Point Break

Rincon Creek

Rincon Creek. Photo: Ben Weiss

Kudos to Hillary Hauser and Santa Barbara’s Heal the Ocean for their big win on pollution at Rincon. After a decade-long fight for clean water at the world famous Rincon surf spot, Heal the Ocean and a small group of beach homeowners entered into an agreement on replacing septics with a sewer system.

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Evil Incarnate

UPDATE – July 23, 2009: In response to a proposed plastic bag fee in Seattle, the American Chemistry Council has invested more than $1 million dollars in opposition, the largest amount that an industry has ever spent on an initiative in the city. The election is August 18, 2009.

I have seen and heard pure evil, and it resides at http://www.stopthebagtax.com/ . Those long time bastions of environmental protection, the American Chemistry Council and the California Film Extruders and Converters Association, have ponied up big time for a website and widespread radio campaign in the time honored tradition of the Homeland Security Council’s orange alert.  When the going gets tough, scare the living hell out of the public to get them on your side.

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Pacific Protection

The state’s California Ocean Protection Council (OPC) today released its long-awaited comprehensive action plan to reduce marine debris and protect the $46 billion annual coastal economy.  The report makes many far-ranging recommendations, including banning plastic bags and Styrofoam food packaging, banning smoking on the beach, setting up fees for plastic trash, tackling the derelict fishing gear problem, increasing fines for littering, and reducing or eliminating toxics in plastics that end up in the ocean.  It also urges extended producer responsibility programs, like they have for car batteries where the manufacturers or sellers of an item have to take it back. All great stuff. However, what the report doesn’t do is an even larger concern.

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Industry Bag Man

Compton Creek

Compton Creek

Did you catch David Lazarus’ defense article for the plastic bag industry in the Sunday Los Angeles Times business section? What a joke. The whole piece took the side of the plastic industry, which argues that bags are harmless and that banning them will cost the public money and cause people to lose jobs. There was little mention of impacts to the marine environment, let alone the economic impacts of disposal, recycling and clean-up.

Why didn’t he take this tack even further? Maintaining plastic bags in the environment keeps the need for public works staff to clean out catch basins and stormdrains. State taxpayers spend more than $25 million each year to collect and dispose of these goodies. Talk about an economic driver!

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Ready for Our Close-Up

In two decades at Heal the Bay, I’ve been fortunate to be part of numerous environmental victories. However, my 8-year-old daughter, Natalie, has a different perspective on success.

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Delta Force

It's Chinook vs. Arnold

More than three hundred farmworkers and a bunch of Central Valley politicians rallied on the steps of the state Capitol Wednesday chanting, “Aqua es vida.”  I couldn’t agree more!!  Why do you think the Chinook salmon population has collapsed? Not enough H2O. That’s what the NRDC, the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations and other groups successfully claimed in their Endangered Species Act lawsuit about the impacts of taking water out of the California Delta on the endangered Chinook salmon and steelhead trout.

Federal judge Oliver Wanger on Friday tossed out a controversial water plan that would have allowed more pumping of water out of the delta to supply more water to thirsty agricultural interests.

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Bagging a Big Win

The Los Angeles City Council, spearheaded by Councilmembers Ed Reyes and Greig Smith, today unanimously approved a staff recommendation to adopt a citywide plastic bag ban by 2010 — if the state doesn’t enact a 25-cent per-bag fee by then. It also voted to support a Styrofoam ban on city property, including LAX, and at city-sponsored events. Councilmembers Richard Alarcón and Janice Hahn led the charge to move up the bag ban deadline two years, to 2010.

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Water Day at the L.A. Times

It may have been a fluke, but the Sunday edition of the Los Angeles Times was seemingly all about water — and the coverage was pro environment. 

The stories included a strong editorial supporting L.A’s approach to California’s water scarcity paradigm and opposing billions for more dams (OK, I’m not a fan of replumbing the Delta, but the rest of the piece was strong). There was a piece on Bolsa Chica’s increased biological productivity after wetland restoration, another in the Sports section about Heal the Bay volunteer Mary Setterholm and her ongoing efforts to teach thousands of inner city kids to surf, and yet another editorial on water scarcity’s potential impact on growth. (BTW, will someone please demand statewide water metering within five years?)

They also ran a small, terrifying piece about fish ebola in the Great Lakes, a puff piece on sports stars’ love for Manhattan Beach and the Bay, and a final editorial on how anti-government political leadership has left us a lot less protected from pathogenic microbes (often from contaminated water) and toxics in our food and consumer products. Last but not least, the paper highlighted the opening of the first downtown park in over a hundred years: Vista Hermosa, a multi-use park that infiltrates polluted stormwater that was built and now managed by the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy.

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A Tern for the Better

Professor Howard Towner, LMU & Friends of Ballona Wetlands

A portion of Ballona, the only remaining large coastal wetland in Los Angeles County. Photo: Professor Howard Towner, LMU & Friends of Ballona Wetlands.

One of the region’s unsung environmental heroes, Ruth Lansford, received deserved kudos Saturday night, July 19th, at the 30th Anniversary Dinner for the Friends of Ballona Wetlands. A few hundred supporters, including Congresswoman Maxine Waters, Assemblyman Mike Feuer and “California Gold’s” Huell Howser, came out to the marsh to celebrate Ruth’s incredible conservation efforts.

I’ve always looked at Ruth as the Dorothy Green (Heal the Bay’s founder, heart and soul) of the Ballona Wetlands.  She isn’t trained as a wetland ecologist or a political activist, but she still has been effective because of her passion, perseverance and patience. She has truly led the fight to save L.A. County’s last major coastal wetland.

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L.A. to Shed Plastic Image

On Tuesday, July 22nd, the L.A. City Council will vote on a series of recommendations to reduce urban blight and marine debris.  If the measure passes, we’ll be seeing a lot fewer plastic bag trees lining the L.A. River and our beaches may even look like beaches instead of trash dumps after a rainstorm.

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