Paradise Regained?

A heavy crew: Wagner, Avalon and Hamilton

The city of Malibu cut the ribbon Monday on its new million-dollar runoff treatment facility in unique fashion.  Mayor Zuma Jay — Jefferson Wagner — paddled through the waves along with surfing icon Laird Hamilton to help launch the new plant, directly adjacent to Paradise Cove pier.  More than 100 people joined the festivities to celebrate clean water at the beach often known as Parasite Cove because of its chronically poor water quality.

Like any ribbon cutting, city council members and representatives from the offices of state and local elected officials pressed the flesh.  However, seeing the mayor paddle to the podium had to be a first for a municipal press conference in California, and maybe even nationally.

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Masters of the Obvious

Today, in a study bought and paid for by the American Chemistry Council (ACC), earth-shattering findings were released to the public. Unwashed reusable bags can be contaminated with a variety of bacterial pathogens, including Salmonella. Bag bacteria counts are especially high when you allow meat and chicken to incubate in the trunk of a car where temperatures can get nice and toasty.  I wonder how much the ACC paid for this ground-breaking research to point out the obvious.

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Dorothy’s Class

A water policy class at UCLA aims to inspire the next generation of Dorothy Greens.

Los Angeles Public Works Commissioner Paula Daniels and I have just finished teaching a class in leadership in water management at the UCLA Institute of the Environment. The class resulted from a generous gift by the Annenberg Foundation to UCLA to honor the memory of Heal the Bay’s founding president, Dorothy Green.

I can’t think of a better way to honor Dorothy’s legacy than teaching a class designed to educate and inspire the next generation of environmental activists and professionals. Thanks to the Annenberg Foundation, the class will be taught in the UCLA Institute of the Environment for the next four years.

Paula and I took a pretty unconventional approach to the class. Some 55 students, many majoring in environmental science, hung in there while we lectured on water quality, water supply and even the public trust doctrine.

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Emergency Urgency

EPA chief Lisa Jackson should be leading the cleanup effort.

The Gulf oil crisis continues to grow with no end in sight. The numbers are staggering:  more than 1,000 dead birds, another 300 or so dead sea turtles, more than 85,000 square miles of Gulf closed to fishing, 150 miles of coast and wetland soiled with oil, 40 million to 80 million gallons of oil wreaking havoc on the Gulf ecosystem and well over $5 billion in liability for BP and the gang. Inexplicably, blame for the ongoing blowout has stuck to President Obama like crude on a pelican’s wings. It isn’t fair, but the consequence is still potentially devastating.

A few words of advice for the administration from a member of the environmental peanut gallery:

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Getting the LID Out

The Santa Monica City Council passed a Low Impact Development ordinance on first reading Tuesday night. The measure requires all new development and redevelopment projects to infiltrate or capture and reuse 100% of the runoff generated from a three-quarter-inch storm unless LID measures are infeasible on site. The policy is based on the Ventura County stormwater permit and an earlier draft of the long-stalled LID ordinance by the city of Los Angeles.

The most progressive section of the ordinance focuses on green streets, requiring full LID compliance for all projects that cost more than $1 million. Councilman Kevin McKeown tried to get the LID ordinance to apply to all city projects. But his bold proposal gave way to a more modest but critical green streets approach. Leadership from Mayor Bobby Shriver and Councilman Terry O’Day helped carry the day.

Santa Monica leaders deserve accolades for practicing what they preach and requiring developers to embrace LID technology. The city has long been a leader in California on stormwater pollution prevention and LID requirements. Its groundbreaking 1992 ordinance included significant LID components, long before the coining of the term.

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Beach Blunder

A judge's ruling puts S.M. Bay ocean users at risk.

Los Angeles County’s relentless pursuit of saving a buck at the expense of public health was once again rewarded Wednesday morning.

On a technicality, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge David Yaffe (the same judge who decided that a full blown EIR was needed to ban plastic bags in Manhattan Beach) ruled that the Regional Water Board’s action to put the Santa Monica Beach Bacteria Total Maximum Daily Load into the county stormwater permit was illegal.

In essence, the judge ruled that one lawyer can’t represent the Regional Water Board as an advisor and as an “advocate” (according to the judge) for a particular position.

Much to the relief and short-term financial benefit of the county, the judge refused to hear the merits of the case.

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