Dorothy’s Law

About 125 people came out to the beach at Santa Monica Pier on a cloudy Sunday to share their favorite Dorothy Green stories. Some people came as far as San Francisco, Sun Valley and Denver to reminisce about Dorothy’s amazing achievements, tireless work ethic, big heart, and sense of humor. The County Lifeguards paid tribute to Dorothy, the founding president of Heal the Bay who passed away in October, as one of their own with a boat offshore and Capt. Angus Alexander’s inspirational words at the podium.

Any event with Dorothy had to include an environmental action and her memorial was no different. Paula Daniels, Conner Everts and I put together a version of “Dorothy’s Law”: a common-sense legislative solution to California’s dysfunctional water supply management.

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A Bailout Solution

Auto industry executives, from left, General Motors Chief Executive Officer Richard Wagoner; Chrysler Chief Executive Officer Robert Nardelli; and Ford Chief Executive Officer Alan Mulally, testify on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Nov. 19, 2008.  (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

The Big Three strike out on the Hill. AP Photo/Evan Vucci

The Big 3 domestic automobile manufacturers struck out with Congress on their first attempt at a $25 billion bailout. Not much doubt that they will be back for more at-bats in the coming weeks. Too many jobs at stake and too powerful of a D.C. lobby.

Maybe, just maybe, Congress will condition a bailout to expedite a shift to higher gas mileage cars.  Maybe with local Rep. Henry Waxman as the new chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, there can be a trade of moving the 35 mpg CAFE standards from 2020 to 2015 as part of the deal. That would be a deal worth making.

If Congress can’t come up with a bailout that benefits the environment, then I have a different solution.

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Cynical About the ‘Bu

Malibu Creek, Lagoon and Civic CenterOn Thursday, the Regional Water Board unanimously approved a resolution requiring Board staff to negotiate a new memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Malibu for permitting on-site wastewater treatment systems (OWTS, or septic systems).  In addition, staff was ordered to move forward on an OWTS moratorium for the Malibu Civic Center area.  Both of these actions must come back to the Board within one year.

The Board and staff are to be commended for moving forward on this critical measure.  Also, props to Malibu for playing nice today.  Mayor Pam Conley Ulich set the tone in her testimony.  Malibu supported the resolution, thereby avoiding a potentially contentious situation.

So why aren’t I happy?

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Now the Hard Work Begins

The Ocean Protection Council, created by the governor to coordinate state efforts to protect our seas in response to Fred Keely legislation, on Thursday unanimously passed its comprehensive marine debris action plan.  This means that a bipartisan California government body has adopted the blueprint for abating California’s contribution to the marine debris crisis. While it doesn’t have the force of law, the plan spells out specific steps the state legislature must take if it is to clean up our oceans.

Despite the fact that 60+ workers from the polystyrene industry were bused in to oppose the plan, the OPC approved the plan with minimal changes.

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Worth the Wait…

dscf00321On Thursday morning, the California Ocean Protection Council will hopefully approve its long-awaited marine debris action plan. The plan was drafted by Drew Bohan, OPC’s executive director and dedicated ocean activist, and state staff in response to the OPC’s far-reaching marine debris resolution nearly two years ago.

Despite the long wait, the plan is pretty good. It calls for the prohibition of polystyrene take-out food packaging, a ban on smoking at state beaches and recommendations for the installation of cigarette butt receptacles at clubs and bars and outside offices, as well as the redesign of single-use packaging to reduce their likelihood of becoming marine debris (e.g. leashed or tethered bottle caps).

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Land of Smoke


Diving near Sharm is a respite from polluted skies.

The Aswan Dam in southern Egypt is enormous. On one side sits the 300-mile long Lake Nasser. The lake is teeming with crocodiles and Nile perch, but the Sahara comes right up to its shores. The dam itself is over two miles long and provides hydroelectric power for about 40% of the nation. North of the monolithic structure is the tamed Nile, a series of croc-free lakes created by the dam and the 10 locks between Aswan and Cairo. Like California, agriculture controls the fate of the Nile with wildlife as the loser.

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Greetings from Egypt

Untreated effluent discharging from sugar cane factory into the Nile.

Untreated effluent discharging from sugar cane factory into the Nile.

I’m on a tourist ship floating down the Nile from Luxor to Aswan, and I am not alone. There are dozens of other ships with 150 tourists each from all over the world sharing the same experience at the same time.

The juxtaposition of the modern and the ancient is like nothing I’ve ever seen before. The world’s longest river is lined with sugar cane farms, cattle and water buffalo grazing, fishermen in row boats with small nets, and towns with a skyline of mosque minarets. The Nile itself is visibly polluted with the plastic refuse from tourism, agricultural discharges, trash burning on the river banks, and the ever present cattle on the shore. No one swims in the Nile. Egypt’s population is nearing 100 million and nearly all of their water comes from the Nile — and all of their sewage goes right back in.

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How to Save the ‘Bu

Malibu Lagoon. Copyright © 2002-2003 Kenneth Adelman, California Coastal Records Project.

Malibu Lagoon and Surfrider Beach. Copyright © 2002-2003 Kenneth Adelman, California Coastal Records Project.

The battle between Malibu and the Regional Water Board has become even more heated.  On Nov. 20, the Regional Water Board will vote on whether or not to revoke the septic system MOU for Malibu.  Without the MOU, Malibu won’t be able to issue waste discharge requirements for any new systems, so this move could act as a de facto septic system moratorium for all new single-family homes in the entire city of Malibu because the Regional Board doesn’t have the staff to review more septic tank permitting applications.

In addition, all commercial development in the city could be slowed to a crawl because of the same water board resource issues.  Malibu responded to the threat of revocation like a cornered bobcat by sending out threatening and insulting letters to the Regional Board. The city even questioned the impeccable ethics of Board Executive Officer Tracy Egoscue because the NRDC and her former employer, the Santa Monica Baykeeper, have previously sued Malibu for violations of the county stormwater permit and the beach bacteria Total Maximum Daily Load (the limits that make it illegal for swimmer health standards to be exceeded from April to October).  The letter was inflammatory, factually incorrect and escalated the tension between the Regional Water Board and Malibu to the boiling point.

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A Mess in Malibu

a victim of civic foot-dragging

Malibu Lagoon: a victim of civic foot-dragging

Malibu’s history is inextricably linked with celebrities, natural disasters, a gorgeous coastline and … sewage problems.  In fact, Malibu became a city when L.A. County tried to force a huge sewage treatment plant in undeveloped Corral Canyon down residents’ throats.  Yet here we are 17 years later and Malibu has yet to seriously address the sewage water quality problems that continue to plague the Civic Center area.

The chronic pollution problems at world-class Surfrider Beach and the Malibu Lagoon are likely going to come to a head at the next Regional Water Board meeting, on Nov. 20. And the potential for a big-time scolding of Malibu for its failure to effectively manage its sewage is extremely high. Furthermore, the city’s foot-dragging on the proposed buildout of  a centralized water treatment facility has left me and many other environmental leaders convinced that an integrated solution to Malibu’s pollution problems will be delivered many years in the future, if at all.

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