Heal the Bay released its 20th annual Beach Report Card for California yesterday. Many of the usual suspects populated the Beach Bummer list, with such perennial polluted beaches as Avalon and Cabrillo in the top three.
But the big news of the report card focused on clean beaches during dry weather. Some 76 out of 323 beaches in California received perfect scores during dry weather. That’s right, a full 23% of the state’s beaches monitored year-round never exceeded fecal bacteria water quality and public health standards.
These beaches made up the Honor Roll, and their presence shatters the myth that beaches cannot be clean and safe all of the time. The urban legend is perpetuated by the Coalition for Practical Regulation cities and Los Angeles County. Both entities have long opposed making beach water quality requirements enforceable.
In fact, Los Angeles County sued the state of California for adding beach water quality standards and requirements in the stormwater permit. The regulations require all Santa Monica Bay beaches to meet bacterial water quality standards 100% of the time from April through October in dry weather. The case will be heard June 2, and Heal the Bay is intervening on behalf of the state.
The results of the report card demonstrate that native wildlife and beach wrack (kelp and other algae) don’t cause all beaches to exceed water quality standards.
In Los Angeles County alone, 10 beaches never exceeded water quality standards for an entire 12-month period during dry weather. These included such historically contaminated beaches like Will Rogers Beach at Temescal and Dockweiler Beach at Imperial Highway. These beaches made the honor roll because the city of Los Angeles put in dry weather runoff diversions. Clearly they are operating and maintaining them very well.
If 10 beaches can achieve perfection for over 300 days a year, it isn’t too much to require all beaches to be clean and safe during the summer months. With over 50 million annual visitors to Bay beaches and a $2 billion plus coastal tourism economy, clean beaches are a necessity, not a luxury.