advocating for a strong single-use bag ordinance for the City of Los Angeles that is consistent with several other policies adopted by local governments in the area. We will work with partner groups and City Council offices to conduct outreach to the community about the pending ordinance, and ensure that a final policy is adopted that eliminates single-use plastic bag usage in the City at grocery stores, pharmacies, and convenience stores, and greatly reduces paper bag distribution from these locations.

Community Action

Zero Waste Cleanups

In 2013, Heal the Bay plans to run all Nothin’ But Sand monthly beach cleanups as Zero Waste events.  Building upon the success of the 2012 Zero Waste cleanups in October and November, we shall focus this year on not generating excessive waste in the process of performing large-scale public volunteer events. The hope is that the public will witness our commitment to practicing what we advocate, by going reusable and minimizing trash.

Compton Creek

Heal the Bay, in partnership with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Goldhirsh Foundation, will complete a project to build trash capture devices in the concrete portion of Compton Creek, just upstream of the earthen-bottom, riparian section. Compton Creek is the last major tributary that feeds into the Los Angeles River before it ultimately reaches the ocean in Long Beach. The devices ‑- adjustable metal racks that will be bolted into the channel bottom — will capture trash from dry weather urban runoff and low volume producing storm events and go a long way toward improving water quality.  

A Park in South L.A.

Heal the Bay is partnering with Wisdom Academy for Young Scientists (WAYS) Charter School to complete the construction of the WAYS Reading & Fitness Park on the site of 4,000-square feet of unused City land in 2013. This park, located at the intersection of McKinley Avenue and 87th Street in South Los Angeles, will be on the leading edge of green technology, recycling street water to irrigate its own landscape.

Help us reach our goals this year, donate now and keep the field trips, advocacy campaigns and water testing afloat!

Read more about Heal the Bay and how we work to fulfill our mission.

Through a powerful collaboration between Holocaust survivors and teen filmmakers, Heal the Bay received a video gift that will definitely keep on giving.

Students produced It’s Not Just One, a public service announcement that vividly depicts the impact of littering on the health of our communities and ocean.

The PSA was created in a “Righteous Conversations Project” workshop held over the summer at Harvard-Westlake school aimed at students in 7th-11th grades from all over L.A.

These teens worked with Holocaust survivors to pinpoint injustices they wanted to confront together. Through the workshop they learned to harness the power of media messages, the ways video can be used to raise awareness and effect change.

Participating survivor Idele Stapholtz’s message was simple. “I was a child survivor,” she recalled sharing with the students. “To be a survivor in this world means that you need to understand and respect something precious, help save it and keep it pure.” 

It’s Not Just One was inspired by Harvard-Westlake freshman Michael Kellman’s love for the ocean. “I really wanted to do something about pollution in the ocean because the ocean is a huge part of my life,” he said. “I row crew in Marina del Rey every day and that’s my favorite thing in the world.”

Once the student filmmakers (Sarah McAllister, Kelly Morrison, Kyra Perez and Jordan Seibel) completed the PSA, they decided to gift it to Heal the Bay, which pleased Idele, a longtime supporter of Heal the Bay’s work. With her husband Ben, Idele spent years volunteering at what is now Heal the Bay’s Santa Monica Pier Aquarium.

“I thought It’s Not Just One was incredible. The result is so powerful,” she said.

Righteous Conversations launched in 2011 and is a project of Remember Us.  Harvard-Westlake’s Visual Arts and Film Chair Cheri Gaulke led the workshops.

Learn more about participating in the Righteous Conversation workshops.

Watch Heal the Bay’s videos, from mockumentaries to hip hop music videos and silent films.