Southern California environment news and trends

Heal the Bay's Beach Report Card: 5 things to know

Patt Morrison and I talked about beach water quality today - as well as the specific problem of sportfishing along the southern California coast I have a friend here in LA who goes to the beach like its her job in the summertime. I told Heather I'd be talking on the radio today about beach water quality issues, and she said, plaintively, "But everyone's trying to barbecue!" Don't let me ruin your barbecues. But with summer coming and the Heal the Bay beach report card out, you do want to keep some background facts in mind as you check your favorite beaches' grades along the coast (something you can do not only on a yearly basis, but on a weekly one, at Heal the Bay's tricked out site). Without further ado, your Memorial Day list of five things to know about your beaches. 

1. The LA River is still a fecal bacteria freeway. It's got a thousand-square mile drainage, for crying out loud. And where does it come from? Uh, everywhere. 


Celebrate two birthdays: Rachel Carson, and her book "The Sea Around Us"

Rachel Carson would have been 104 today. If you don't know anything about her, you still might know about Silent Spring, her book about chemical contamination. Thing is, Silent Spring never really moved me. I think I was a spoiled specimen: I grew up in the late seventies, in a place where people taught me from early on the value of a pristine watershed. The way Rachel Carson banged the drum in Silent Spring just wasn't my jam. 

So for me, today's an even better day to celebrate Carson's poetic, National Book Award winning, Burroughs Award winning book, The Sea Around Us

BEGINNINGS  are apt to be shadowy, and so it is with the beginnings of that great mother of life, the sea. Many people have debated how and when the earth got its ocean, and it is not surprising that their explanations do not always agree. For the plain and inescapable truth is that no one was there to see,  and in the absence of eye-witness accounts there is bound to be a certain amount of disagreement. So if I tell here the story of how the young planet Earth acquired - an ocean, it must be a story pieced together from many sources and containing whole chapters the details of which we can only imagine. The story is founded on the testimony of the earth’s most ancient rocks, which were young when the earth was young; on other evidence written on the face of the earth’s satellite, the moon; and on hints contained in the history of the sun and the whole universe, of star-filled space. For although no man was there to witness this cosmic birth, the stars and the moon and the rocks were there, and, indeed, had much to do with the fact that there is an ocean.


Where the nasty bacteria in Malibu come from

E. coliFecal Indicator Bacteria. I love saying it. But I'm trying to be careful in reporting on John Izbicki's study because the issue of where the Fecal Indicator Bacteria come from is a hot one in Malibu these days. 

[My radio report can be heard here.]

In my reading of the USGS 8-page summary and charts, what I saw that I could clearly report was simply that where scientists might have expected to find FIB that leached out of septic tanks through groundwater to the Lagoon and Surfrider, they didn't. So the bacteria they detected...came from other places. They're still working out exactly how much, and from where, the bacteria came. They can trace it through genetic, biological, and chemical markers, which is pretty cool. 

Izbicki and others have their suspicions about other sources of bacteria. Some of those suspicions are referenced in the USGS press release for the study, here's how they phrase it


Legal battle keeps protection along California's coast in doubt [UPDATED]

Is the MLPA here to stay? Fishermen don't think so. Now one of 'em's suggesting the state shut down the Marine Life Protection Act to keep 70 California State Parks open that budget cuts would otherwise shut. 

Dan Bacher is legen (wait for it) dary as a managing editor, reporter and opinionator for The Fish Sniffer. In Sacramento this week, his editorial "Save State Parks - Shut Down the MLPA Intiative" has been making the rounds. A sample: 

This corrupt initiative, begun by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2004, wastes up to $40 million of the state's money every year, funds that could be spent on maintaining and patrolling State Parks. The Marine Life Protection Act Initiative creates fake “marine protected areas” that fail to protect the ocean waters from water pollution, military testing, oil spills and drilling, wave energy projects, habitat destruction and all other human impacts on the ocean other than fishing and gathering.

Catherine Reheis-Boyd, the president of the Western States Petroleum Association who has called repeatedly for new oil drilling off the California coast, chaired the South Coast MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Force and served on the North Central Coast and North Coast Task Forces. This fact in and of itself demonstrates that the MLPA Initiative has nothing to do with real marine protection.


Los Angeles DWP's groundwater hopes may raise your water rates

Los Angeles city water and power commissioners have approved a new strategy to keep water flowing to homes and businesses and it takes shrinking supplies into account. I reported this story briefly this week, I've now had a little more time to check the full documentation of the strategy out (I didn't check the full document out fully, but at least I know there is one and I made a dent in it). 

The LA Department of Water and Power has to make an urban water management plan every five years – like every water utility in the state does. Since the last time the utility did this, state law added a requirement that the DWP cut water use per person by 20 percent within nine years. That's made these documents way more important – and made them good places to look at a utility's strategy for the future.