MPAs Get a Chance to Work

Point Dume

Portions of Malibu's Point Dume are part of SoCal's new network of Marine Protected Areas

Yesterday, the California Department of Fish and Game boldly approved the official initiation of the Southern California Marine Protected Area (MPA) network. Despite the ongoing threat of litigation from fishing industry opponents, the Commission approved the October 1st start date by a 4-1 vote.

This means that the SoCal MPA network requirements will be enforceable starting this October. Fish and Game, along with community groups, environmental groups, aquaria, educational institutions, and the many groups that have been following the MPA process over the past several years, need to really focus on public education over the summer. In particular, a targeted effort on educating the wide-ranging fishing and broader ocean user community is critical for two reasons: 1 – to dispel fears of use restrictions in MPAs (for example – non-consumptive uses like surfing, diving and kayaking are NOT limited); and 2 – to provide accurate information on the consumptive use (fishing) restrictions in marine reserves (no take of any marine life) and marine conservation areas (limited take – usually affecting only the commercial fishing industry).

Meanwhile, Heal the Bay will continue its research on how the Malibu MPAs and adjacent coastal waters are used by visitors and commercial fishermen. This baseline data will prove critical as a point of comparison to assess changes in consumptive and non-consumptive uses in the new MPAs and adjacent waters.  If you’re interested in walking Malibu’s beaches and observing and tracking uses for this research effort, visit our site to get involved.

The recent Census of Marine Life findings that the CA Current has incredibly rich species diversity, equivalent to the Serengheti of the sea, as well as the International Earth System Expert Workshop results warning of pending marine species collapse, show the importance of these MPAs.

As the new MPAs take effect this fall, we should celebrate this historic move to help safeguard SoCal’s ocean economy and environment for the future.

Malibu Septics: Round Two

Malibu Lagoon

Water quality in Malibu Creek and Lagoon, and Surfrider Beach is too important to gamble with. The MOU must be strengthened and Malibu must to be held more accountable for implementation.

Tonight, the Malibu City Council will vote to approve a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the city and the state to move the civic center’s wastewater management into the 21st century. Malibu fought to become a city when L.A. County tried to jam a massive sewage treatment plant in pristine Corral Canyon down their throat. For the last two decades, the tradition of fighting for septics over sewers has been a city obsession.

The MOU vote tonight will greatly weaken the Regional Water Board’s order prohibiting land disposal of sewage (leach fields) by 2015 in commercial areas and 2019 in the civic center’s residential areas. Since the State Water Board upheld the Regional Board’s order last December, Malibu and the Regional Board have been meeting regularly to weaken it.

Malibu opposed the original order, but they didn’t sue over it because the State Board was willing to modify its terms. One of the order’s big issues was the inclusion of residential areas like Malibu Knolls and Sweetwater Mesa, which likely had no water quality impacts on the highly polluted Malibu Lagoon and Surfrider Beach. If those were the only changes, then a simple MOU modifying the order would have been universally supported. But this is Malibu, so nothing is ever simple.

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On the Edge of Darkness

The Coastal Commission's rejection of the Edge's proposal to build mansions in Malibu may have gotten more press, but its failure to revoke the permit for Malibu Valley Farms is actually more compelling.

As many of you already know, the California Coastal Commission bravely voted 8-4 Thursday against the Edge’s proposal for a compound of mansions overlooking the Pacific in Malibu.  The highly controversial project from the U2 guitarist would have substantially damaged an environmentally sensitive habitat area (ESHA) and did not include plans to reduce polluted runoff or treat and dispose of sewage generated onsite.  Clearly, the developers’ offer of $1 million to the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy for trail access and land conservation was not enough to sway the commission vote.

The Los Angeles Times quoted Peter Douglas, the commission’s iconic director, as saying:  “In 38 years of this commission’s existence, this is one of the three worst projects that I’ve seen in terms of environmental devastation. It’s a contradiction in terms — you can’t be serious about being an environmentalist and pick this location” given the effects on habitat, land formation, scenic views and water quality.

Although we raised concerns about the Edge’s proposed development, I disagree with Douglas’ statement on its scale relative to the projects considered by the commission through history. In fact, I consider it to be the second most environmentally-damaging project voted on by the commission Thursday — Malibu Valley Farms is far worse.

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Horse Sense at the Coastal Commission?

Malibu Valley Farms' dubiously permitted equestrian facility impacts water quality in the Stokes Canyon Creek area. The permit is up for a revocation vote Thursday.

The media spotlight at the California Coastal Commission hearing Thursday will be on the fate of a complex of mansions proposed by U2 guitarist The Edge on pristine chaparral and coastal sage habitat in the Santa Monica Mountains overlooking the Bay.  Although the “Joshua Tree” concert at the Sports Arena in 1987 was one of the best performances I’ve ever attended (I still get chills when I hear the intro to “Where the Streets Have No Name”), Heal the Bay is very critical of the project’s impacts on Environmentally Sensitive Habitat Area, the lack of Low Impact Development (LID) requirements to capture and reuse or infiltrate rainwater on site, and the complete lack of information on wastewater treatment and disposal.

Despite the attention on the Edge’s project, a far more critical Coastal Commission vote will take place on Thursday regarding Malibu Valley Farms.  In this case, the project applicant had the nerve to build a horse ranch in and directly adjacent to Stokes Canyon Creek, a tributary to Malibu Creek, which drains to the highly polluted and popular Malibu Lagoon and Surfrider Beach.

The developer built the ranch in this environmentally sensitive riparian area, with concrete and dirt crossings in the creek (instead of much more environmentally friendly bridges) without permission from the Coastal Commission, and then had the gall to ask for an after-the-fact permit.  What did the Commission do in response to this illegal development?  Did members bring down the hammer of enforcement?  Absolutely not!

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Proud Parents

As a kid, I spent my summers bodysurfing in Santa Monica Bay.  At that time, I looked up to lifeguards as the coolest people on the planet.  After all, they got to hang out at the beach every day, rescue people from rip currents, receive public adoration, and serve as the ultimate authority on the beach.  After I grew up and started working for Heal the Bay, I found that my opinion of ocean lifeguards really never changed.  In particular, I was always impressed by those ocean guards that really cared about water quality in the Bay as well their responsibilities as lifesavers.  In particular, (now Captain) Angus Alexander was a fixture at Heal the Bay meetings in Dorothy Green’s living room, and he’s been involved on Santa Monica Bay water quality issues for over two decades.  Also, the legendary marine biologist and eco-warrior, Rim Fay, was a longtime guard.

A few years ago, my oldest son Zack started participating in the Los Angeles County Junior Lifeguard program. During the summers of 2009 and 2010, he was one of 50 junior guards that participated in the cadet program, a critical step in the training needed to become a beach lifeguard.

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Andy vs. The Plastic Goliath

Big Plastic is trying to silence Andy Keller, aka The Bag Monster, via an intimidating lawsuit.

In a bullying move that demonstrates just how devoid of morals and ethics most plastic bag manufacturers may be, Hilex Poly Co., Superbag Operating and Advance Polybag have sued ChicoBag on the grounds that the reusable bag manufacturer has “irreparably harmed” their businesses.

If you don’t know, ChicoBag is a small Northern California-based business that makes cool reusable bags that fold up into tiny, highly portable pouches. You probably have seen them at the checkout stand at select grocery stores and other retailers. The head of ChicoBag is a young entrepreneur named Andy Keller who is absolutely passionate about the environment’s need for us to break our addiction to single-use plastic packaging.

As a result, Andy created ChicoBag and the “bag monster,” a costume made of 500 plastic bags (about the average number of bags used annually per person in the U.S).  The bag monster has been a huge hit in schools, rallies, council chambers, and press events in getting the point across about plastic pollution.

The plastic bag manufacturing industry wasn’t amused by Andy’s bag monster or his use of statements and facts on the size of our bag addiction and the perils of plastic bags in the marine environment.  As a result, these three enormous companies sued Andy in South Carolina.

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