Restoring the Bay

smbrc-dolphin The  Santa Monica Bay Restoration Commission unanimously approved a new Bay Restoration Plan on Thursday.  Dr. Shelley Luce, executive director of the Bay Commission, and her dedicated staff put together the new recommendations: the long-awaited sequel to the original 1995 plan.  Since the mid-90s, a lot has happened to help restore the Bay. Hyperion and the County Sanitation Districts’ Carson sewage treatment plants were upgraded to meet Clean Water Act requirements.  Numerous dry weather runoff diversions have made a number of polluted beaches safe for swimming during the summer. Land acquisitions have included Ballona Wetlands, Ahmanson Ranch, the Soka property and the terminus of Topanga Creek and Lagoon.  All great stuff.

But the Bay still has a long way to go.  Shelley’s crew, with the help of all of the Commission’s member agencies, has taken an updated approach to restoration.  There is a big push for a low-impact development and green infrastructure approach to reducing stormwater pollution.  In other words, capture runoff on-site and infiltrate it to replenish groundwater or capture it and reuse it on site.  Also, there are measures to enhance urban watersheds, protect local streams, and ban plastic bags and single-use plastic food packaging.

One of the most critical recommendations is for the County and City of Los Angeles to finally develop a major revenue stream to pay for the integrated approach to stormwater pollution prevention by 2010. Doing so poses an enormous challenge in the current economic climate, but it is critical for program success, and more importantly, the protection of public health and the environment.

To reduce sewage pollutant loads to the Bay, there is a huge push to expand water recycling in the Bay watershed.  Both the County Sanitation Districts and the City of Los Angeles included 2020 recycling targets for the watershed.  The City came up with a goal of about 70 million gallons a day from Hyperion (most of it from West Basin Municipal Water District) and the County Sanitation Districts came up with a figure of over 200 million gallons per day — an absolutely astounding, even revolutionary, figure for the Carson plant.

On the human health side, the plan includes the targets in the beach bacteria TMDLs.  No more beach closures and posted health warnings ASAP!  As for fish contamination, the plan calls for the clean-up of the notorious DDT-PCBs hotspot off of Palos Verdes by 2012, an extremely ambitious goal.

As part of the Marine Life Protection Act, Marine Protected Areas will be established by 2011 and the Bay Commission and its Technical Advisory Committee will play a key role in determining where MPAs should be established in the Bay. On the land resource side, restoration deadlines for Malibu Lagoon (2010), tearing down Rindge Dam to open up the Malibu Creek watershed’s steelhead habitat (2018), and restoring Topanga Lagoon (2020) are all included in the plan.

I’ve barely scratched the surface on summarizing the numerous goals and deadlines.  To say I’m proud of the work Shelley and her gang have done is an understatement.  There is nothing more fulfilling when Heal the Bay alums like Shelley and the Waterkeeper Alliance’s Steve Fleischli take environmental protection to another level in different places.

Now the hard part: getting all of the agencies to do their part to implement the actions in the Restoration Plan. If they do, we could finally have the restored Santa Monica Bay that we’ve been dreaming of for decades.

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