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Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Treasure Coast Chapter Plants Coastal Restoration Project in Record Time

Over 50 volunteers and the Treasure Coast Chapter turned a bad situation into a positive community project. On August 20th, volunteers spent the morning planting native species on over 5 acres along State Road A1A in the Blind Creek Dune area of St. Lucie County.

Back in November the Chapter's big victory to remove incompatible dune material and due to the county's shortage of funds, the chapter had volunteered to replant sea oats to help secure the more acceptable dune project. While that plan didnt actually come to fruition, the area that the County had found extra sand to fix the project was covering over a mangrove forest. This area now needed some restoration, making it the next good candidate to be replanted.

In record time, the volunteers planted over 2,000 plants in under two hours. All of the native plants used, such as gumbo limbos, saw palmettos and sea grapes, either were rescued from land being turned into residential developments in St. Lucie County and kept at a special nursery maintained by county jail inmates, or bought using fees paid by developers.

Too many times projects and campaigns end of being re-active...this was a great opportunity to show just how proactive we can be.

See the PalmBeachPost.com article.

Sebastian Chapter and Hobgood Kick Up with Globe

On August 19th, Surfrider volunteers came out to support the Hobgood brothers on the opening day of their new surf shop in Indialantic. "They are one of us, local surfers and fishermen" explained Brian Lind. Throughout the morning volunteers passed out recycled plastic garbage bags to beachgoers and brochures teaching how to protect the ocean.

After cooling down with a couple of snow cones from the Christian Surfers tent, the Inlet Chapter went to the back of the shop and set up for the surfing film double feature - Quiksilver's First Chapter and Globe's The Secret Machine. A heavy downpour scattered the viewers, but show went on after it cleared up. Surfrider is hoping that the Hobgoods represent on the ASP tour as they are ambassadors of the Surfrider Pro-Team.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Desal and the Bigger Picture

Below is an OpEd piece by our own Joe Geever that was recently published in the Water Desalination Report (WDR) -- an international newsletter for governments and the water industry. WDR was very generous in allowing us space to voice our position on the link between water supply choices and the impacts it may have on cleaning up already polluted water bodies. The issue of ocean desalination is being considered in numerous states in the US, as well as numerous foreign countries. In response, Surfrider Foundation produced a "Desal Issue List" for our chapters.

The OpEd below attempts to give the "bigger picture." In some ways, the issue of desal may be the impetus for raising questions about broader water supply policies -- and choices that may actually have positive changes to the environment (as opposed to the negative impacts that potentially accompany desal).

OpEd for Water Desalination Report: An Environmentalists' Perspective
The Surfrider Foundation is a grassroots, non-profit environmental organization that works to protect our oceans, waves and beaches. Founded in 1984, we are first-hand witnesses to the degradation of our coastal environment and we are committed to restoring and preserving this precious natural resource for future generations. Most of our current staff and volunteers continue to live in coastal communities and are active surfers, swimmers, fishers and all-around ocean enthusiasts, personally concerned with the quality of the ocean.

We have serious questions about the recent enthusiasm over seawater desalination as a simple solution to perceived fresh water shortages. My father used to caution me, saying, “For every complicated problem there is always a simple solution – and it is invariably wrong.”

Surfrider Foundation is not opposed to ocean desalination. In fact, once unanswered environmental and economic questions are resolved, it may be an important component of a community’s water supply. But, the ocean is a complicated ecosystem with equally complicated problems to solve. Ocean desalination is not simply about water supply.

After exhaustive research and stakeholder input, it was agreed upon by the Pew Ocean Commission and the US Commission on Ocean Policy that we face serious consequences from past mismanagement. Among them include: intractable pollution, unsustainable coastal development, dramatic loss of coastal habitat, and fisheries on the brink of collapse. These expert panels point to “fragmented government” as the major culprit. We agree. Government agencies with narrowly focused legislative mandates do not deal well with multi-faceted problems. How we “integrate” fresh water supply choices and ocean restoration can be a template for modern “de-fragmented” governance.

Environmentalists are often accused of being “naysayers.” We want to change that perception with an emphasis on alternatives to multiple, large-scale desalination projects while resolving adverse impacts to healthy coasts and oceans.
There are numerous choices for our water demands. But traditional policy analysis and “market” economics don’t always point to the most beneficial allocation of resources. We need multi-agency policy decision processes and stakeholder groups willing to work together to find holistic new solutions.

Agencies entrusted with land use planning, flood control, wastewater treatment – and even water supply – treat water on land as a nuisance. Traditional systems convey it to the sea through filled wetlands, concrete channels and treatment facility’s ocean discharges. The public unfortunately accepts the current situation because “that’s just the way it is” – and accept more of the same as the inevitable future.
Surfrider Foundation is not simply against desalination. We are advocating alternatives that provide needed water while embracing holistic environmental and quality of life improvements.

Water conservation is a proven and readily available alternative. We applaud communities who have started education and incentive programs, and believe more can be done. Improving on this effort can create a “wave of change” in landscaping and irrigation that can also dramatically reduce urban runoff.

Recycling wastewater is easier and less expensive than it is to desalinate seawater – and both use similar technologies. The holistic benefits include reducing polluted ocean discharges – if not eventually eliminating them altogether.

We recognize the public acceptance issues facing indirect potable reuse and Surfrider is working with the city of San Diego and Los Angeles to help educate the public on the technical and environmental merits of this alternative.
We should also be re-creating and restoring wetlands to preserve this important habitat while simultaneously improving their ability to recharge groundwater aquifers.

Finally, if we need additional water after all those preferable alternatives are fully implemented, it is important that plants are designed with intakes that eliminate the unnecessary destruction of marine life. As a former commercial fisherman, the environmental damage from open ocean intakes is of particular interest to me. It is imperative that the intakes be designed to reduce impingement and entrainment to at least those levels outlined in the recent California State Water Resources Control Board scoping document for 316(b) regulations.

In general, we think seawater desalination should be given a little more thought. Approximately 20 large-scale desalination projects have been proposed on the California coast before we receive the results of research and pilot studies the State has spent millions of dollars on. My father’s caution certainly seems to apply here: there is a list of difficult and well-entrenched problems that require more than a simple desalination facility to fix. These problems include the real potential for environmental degradation, the absence of a comprehensive vision for a better future, and a governance system incapable of holistic planning. Will desalination be a part of our future? Probably. But we should first turn to the solutions that solve multiple problems rather than the apparent race for desalination that will likely just exacerbate existing problems.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Hold On To Your Butt Day recap

On August 17th the San Diego County Chapter held its 6th Annual Hold On To Your Butt Day. It is centered around sign holding at various high traffic intersections to raise awareness that cigarette butts are litter and that they need to be disposed of properly.

This year the City of San Diego adopted a smoke free policy for its beaches and parks. Our chapter spoke in City Council meetings in support of the ordinance because we knew that it would have a direct positive impact for the beaches and water.

The smoking ban took effect on the 17th so we decided to host a press conference to raise awareness for the new ordinance and to talk about our new ashcan program. We invited a couple City Councilmembers to speak and received good tv coverage.

Surfrider chose Ocean Beach to be the target community to eliminate cigarette butt litter. To accomplish this we have installed outdoor ashcans at high traffic areas near the beach and along the main area for bars and restaurants. Most of the ashcans were purchased with grant money and we teamed with the Ocean Beach Mainstreet Association for the maintainance. In exchange for buying the ashcans they agreed to empty them. If the program goes as expected we hope to roll it out to ther communities soon.

Click here for pictures.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Inner-City Kids Hit the Waves

In memory of one of our past Chairman, Tom Marcellino, the South Bay Chapter and Tom’s family recently hosted participation in a weeklong “surf camp” for some kids from the inner-city of Los Angeles.

The kids learned to swim and surf, important safety lessons, etc. But most importantly they learned that the ocean and beach are valuable natural resources to enjoy – but protect.

We also had speakers for very brief interaction with the kids: Alan Walti (Chapter Chair), Rick Dickert (local Fox News weather-caster), Jimmy Blackman (LA Mayor Villaraigosa’s Deputy Chief of Staff), and Andy Dellenbach (former Chapter Chair) who put hours into organizing the event.

We hope to “grow” this program in the coming years so that we can start reaching a broader constituency – some who have never seen the beach.

The South Bay Chapter wants to thank the Marcellino family, Tom’s friends, and all the businesses and individuals that made this such a fun and successful event.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Beach Erosion in Hawaii

Beach-replenishment projects such as one the state is planning later this year in Waikiki may offer the best hope the Islands have to stave off the effects of erosion and rising sea levels, which are causing shorefront property to disappear at alarming rates.

As much as 25 percent of sandy beach land on O'ahu and Maui has been lost in the past 50 years, according to University of Hawai'i scientists who compared old and new aerial photos and maps of waterfront property. The erosion is continuing in many places across the state at a rate of between 6 inches and 12 inches a year. More

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Surfrider Comes to Aid in Vero Canal Clean-up

Volunteers from the Treasure Coast Surfrider Foundation joined residents of Vero Beach's Rock Ridge neighborhood to clean debris out of an Intracoastal Waterway canal that has been left unattended since the hurricanes of 2004. The canal, located along 3rd Avenue, just south of 17th Street, was full of foam insulation and other construction debris that had blown off nearby commercial buildings in the storms.

According to neighborhood resident and Surfrider member Charles Williams, both the city and county have been contacted on numerous occasions regarding the debris clogging this once-thriving ecosystem.

"Both the city and county informed us is that it was the neighborhood's responsibility to clean up the canal, so that's just what we did," said Williams, owner of Impact Surfboards in Fort Pierce. "Before the hurricanes, the canal was home to all kinds of marine life, including tarpon, snook, manatees. For the last two years it has been so full of garbage that marine life has seemed to avoid it."

Williams claimed that the water quality looks "pretty good" and hopes that the canal will return to its once thriving state.

"Most of the neighbors are senior citizens and would have had a lot of difficulty trying to remove all the trash themselves, especially in the summer heat," Williams added. All it took was one phone call to Surfrider and a team of volunteers showed up ready help."

Monday, August 07, 2006

Save Trestles video presentation

Last month the San Diego County chapter meeting was focused on the Save Trestles campaign. We are fortunate to have two past chapter chairmen, Todd Cardiff and Brian Woodward, that are very knowledgable and gave a great presentation. We videotaped the presentation and made it available online with the help of Rob Rhyne from www.70percent.org

Check it out, pass it on. Get informed, stay informed.

Todd Cardiff

Brian Woodward

Thursday, August 03, 2006

King of the Sea; the Shifting Baselines enviro-film contest

Our good friends over at Shifting Baselines are at it again. Since they’re already known for creating brilliant, relevant and entertaining short films around coastal environmentalism it’s no big jump for them to launch a contest aimed teens to do… essentially that same thing.

Here’s the contest overview.

Here are the celebs that are judging the contest.

Surfrider loves Shifting Baselines because they understand that many times the issue isn’t that we need more science to triple-check how bad things are; we already know the ocean is insanely screwed up. We need fresh communication vehicles for getting the key messages out. We need the social-networking and cultural-shaping equivalent of entities like MySpace. We need to leverage every single avenue for a message, use every tool to protect the coasts… in that sense we’re two organizations that share common DNA.

If you know someone under 20 chances are they are already quite adept at making short films, point them here.

Oh yea, there are fabulous cash and prizes at stake.

Jim Moriarty
Executive Director

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

O.C. Wetlands to Finally Reunite With the Sea


From the Los Angeles Times

O.C. Wetlands to Finally Reunite With the Sea
For Bolsa Chica's advocates, it's a dream decades in the making. Large home developments were once planned for the site.

By David Reyes
Times Staff Writer

July 31, 2006
When bulldozers finally smash through the wall of sand separating the Pacific from the Bolsa Chica wetlands, allowing millions of gallons of seawater to rush into the marsh for the first time in 107 years, a hard-core group of supporters will be on hand to cheer.

"This will be our dream realized," said Shirley Dettloff, a local environmentalist who, like scores of others, devoted decades to battling developers who wanted to turn the Huntington Beach wetlands into a marina or an oceanfront housing tract.

Spared, a portion of the 880-acre wetlands is now poised to be reunited with the ocean as work crews finish shoveling through 2 million cubic yards of sand to create a channel linking the ecological reserve and the sea.

The job, scheduled to be completed Aug. 24, may end with more of a trickle than a splash.

Project officials want to slow the velocity of the water as it pours into Bolsa Chica and are expected to order the contractor to unplug the inlet at low tide, during predawn hours, to minimize the number of spectators for safety reasons.

"Many of us who have been working on this for 30 years would like a bit more for the opening, but I'm sure some of us will be down there looking over the bridge at that time," said Dettloff, a former Huntington Beach councilwoman and former state Coastal Commission member.

Cutting the channel is seen by state biologists as the keystone to one of the most ambitious and expensive wetland restoration projects in state history. And although the expected rebirth of the area as a major wildlife sanctuary has environmentalists and naturalists excited, others are leery of some of the potential side effects.

As the stagnant and murky waters of Bolsa Chica are drawn back out to sea by the tides, there is concern that it could — temporarily, at least — stain local ocean waters.

Still, the general feeling among all those who had a hand in saving Bolsa Chica is that they are on the brink of an astonishing achievement, even if much hard work lies ahead. Because the wetlands were used for oil drilling for years, the cleanup is extensive and the cost of the project has now grown from $100 million to $147 million.

"You have to put this in the context of a region that has lost 90% of its historic wetlands," said Robert Hoffman, a National Marine Fisheries Service biologist, who is on the project's steering committee.

In addition to the mammoth task of scooping out nearly 2 million cubic yards of sediment, a bridge for PCH and another for oil workers were built and several viewing areas were added. Ocean water has been slowly pumped into the wetlands to gradually raise the water level.

Although about 65 oil wells have been removed so far, oil drilling will continue in a 250-acre section of the wetlands until the operation is no longer economically viable. Then it too will be cleared away.

State bonds provided revenue, but most of the restoration costs were covered by the ports of Los Angeles and Long
Beach as part of a mitigation measure for port expansion.

"It's been a contentious, long road," said Jack Fancher, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist in charge of the project.
"It's been like a steeplechase or a very long endurance race with obstacles."

But repairing an ecosystem that's been dysfunctional for decades is a worthy cause, he said.

At one time, as many as 4,884 homes were proposed on 1,100 acres of the preserved wetlands. By 1996, the proposal had shrunk to 3,300 homes. A year later, the state paid $25 million for 880 acres. That parcel was added to 300 acres that landowner Signal Landmark had given to the state for wetlands preservation in 1973. The result was the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve, whose boundaries have since grown.

Members of a duck hunting club had cut off the wetlands from the ocean in 1899, diking ponds to make it easier to catch their prey. Oil drilling began after World War II, then homes were built in the area.

Now, wetlands in general are recognized as vital filters for urban runoff, way stations for migrating birds and habitats for endangered species. They generate economic benefits by restocking commercial ocean fisheries. And communities get recreation spots for nature lovers, hikers and birders.

Bolsa Chica already attracts thousands of hikers and bird watchers, who, armed with binoculars, watch herons, pelicans, other diving birds, and threatened and endangered species such as the Belding's savannah sparrow, California least tern and light-footed clapper rail.

But the greater significance is its prime fisheries habitat, said Hoffman, who said the area will essentially serve as a fish maternity ward because of the wetlands' shallow, warmer water.

Based on monitoring at the Batiquitos Lagoon in Carlsbad — a similar, $57-million restoration job ended there in 1996 — once the inlet opens, he said, "literally overnight you get additional 30 species and in 10 years you can get 60."

For example, California halibut are dependent on wetlands habitat for their first year, he said. Juveniles born offshore drift into shallower waters, where the young settle in bays and inshore banks snacking on fish, crabs, clams and squid.

Surfers have a love-hate relationship with the project. They smile at the new surfing peaks at the south end of Bolsa State Beach north of the inlet, which they attribute to a sandbar built from sediment dumped offshore from the project's dredging activity. But they cringe when thinking about chemicals, wildlife waste and anything else that may be flushed out into the surf.

"We like the restoration, but some of us have set up a water monitoring program and they intend to take daily samples," said Don Slaven, a surfing veteran and member of the Surfrider Foundation.

Bolsa Chica State Beach has a reputation for having clean ocean water, in part because there are no creeks, storm drains or rivers dumping bacteria-laden urban runoff, said Monica Mazur, environmental health spokeswoman for the Orange County Health Care Agency.

Project officials were aware of the bacteria potential and avoided the danger by not adding any connections to existing flood channels, Fancher said.

"Our conclusion is that the restored wetland alternative that we have implemented will not increase the frequency of beach health warnings at Bolsa Chica State Beach," he said.

In addition, he downplayed whether oil field contamination would flush into the ocean. What contamination was prevalent was dug out and the remaining soil sampled for verification, he said. The cleanup was endorsed by the Regional Water Quality Control Board, he added.

Fancher did have good news for surfers: Once the inlet is opened, the sandbar should remain.

"That should make for a popular surf break and good, clean tidal water flow that won't degrade surf zone water quality."

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Landmark Coastal Ruling for Hawai'i

"Landmark" ruling on coastal waters praised

By Ken Kobayashi
Advertiser Courts Writer

In a move hailed by environmentalists as a landmark decision, the Hawai'i Supreme Court has ruled that city and county governments have a duty to protect coastal waters.

The high court's decision relates to the Hokuli'a resort development south of Kailua, Kona, on the Big Island and muddy storm runoff from the construction site during storms in 2000.

In a 60-page unanimous opinion issued Friday, the court found that Hawai'i County and the state Department of Health are under a public-trust doctrine mandated by the state Constitution to protect coastal waters.

The court rejected the claim that the county government did not fall under that mandate.

However, the justices said they found that neither Hawai'i County nor the state violated that trust in the handling and monitoring of the development.

Still, the pronouncement that Big Island county is under an "affirmative duty" to protect the waters drew praise from lawyers representing environmental and Native Hawaiian groups.

Although the decision directly involves Hawai'i County, it also applies to the city and county of Honolulu and other Neighbor Island counties.

Robert D. S. Kim, a Big Island lawyer, represents Protect Keopuka 'Ohana, a nonprofit coalition of Native Hawaiian cultural practitioners and environmental advocates who sued the state and Hawai'i County. He called the ruling a "landmark" decision that strengthens the protections of state natural resources.

He said the decision places a duty on Hawai'i County to "ensure that conditions designed for effective soil erosion control are being met by a land developer."

Alan Murakami, lawyer for the Native Hawaiian Legal Corp., which also represented the coalition on appeal, said the counties from now on cannot be so "cavalier" in claiming it is the state's responsibility, not the counties', to protect the waters.

David Kimo Frankel, lawyer for the Sierra Club, which filed a brief in support of Protect Keopuka 'Ohana, said the impact of the ruling is that a "government agency, county or the state has to diligently investigate, monitor and enforce (water laws and regulations) to ensure water quality is protected."

If the agency doesn't have the resources to fulfill that obligation, it shouldn't issue permits for development, he said.

Ivan Torigoe, Big Island deputy corporation counsel, said the decision essentially places "affirmative public-trust duties to protect natural resources" on the county. "We will have to review those duties with the appropriate agencies to try to make sure we're in compliance," he said.

As to how it might affect future developments, he said his office would have to "discuss with our agencies to see what is practicable to do." But Torigoe said the county was "glad that the court found there was no breach of public trust proven."

Deputy Attorney General Adina Kobayashi Cunningham also expressed happiness that the state was not found liable for any breach. She said the decision will be reviewed to see if the state must do anything differently in the future.

The high court's opinion, written by Associate Justice Simeon Acoba, affirmed Big Island Circuit Judge Ronald Ibarra's 2002 decision that said the state and county had a duty to protect the ocean waters off the Hokuli'a site. But the high court reversed his ruling that they had violated their duties.

Acoba's decision said the state constitution is clear when it says "the state and its political subdivisions shall conserve and protect Hawai'i's natural beauty and all natural resources."

The high court agreed with Protect Keopuka 'Ohana, which argued that the county is a "political subdivision" of the state, so the public-trust doctrine applies.

The lawsuit over the storm runoff was later expanded to include a challenge alleging that the project was an illegal use of agricultural lands. Ibarra halted construction in 2003 but lifted his injunction this year after a settlement was reached.

Also earlier this year, the Hokuli'a developer agreed with the state Department of Health to a proposed settlement and to pay a $200,000 fine involving the 2002 storm runoff. Under the terms, $150,000 would go to repair loading docks at boat-launch ramps at Keauhou Boat Harbor and $50,000 would go to the state Environmental Response Revolving Fund.

The high court's decision ends the litigation challenging the project.

From The Honolulu Advertiser, August 1, 2006