Southern California environment news and trends

New smartphone app locates the cleanest beach near you

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Photo by foggydave via Flickr Creative Commons

Laguna Beach in Orange County, California.

With Memorial Day heralding the unofficial start of the summer season, thoughts can quickly begin to turn towards the beach. While California boasts an abundance of shoreline, not all of it is always equal. Thanks to a new free smartphone application from WaterKeeper Alliance, finding the ideal beach at any given time — and one with better environmental conditions —is just a few taps away.

The application, called the Swim Guide, uses regularly updated water quality monitoring info from government authorities like the Ocean Water Protection Program to determine what exactly is going on at more than 300 beaches across California. Orange County Coastkeeper provided the basic information for the region.

“One of the main benefits of the app is that you can really discover new beaches, which is big one for me personally,” said Pamela Crouch, the director of communications and marketing for Orange County Coastkeeper by telephone. “It’s a really extensive guide to California beaches, and you can use it to find a secluded stretch you’ve never seen before, or one with a less congested route.


Life’s a beach? California wants to charge for (some) Sonoma Coast access

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Photo courtesy of Flickr user The City Project

If California State Parks has its way, spending the day at some Sonoma Coast beaches will cost more than just a tank of gas and a bottle of sunscreen. As reported by the Press Democrat, the parks department wants to charge visitors a fee of $8 a day to park their vehicles at 14 beaches along the Sonoma Coast, including Bodega Head and Salt Point State Park.

With budget cuts and backlogged maintenance deferments totaling north of $1 billion, officials say the daily use fees are a necessity just to keep the beaches open and provide amenities like restrooms and picnic tables, as well as possibly reopening beaches that have been shut down.

"I would hope that eight bucks is reasonable for people to come out and enjoy the parks and to help keep these areas open," said Linda Rath, superintendent of the Russian River District for state parks to the Press Democrat.


California coast coughs up oil covered birds

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Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara coast.

According to a new AP report, more than 100 birds covered in oil from the ocean floor have been recovered along the California coastline over the past two months.

“We have never seen this many oil seep Murres at once,” said Jay Holcomb, the director emeritus of the International Bird Rescue center in Los Angeles. Murres are “pursuit diving” birds common to the central California coast. Due to a lack of budget for rounding up birds affected by natural seep, those numbers are gleaned solely from birds brought in by people along Santa Barbara beaches. “Some years we receive even more natural oil seep birds than we do birds from a human-caused oil spill with a responsible party to cover the cost of their care – and, unfortunately, these birds don’t come to us with health insurance.”

If you have an “oiled wildlife sighting,” the IBR asks that you please call (877) UCD-OWCN.


Three ways to green up your Valentine's Day


Happy Valentine's Day, no-one!

If you're not planning a St Lamentine's Nay for yourself, environmental groups have figured out how to capitalize on your love to get their message out. These are the most clever ploys. 

1. The best things in life are free…go spend time with the person you love. If Encinal Canyon in Malibu is crowded, you can blame Heal the Bay. Their Valentines’ day beach guide for ocean lovers chooses “top spots for healthy romance” along the west coast. Encinal Canyon and the other 9 spots are A water-quality grades on the Heal the Bay Beach Report Card, which is why they made the grade for the list. They also say where to avoid: stay out of The Pit, Santa Barbara. And as a born San Franciscan, Ocean Beach seems awfully, uh, breezy for a V-day cuddle. But Morro Rock is an excellent spot, in my personal experience. Get in the car now! (Or check their report card list for your favorite spot.) A minor but salient fact: 80% of them are in California, so suck it, Pacific Northwest!