Sewer or Later

Staffer Kevin Jontz gives the verdict

Staffer Kevin Jontz gives the verdict

Late Monday afternoon, Heal the Bay aquarium director Vicki Wawerchak alerted our water quality staff about a stream of potentially polluted runoff coming from a storm drain near Tower 15 at Will Rogers Beach in Pacific Palisades.  The next morning, Heal the Bay scientists Alison Lipman, Kevin Jontz and Amanda Griesbach went to check out the spill, grab a few samples and take some photos.  They came back convinced that the discharge was sewage because of the overwhelming odor. They immediately notified the County Public Health Department and the City of Los Angeles.  The beach did not get closed.

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Left Holding the Bag

NB ACC Bag (3) - CROPPEDShocked doesn’t begin to describe what Heal the Bay staff felt Friday when we opened the Coastal Cleanup Day trash bags sent to us by the California Coastal Commission.  Betrayed isn’t quite right either.  Nauseous is more like it.

The plastic trash bags included the logos of some of our biggest opponents in the fight against marine debris: the American Chemistry Council, California Film Extruders and Converters Assn. and other plastics producers.  Coastal Cleanup Day – brought to you by the very polluters that are causing the global marine debris crisis. Continue reading

Child’s Play

Kids voice their support for the environment during Heal the Bay's Ed Day. Image: Heal the Bay

Kids voice their support for the environment during Heal the Bay's Ed Day. Image: Heal the Bay

Heal the Bay organizes hundreds of events each year, ranging from beach cleanups to habitat restorations to our annual Bring Back the Beach fundraising dinner. But my favorite event has to be Ed Day, held the Friday before Coastal Cleanup Day.

Every September, roughly 800 third-, fourth- and fifth-grade students come out to the beach for Coastal Cleanup Education Day to learn about marine life in Santa Monica Bay and the pollution problems that people cause. The big message for the students is that we cause the mess, and we can solve the problems with just a little effort. Continue reading

Fight the Power

Once Through Cooling plants suck the life out of the ocean

Once Through Cooling plants suck the life out of the ocean

I just sat through a seven-hour workshop on the State Water Board’s long-awaited Once Through Cooling power plant policy for California. Arguably, this may be the most important coastal resource protection action in California this year. State Water Board staff put together a draft policy that could finally hold the power industry accountable for decades of non-compliance with the Clean Water Act. In essence, the policy requires OTC plants to comply with Section 316b of the Act and greatly reduce their impacts on fisheries and marine life. These plants use ancient steam generation technologies that literally suck the life out of the ocean. Fish are caught on screens and larvae and eggs get cooked in the plant.

The many speakers who showed up largely stuck to their scripts. The enviro community came out en masse (Keepers, NRDC, Surfrider, Sierra Club, and Heal the Bay) and largely supported most of the draft policy with a strong call for policy simplification and the elimination of giant compliance loopholes. The strength behind the enviro position came from the Second Circuit Federal Court of Appeals on the Riverkeeper I and II cases. Our positions are also supported by the Supreme Court. Continue reading

Unhappy Labor Day

Jones: who had his back?
Jones: who had his back?

As if high unemployment, an economically depressed state and a shrunken stock market didn’t turn your Labor Day weekend into a downer, look no further than Saturday night’s resignation of Green Jobs icon Van Jones from President Obama’s Council on Environmental Quality.

Van is one of the most charismatic and outspoken speakers I’ve ever seen.  He has seized on the idea to transform the American civil rights movement into a green jobs movement through his extraordinary work at the Ella Baker Center and Green for All.  His reward for this leadership was an appointment to CEQ to be the administration’s public voice on its green jobs push.  Van’s efforts on environmental protection and job creation should be celebrated on Labor Day. And I’m disappointed that the Obama administration didn’t appear to have Van’s back during the successful barrage from the right for events that occurred long before his appointment.

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Many Rivers to Cross â€¦

The Los Angeles "Engineered Earth-bottom Flood Control Channel." Photo: L.A. Times

The Los Angeles "Engineered Earth-bottom Flood Control Channel." Photo: L.A. Times

Does Los Angeles County really have rivers?

Based on Thursday’s debacle of a Regional Water Board hearing, I’m not sure its staff believe that there is an L.A. River, Compton Creek, Santa Clara River, or San Gabriel River. Flood control channels, yes. Living, breathing rivers, no.

The item before the Board was Los Angeles County’s  Section 401 certification application on the “Maintenance Clearing of Engineered Earth Bottom Flood Control Channels” for about 100 water body segments.  (The application falls under a Clean Water Act section regarding dredging and filling of waters of the United States).

Unfortunately, the hearing on the item was cancelled due to a major faux pas by Board staff.  They inadvertently provided a pocket approval of the county’s application by not rendering a decision within one year of its submission. The county’s application was submitted and deemed complete for review by Board staff last August.

The end result? The county’s flawed five-year 401 certification is bound for U.S. Army Corps of Engineers approval with no changes and there’s nothing we can do about it. Continue reading

100 by 2020

Percentage-based water reduction goals won't cut it

Percentage-based water reduction goals won't cut it

California’s growing water scarcity problems continue to wreak havoc in the agricultural and urban sectors.  When talk moves to water conservation, the focus is predominantly on the urban sector and it is tied to percentage use reductions.  Gov. Schwarzenegger has mandated a 20% reduction in urban water used by 2020.  Mayor Villaraigosa called for a voluntary 10% reduction in Los Angeles water use this spring and summer, and Angelenos have exceeded the modest goal by nearly 3%. The prohibition on watering landscaping five days a week has been a major contributor to the nearly 13% reduction in water use.

Despite these incremental moves in the right direction to get us to live within our water supply means, nothing short of a bold goal is needed to really move California.

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