The autosampler is slowly, but surely, progressing. After securing the necessary money, and finding and purchasing parts, I have taken the first few steps towards completing the autosampler. To remind everyone, this autosampler will allow us to use the autosampler to monitor urban runoff during rains, as it happens (without having our volunteers stand in the rain for hours).
Currently, I am working on refining my home-built peristaltic pump. Peristaltic pumps use compression to push water. Skateboard wheels will compress a plastic tube to push water from the creek and into the sample bottles.
The pump frame has been built, and the skateboard wheels have been installed. The wheels, along with some tubing, will be doing the heavy lifting of the water. Once the pump is finished, and pumping, the next step will be to set up the valve array, which will distribute the samples into their respective containers.
From here, I expect the pace to accelerate, as the pump will probably be the part that I need to fiddle with the most. After the valve array, the final step will involve powering and connecting all of the parts into a computer controlled system. I am planning on using two Arduino microprocessers working in conjunction as the brains of the system.
While working on the autosampler, I have learned a great deal about prototyping and design. In its current state, the autosampler is not much more than a prototype. I was surprised about all the fiddling and adjusting needs to happen in order to make this run perfectly. This project has been an enlightening experience: there are hundreds of things that will go wrong. But I will fix all of them.
Working on the autosampler in general, and the pump specifically, has given me the chance to explore new horizons. I have a project where I have creative freedom, will have an impact, and combines an appealing career path, robotics, and my work here at Coastkeeper. It’s a nice balance to my school work. I appreciate the hands on experience that I have gotten with engineering and design, something I probably would not have without Coastkeeper’s help.
The currently anticipated deployment date is in late August, early September. Ish. That said, when I was first talking about this project, I thought I could have it out by March. We’ll have to wait and see.
It’s 8 am on the first sunny morning you have seen in a while. All you can think about is loading up your surfboard and beach towel in your car and head to that new surf spot all of your friends have been telling you about. But what if it rained overnight? You've heard about recent water pollution issues, maybe one of your friends got sick from surfing a few weeks ago. How do you know the water is safe to swim in? Well, the solution is no further away than your smartphone.
The new Swim Guide App designed by the Ontario Waterkeeper for the Waterkeeper Alliance is your guide to finding out which beaches are safe to swim. This app covers more than 400 beaches in California alone and 3000 beaches and swimming destinations nationwide and gives you up to date pollution ratings. Data for San Diego County comes from the County Department of Environmental Health each morning, and San Diego Coastkeeper updates the status of all beaches county-wide.
The Swim Guide also provides a historical and special status providing there are any unusual conditions at your particular location. This is an awesome way to check water quality before you head to a lake, beach, or river for a swim. If you are at a location and you see signs of pollution or debris, the app even allows you to report the problem to your local Waterkeeper. The app however, does more than just tell you about water quality.
With Swim Guide, you can discover new spots (beaches, parks, and lakes) based on your location, bookmark a place that looks interesting, and even get directions to that place. The interactive map gives you a visual representation of waters in the area. When I heard of this app, I immediately downloaded it, and did a bit of exploring. The coolest part about this new guide is the descriptions of the spots featuring history, culture, and suggestions for how to make the best of your trip here. As I was scrolling through locations near me, I found tons of spots that I had never even heard of. Who knew Leisure Lagoon at Mission Bay Park was an excellent spot for bbqing or tossing the Frisbee around? Or that the north side of San Dieguito River is great place to bring your dogs?
This app is extremely user friendly and even simpler to download. You can go to the App store and search swim guide or go to http://www.theswimguide.org/download.php to download or even use it from the web. Did I mention this app is completely free? That’s right all of this information at your fingertips and it does not even cost a penny. If you love to hit the beach or do a little exploring this app is a must!
Memorial Day is fast approaching and on Memorial Day weekend, we will have an influx of trash on our beaches. Here is a list of ten things you can do to reduce the amount of trash during Memorial Day weekend:
- Stay away from plastic bags! Instead of using plastic bags to bring your snacks, use reusable bags and containers.
- Bring a trash bag with you to make sure you throw everything away; that way trash won’t be buried in the sand throughout the day or left when you leave.
- If you are walking along the beach and see trash or cans/bottles, safely pick them up and throw them away.
- Make a game with your friends and family on who can gather the most cans. Whoever wins, gets to keep the money when you cash them in!
- Switch over to reusable water bottles, instead of single-use plastic bottles (this can make a huge difference each day).
- Instead of making this weekend focused around eating and drinking, make it about socializing and physical activity. Play some Frisbee!
- If you are allowed to have bonfires at the beach, refrain from burning your trash, especially plastics. Also, make sure the fire is fully out before you leave.
- If you have pets, pick up after them, so nobody will experience stepping in something other than sand.
- Don’t smoke! Cigarette butts are the leading pollutant on our beaches and there are many negative effects that come from the cigarettes in our water. If you have the urge to smoke, be sure to dispose of the entire cigarette butt appropriately.
- Encourage others you know to use these tips and to do their part in keeping our beaches clean this Memorial Day weekend.
With World Ocean's Day and Coastal Champion Awards right around the corner, there could not be a better time to hear from our 2013 Lighthouse Lifetime Achievement award winner Jim Peugh. The following message from Jim lists and describes his active involvement in some of his favorite environmental work, as well as many different environmental groups and advisory boards he has had the pleasure to work with:
My favorite project has been working with Friends of Famosa Slough on the restoration of Famosa Slough. Twenty-five years ago it looked like an unmanaged dump, and now it is a productive wildlife habitat and natural park. The project evolved from getting agencies to realize its potential wildlife value, getting the City to buy it, helping get a good Enhancement Plan developed and adopted, implementing the projects in the Plan through volunteer efforts and grants, observing and adjusting to keep things working well, and helping students and visitors understand its value for wildlife and water quality. But, if anyone wants to help, there is plenty left to do.
Mariner's Point least tern nesting area
In the very early 1990s, the Fish and Wildlife Service encouraged the San Diego Audubon Society, to help the City of San Diego maintain the Least Tern nesting area at Mariner's Point in Mission Bay as a volunteer project. The site was beginning to be taken over by weeds which would have prevented nesting there. We have continued to maintain it each year, and it is normally the most productive site in Mission Bay. This has now evolved into a joint process among SD Audubon, San Diego State University, SANDAG, and the City to try the vegetation management approach that we have used in sections of the three other least tern nesting areas in Mission Bay to see if they can increase the productivity of those sites.
The 1997 X Games were planned to be on Mariner’s Point, not far from the least tern nesting area. It was to be done with minimal analysis of the impact of the Games on the least tern nesting area. San Diego Audubon, in conjunction with National Audubon, filed suit to either substantially improve the protections for the terns, or to have the event canceled due to the lack of required environmental review. After a lot of very intense negotiations, a very protective set of measures was agreed upon. The conflict was widely publicized in the media and many of the people who attended the Games also developed an interest in the success of the least terns. The terns did very well. When the Games returned in 1998 the X Games and the City agreed to implement all of the measures again and the terns again did well.
Tijuana River Valley Flood Damage
In 1993 there was a lot of serious flooding in the Tijuana River Valley. There was a lot of pressure to channelize the River through the valley and into the Estuary. A Tijuana River Valley Flood Damage Task Force was formed. I represented SD Audubon in efforts to find better solutions. A study was done and some of the recommendations were implemented, such as the Pilot Channel and a 100-year berm, but pressure for development projects that would degrade the River’s wildlife value continued to surface for years. More recently the Tijuana River Valley Recovery Team was formed to provide a more comprehensive approach.
South San Diego Bay National Wildlife Refuge
As a representative of San Diego Audubon Society, I worked with Laura Hunter from EHC and Mike McCoy from SWIA to encourage the establishment of the South San Diego Bay Unit of the San Diego National Wildlife Refuge. When we started in the late 1980s there was opposition from many directions from those did not seem to realize, or be interested in, the potential wildlife value and quality of life value of protecting and restoring southern tip of the Bay. Over a ten year period of intense effort, some of the opposition gradually turned to support, and we got a few breaks. In 1999 the Refuge was established. The Fish and Wildlife Service has made great progress with restoration and is moving ahead with much more. Being a part of that has been very rewarding.
Least Tern 5-year report
In 2007 the US Fish and Wildlife Service distributed a 5-year report about California least terns, recommending that the species be downlisted from Endangered to Threatened. The Audobon Society and I did not think that was an appropriate recommendation based on what we knew. We did a Freedom of Information request and reviewed previous drafts of the plan and email correspondence leading up to it. From these documents it was clear that the original drafts recommended that the species remain on the Endangered List and justified that recommendation with good information. In the next draft, the conclusion was changed by management, even though the information in the body still supported leaving the species as Endangered. The final document was modified to attempt to support the conclusion that the species should be downlisted to Threatened. We presented this information to the Fish and Wildlife Service and urged that they not attempt to move forward with the recommended downlisting on the basis of such an unscientific process. They did not. Last we heard they are writing the next 5-year report for them.
Border Triple Fence
San Diego Audubon worked with a broad coalition to try to get the Triple Border Fence designed and constructed in ways that would minimize the negative impacts of the project on the wildlife rich upland, canyon, and wetland habitat areas of the border region. The Coastal Commission determined that the project was not consistent with our Coastal Act. There were a number of modifications to the project that could have minimized cost and the environmental impacts of the project as required by Federal law. Unfortunately the Federal Government decided to waive all environmental laws instead of improving the design. We will suffer from the impacts of that sort-sighted decision for at least a century.
San Diego River
In the mid-1990s plans were developed for constructing trolley infrastructure and the Fashion Valley Parking structures in the midst of the floodplain of the San Diego River. SDAS and other organizations urged that the plans be revised to better protect the River, to no avail. So, we are stuck with the loss of wildlife value, wet weather safety, water quality, and compromise of infrastructure resulting from these short-sighted decisions. Since then a much broader appreciation of the River has evolved. Evidence are the thriving San Diego River Park Foundation’s conservation and restoration efforts, the work of the San Diego River Conservancy, and the soon to be developed San Diego River Park Master Plan. Based on this new appreciation, I have real hope that future development decisions in the San Diego River Valley will be made much more wisely and with much more public attention.
Enviornmental groups that I have worked with:
FRIENDS OF FAMOSA SLOUGH: Chairman 1988 to present. Board member since 1986. Conduct interpretive walks, cleanups, maintenance, habitat restoration, apply for and manage grants, manage projects, monitor watershed, and coordinate with City departments and regulatory agencies. Provide educational field trips. Assisted City and consultants in development of the Famosa Slough Enhancement Plan in 1994 and have been incrementally implementing it since then.
SAN DIEGO AUDUBON SOCIETY: Chapter president from 1993 to 1996. Board member since 1988. Currently Chair of Conservation Committee. Review environmental documents, meet with regulators, consultants, and project proponents, and develop Chapter positions on issues. Serve as Chapter spokesperson on wildlife conservation and water quality issues.
SAN DIEGO BAY COUNCIL: Have represented San Diego Audubon on this coalition of environmental organizations, and its predecessor coalition, since about 1985.
SAN DIEGO RIVER PARK FOUNDATION: Board member, since 2002.
Advisory Boards and Committees I have served on:
CITY OF SAN DIEGO INDEPENDENT RATES OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE: Advises Mayor and Council about Water and Wastewater Department issues. Member since 2007 and Chair from 2009 to 2011. Current chair of Infrastructure and Operations subcommittee.
CHULA VISTA BAYFRONT WILDLIFE ADVISORY GROUP: Member since start in May 2011. Advises Port of SD and City of Chula Vista on environmental issues related to the Chula Vista Bayfront Development
SAN DIEGO CITY WETLANDS ADVISORY BOARD: Previous Chairman. Member from 1992 to 2010. Advises Mayor, City Council, and City staff on wetland issues.
SAN DIEGO HARBOR SAFETY COMMITTEE: Represent environmental organizations, since 2003.
CALTRANS EXTERNAL ADVISORY LIAISON COMMITTEE: Member since 2003.
RESTORATION ADVISORY BOARD FOR NAVY POINT LOMA PROJECTS: Member since formation, 2010
SAN DIEGO RIVER CONSERVANCY: Appointed by Senator John Burton. Board of Governor’s member. May 2003 - March 2008.
PORT OF SAN DIEGO ENVIRONMENTAL COMMITTEE: Member from 2006 to 2009.
U.S. NAVY INTEGRATED NATURAL RESOURCES MANAGEMENT PROGRAM FOR SAN DIEGO BAY: Represented the environmental community on the Technical Advisory Committee, 1997-2008.
CHULA VISTA BAYFRONT MASTER PLAN CITIZENS ADVISORY COMMITTEE: 2003 to 2008.
SAN DIEGO CITY/COUNTY TIJUANA RIVER VALLEY FLOOD DAMAGE TASK FORCE: Represented San Diego City Wetlands Advisory Board and San Diego Audubon from 1994 to 2008.
CHULA VISTA BAYFRONT MASTER PLAN WILDLIFE ADVISORY BOARD: Member since 2011
CITY OF SAN DIEGO PUBLIC UTILITIES ADVISORY COMMISSION (PUAC): Advised Mayor and Council on Water and Wastewater and Stormwater Department issues. April 2002 to June 2007. Chair of Stormwater Subcommittee.
SAN DIEGO COUNTY PARKS ADVISORY BOARD: Appointed by Supervisor Ron Roberts, March 1995 to June 2008. .
INTERNATIONAL BOUNDARY AND WATER COMMISSION CITIZEN COMMITTEE: Member 2002 to 2008.
OFF-HIGHWAY VEHICLE PARK, SD COUNTY STAKEHOLDER GROUP: Member 2003 to 2007.
OTAY RIVER WATERSHED MANAGEMENT PLAN WORKING GROUP: Member 2004 to 2006.
SAN DIEGO CANYON SEWER ACCESS TASK FORCE: Member, 2000-2001.
INTERAGENCY PANEL ON SAN DIEGO BAY WATER QUALITY: Represented San Diego Audubon Society, 1994 to 1997. Was on supercomputer, Fish and Wildlife, and Recreation Subcommittees.
Part four of four in our Annual Report blog series highlighting everything Coastkeeper in the year of 2012.
How can you get involved this year?
Adaptable- From rinsing your fruits and veggies in a bowl of water to recycling graywater in your home, there are so many ways to adapt your water habits to use only what you need.
Advisable- Go one step beyond making a change at your own home: challenge yourself to convert a friend or family member’s water usage, even it if it means changing one bad habit at a time.
Shareable- With just a click, a like or a share, you can spread the word about Coastkeeper’s mission, events and volunteering through social media sites like Facebook and Twitter.
Volunteerable- Whether it’s with our Water Quality Monitoring Program , through our MPA “CLICK” mobile website or participating in our twice-a-month beach cleanups, there is always a way to help maintain fishable, swimmable, drinkable waters.
Sponsorable- Endorse our movement in San Diego by sponsoring an event and feel great knowing that your support will outlast the event and continue its impact directly through Coastkeeper’s programs like the Volunteer Core, Project SWELL and more.
Joinable- Whether you’re a seasoned water quality monitoring veteran or just getting started at your first beach cleanup or by reading our website, you can join Coastkeeper’s cause by becoming a member for as little as $25.
A Look Ahead at Coastkeeper in 2013 and Beyond:
Find and Fix: Coastkeeper identifies water quality issues around San Diego and works with our partners to get them resolved. We will focus on helping to create new Water Quality Improvement Plans to prevent stormwater pollution, resolving issues reported to us on our hotline and empowering high school students to address environmental issues through the LEAP program.
Water Supply: Coastkeeper will continue to work with local cities on developing and implementing policies to reduce demand for water and to create a safe, reliable, local water supply. We will work with the City of San Diego as it finalizes its Long Range Water Resources Plan and continues to make purified water a reality in San Diego.
MPA Watch: Coastkeeeper’s MPA Watch program trains volunteers to help monitor and record activities in our marine protected areas so we have the information we need about how people use them. Our MPA Watch volunteers contribute to a statewide data collection effort for evaluation, education of users and enforcement.
Training Tomorrow's Professionals: A well-informed, involved community has the power to improve its quality of life by influencing decisions—their own, their neighbors', their businesses' and their elected and appointed officials'. By training tomorrow's professionals, San Diego Coastkeeper ensures that future leaders have the knowledge they need to make good decisions (for us and our environment.)
Water Quality Monitoring
Trash Assessment: San Diego Coastkeeper partners with a number of organizations to help conduct the first coordinated regional assessment of marine debris. We will look at trash accumulation in ocean waters, inland streams, coastal estuaries and even inside of fish guts. This work will help figure out the source, movement and fate of marine debris for the whole of southern California
Bioassessment: Next spring, San Diego Coastkeeper will conduct bioassessment--we're looking for bugs! Trained volunteers will wade directly into streams to collect and identify aquatic insects. This bug hunting gives us a more holistic picture of stream health, since insects are the base of the food web. We have measured pollutants in the rivers for a decade now and bioassessment allows us to see the effects of that pollution on the stream ecosystem health.
I offer you one word to sum up Coastkeeper in 2012: Invaluable.
There should be nothing controversial about clean, plentiful water. But we have taken this resource too much for granted, and fixing our water-related problems has posed many challenges. For 18 years, San Diego Coastkeeper has taken up those challenges, proving itself an indefatigable watchdog and defender of San Diego’s waters.
In 2012 we upheld our commitment to our core mission of protecting and restoring fishable, swimmable and drinkable waters. And we developed new partnerships in a collaborative community-based spirit to better help us preserve and enhance our precious natural resources.
Sound invaluable? It is. It’s San Diego Coastkeeper. And it’s made up of an inspired and inspiring staff; a remarkable group of talented volunteers; a host of dedicated sponsors and members and a board of directors that is second to none in its spirit, commitment and skill.
I invite you to read our online recap of Coastkeeper’s top ten accomplishments for 2012. We proudly reflect on our first Community Advisory Council, our partnership with UCSD’s Global TIES program, our co-leadership of San Diego’s Water Reliability Coalition, our trainings to help educators teach environmental science to children, and much, much more.
Thank you for your continued support of fishable, swimmable, and drinkable waters in San Diego County.
President Board of Directors
Part two of four in our Annual Report blog series highlighting everything Coastkeeper in the year of 2012.
Restorable - Coastkeeper Helps Clean San Diego Bay
Knowledgeable – Project SWELL Expands its Teacher Resources
Shareable - Coastkeeper Publishes Watershed Report
Protectable - Partnership Brings Technology to Marine Protected Areas
Empowerable – Coastkeeper Launches Community Advisory Council
Cleanable – Volunteers Storm the Beaches for Trash
Swimmable - Check the SwimGuide for Safe Waters
Fixable – Find and Fix Empowers Residents
Attendable – Events Bring Water Quality to Life
Honorable – Coastal Champions Crowned at World Oceans Day
Part one of four in our Annual Report blog series highlighting everything Coastkeeper in the year of 2012.
Fishable. Swimmable. Drinkable. _______able.
How do you fill in the blank?
Kayakable. Protectable. Enjoyable. Knowledgeable. Dependable.
The waters of San Diego County give something different to each one of us. From those who camp and fish at Lake Jennings to those who make a living from the ocean to those who bird-watch in the Tijuana Estuary, our waters channel adventure, relaxation and business to everyone who lives in and visits San Diego.
That’s the beauty of San Diego Coastkeeper—we protect and restore fishable, swimmable and drinkable waters in San Diego County so that you can fill in the blank with what matters to you.
Here’s a peek at how we filled in the blank in 2012:
● Restorable – The Regional Water Quality Control Board ordered a cleanup of San Diego Bay.
● Protectable – UCSD’s Global TIES helped us create a web-based app to monitor activity in marine protected areas.
You can read more about our top ten accomplishments in 2012, and we also invite you to hear from Board of Directors President Jo Brooks as she reflects on the year. We like that she filled in the blank with “loveable”-- as that perfectly describes how we feel about you. Last but not least, find out how you can get involved with Coastkeeper in 2013 and beyond.
Thank you for your support of San Diego Coastkeeper,
Megan and Jill
The Clean Water Act is the primary tool we use to protect and restore fishable, swimmable, and drinkable waters. At its heart, the Clean Water Act focuses on the quality of our waters, and it allows states to issue permits allowing people to add pollution into our waters, but only in certain circumstances. The Clean Water Act’s bottom line is this—we can’t issue a permit if it would allow pollution that would make that water so dirty that it interferes with the water's “beneficial uses” like swimming, fishing, or habitat for fish and other aquatic life. Even if the individual pollution permit would not alone cause the water quality problem, if it contributes to a water quality problem, that’s not allowed.
In order to make sure we are issuing water pollution permits that ultimately protect our waters, we have to look at the health of the waters. And water pollution permits contain a provision that basically says, “when you add pollution to the waters, you cannot cause or contribute to a water quality problem in the water body you are adding pollution to.” Sounds reasonable, right?
Apparently for San Diego County and our local municipalities, prohibiting them from contributing to existing pollution problems or creating new ones is asking too much. The county and our local cities have asked our Regional Water Quality Control board for a "safe harbor" excusing them from being accountable for local water quality, even though our storm sewer systems are the primary cause of most of our local pollution problems.
Why would they ask for this? According to San Diego County Counsel James O'Day, the county needs protection from environmental groups who would "hold the county hostage" by bringing lawsuits against them. Even the City of San Diego's estmeed Mayor Filner asked the Regional Board to provide "protection" for the City against environmental protection law suits. Ironic, since last weekend San Diego City Councilmember David Alvarez thanked the environmental groups that sued the City of San Diego on sewage issues because it helped move the city forward toward creating a local, secure, reliable, safe water supply.
In response to pleas by lawyers and politicians, the Regional Board added a "safe harbor" or "alternative compliance option" to the stormwater permit. This "alternative compliance" provision protects cities or the county from being held accountable for pollution that causes or contributes to water quality problems, as long as they have done some modeling that shows that they might not cause or contribute to water quality problems if they do certain things, and then they plan to do those things. They get this "protection" from the moment their plan is approved, and it continues indefinitely--even if the pollution actually causes or contributes to a water quality problem--as long as they keep trying to do better.
This flies in the face of the very heart of the Clean Water Act--focusing on the health of our waters and not allowing pollution that would cause or contribute to water quality problems. At the Regional Board hearing on April 10 and 11, I compared this new safe harbor provision to mud on a cake. The heart of our stormwater permit--the cake--is still good, and we've all worked very hard to make it together. But this safe harbor is mud that basically ruins the permit for us. Take this safe harbor away, and we like the new stormwater permit.
On May 8, the Regional Board will decide whether or not to leave the safe harbor provision in the permit. Check back soon to see if they left mud on the cake!
Before starting at Coastkeeper, I spent a few years as a teacher. From 3rd-12th grade, teaching science is frequently an uphill battle. Sadly, the majority of students in middle and high school simply don’t have any connection to science. Without any reason to care about science, it’s incredibly difficult for students to engage.
Hands-on learning became critical for my students. Turning science into something that they can see, do, touch, or even change made a remarkable impact on their subject comprehension.
La Jolla Shores is special to our San Diego coastline. Set along an Area of Special Biological Significance and the Matlahuyal marine protected area (MPA), the water quality, marine life, and habitat are incredibly important to protect. Pressures from human activity, both on and offshore, can pose threats to these coastal resources. High Tech High students had the chance this week to do their part in protecting them, but also learn more about why they’re so important.
Along the coast, students worked in groups to collect marine debris and document activity within the MPA. Testing out the web-based app developed by UCSD, students recorded observations of human activity, helping Coastkeeper and other groups in San Diego identify trends in human use and potentially effectiveness of MPA regulations. While students learned about MPAs, they were able to take an active part in their assessment, contributing to science and policy that impacts us here in San Diego.
Volunteering helped make our coastline a little cleaner, but let students see where runoff goes, actually count how many pollutants we're producing and think about their impacts, while seeing an actual change in their environment. By making a positive impact in their community, science and environmental issues become a little more personal. For so many students, that connection is what drives their passion in science and I am thrilled to help them find it through service learning activities.
Another group set out on a “Pollution Patrol” of La Jolla Shores, sweeping nearly every street west of La Jolla Shores Drive and identifying potential pollution issues. Their biggest concern? Cigarette butts. In just an hour, students collected over 665 cigarette butts from the area, with most found in streets near stores. Students that morning were shocked by what they were finding in an area San Diegan’s value for its pristine beauty and ecological structure.