San Diego Coastkeeper recently led the charge at the fifth annual Ocean Day held at the California State capitol building in Sacramento. The mission of Ocean Day is to “convey a unified message from the ocean and coastal community that educates and inspires decision makers to work toward effective solutions aimed at protecting and restoring California’s iconic ocean and coastline.” San Diego Coastkeeper served on the event’s steering (planning) committee, which was led by Environment California.
Throughout the day, advocates held meetings with members of the California State Senate and Assembly, and their staff, to discuss current ocean issues and urge the members’ direct action on upcoming bills. We discussed upcoming legislation which threatens to weaken the Coastal Act and streamline desaliniation permitting, as well as positive legislation supporting adaptation to climate change, riding our beaches of plastic foam, and listing of the leatherback sea turtle as California's official marine reptile. The delegation from San Diego was comprised of representatives of San Diego Coastkeeper and the San Diego Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation, as well as Master’s and Ph.D. students from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography.
The welcoming ceremony for participants featured ocean champion Assemblywoman Julia Brownley. The ceremony was followed by an educational event on the capitol lawn highlighting the value of our oceans to both California's economy and lifestyle. Various organizations, from aquariums to surf companies and research institutes to activist groups, were represented. The California State University Council on Ocean Affairs, Science & Technology (COAST) hosted a luncheon featuring presentations about Tracking Contaminates of Emerging Concern in California. To close the day, the Monterey Bay Aquarium hosted a reception featuring sustainable seafood at the Sutter Club to celebrate California’s ocean and coast as well as to honor those who have helped to advance ocean health in our state. Governor Jerry Brown and other dignitaries spoke about the importance of protecting the future of our oceans, and colleagues from like-minded organizations who often work remotely were able to meet in person to discuss challenges and successes in the ocean conservation field.
San Diego suffers from Plastic Foam Syndrome. With more than 25,000 pieces of plastic foam littering our beaches each year, Coastkeeper is taking an active stance against the most unsustainable take-out material known to man: plastic foam Our advocacy work in the City of San Diego and Sacramento is supporting policy change to get to the root problems of our litter and marine debris woes in San Diego County. With 48 California cities taking a stand against plastic foam via ordinances, its shocking to note that NONE of those foam-free cities are in San Diego County. Hopefully Coastkeeper’s work can pave the way for us to catch up with the rest of the state, and perhaps reduce cleanup costs at the same time.
Supporting Coastkeeper’s work on plastic pollution reduction is more important now than ever. Your membership and donations help us put more time to working on these issues and reducing litter throughout San Diego County. Plus you get a cool reusable water bottle to do your part to stop Plastic Foam Syndrome.
 Coastkeeper is no longer using the term StyrofoamTM to refer to single-use take out products such as cups, clamshells, and plates because of this clarification by its maker Dow Chemical. Other groups refer to it as extruded polystyrene or expanded polystyrene (EPS), but Coastkeeper is keeping it simple at plastic foam. No matter what we call it, its bad for our beaches.
The Environmental Quality Report Card series examines environmental stewardship of San Diego Councilmembers and the Mayor. The series looks at history of past reports, shows the voting record of individual Councilmembers, explains voting methodology and examines the environmental issues the Councilmembers voted on.
For the second year in a row, San Diego politicians are being graded on their record on the environment. And just like school children everywhere, there is certain to be a San Diego City Council member wishing he could turn a D+ into a B+ with the help of a felt tipped marker.
The Report Card is now available online at: http://www.lcvsd.org.
The annual Environmental Quality Report Card is commissioned by a coalition of non-profit, non-partisan environment organizations. The Report Card is put together by the independent Strategic Community Consulting, which is staffed by UCSD graduate students.
This years grades were as follows:
District 1 - Sherri Lightner, C+
District 2 - Kevin Faulconer, B-
District 3 - Todd Gloria, A
District 4 - Tony Young, A
District 5 - Carl DeMaio, D+
District 6 - Donna Frye, A+
District 7 - Marti Emerald, A-
District 8 - Ben Hueso, A
Mayor Jerry Sanders, B+
The Council and the Mayor will be happy that overall, grades are substantially better this year over last year. The improved grades are partly due to the avoidance of controversial issues. The Report Card only grades environmental issues that were ultimately considered for a vote by the City Council. Therefore, City officials aren’t penalized for failing to initiate legislation on environmentally important issues.
Every one of the council members and the Mayor improved their individual grades this year over last year. Only Councilmember Carl DeMaio received a non-passing grade. For the second year in a row, Councilmember DeMaio received the worst environmental grade in the City of San Diego.
The grades are based City Councilmember’s votes, and the Mayor's positions, as deermined from staff recommendations or vetoes. This year the methodology was streamlined to focus on a smaller number of votes by the Council. This provides an objective and quantitative measurement of our elected officials' stances on the environment.
Some of the important environmental issues that were graded included an ordinance to protect the seals at the La Jolla Children’s Pool, support for indirect potable water reuse, the Regents Road bridge project, and the vernal pools habitat conservation plan. See the report for a complete list or votes at www.lcvsd.net.
The coalition is made up of the League of Conservation Voters San Diego, San Diego Coastkeeper, San Diego Chapter of Surfrider Foundation, the Sierra Club, the California Native Plant Society, Coastal Environmental Rights Foundation, Environmental Health Coalition, Friends of Rose Canyon, San Diego Audubon Society, and the Cleveland National Forest Foundation. The complete report can be found at www.lcvsd.net.
You can also follow the news about the Report Card on twitter by searching for the #EQRC hash tag.
Patrick Finucane is a boardmember of the League of Conservation Voters.
Every year, California’s leading environmental organizations join forces in the State Capitol building to lobby for policies that will benefit the health of our oceans and coasts. Ocean Day 2011, organized by Environment California , brought together 54 participants from 37 different organizations to visit 73 legislative offices on April 4. While many of the organizations represented work on a statewide or national level (i.e. the Surfrider Foundation, Ocean Conservancy and Natural Resources Defense Council, local groups like San Diego Coastkeeper end up being crucial to the success of our environmental lobbying efforts.
First, most legislators want to meet with someone from their district. Since I live in the City of San Diego and represent our Coastkeeper members from all over the county, I am a more direct link to the pulse of their citizenry than someone working for a larger organization with an office in San Francisco or Sacramento.
Second, I was the only person at Ocean Day advocating for coastal environment protection specifically with San Diego County in mind. We are the third most populous county in California, and our coastline makes up about 10% of California’s coast. Yet Coastkeeper was the only local organization that made the trip to Sacramento to fight for what’s important to San Diego’s coastline and water quality! The ability to tell our area Senators and Assemblymembers about our San Diego beach cleanup data in the context of the upcoming Styrofoam bill (SB 568) was an important local link to push for their support for foam reduction legislation.
Third, many legislators and staffers from both parties simply need a regular reminder of why ocean protection needs to be a priority. We talked about marine debris reduction, support for implementing the Marine Life Protection Act , the plight of sharks and the need to ban shark fin soup, planning for oil spills and climate change and much more. Who else brings that stuff up in their offices in Sacramento, when there are so many issues to consider on a day to day basis?
Finally, we have a few big battles ahead of us. Intense opposition from big budget industries often gets in the way of our environmental
goals - we need to be in the offices of our legislators just as much as they are. For example, lobbying from the plastics industry with millions of dollars and campaign contributions beat out our grassroots efforts and the voices of thousands for last year’s statewide plastic bag ban, AB 1998. Let’s not let that happen again with upcoming bills for copper reduction, shark finning and marine debris.
Ocean Day ends with a sustainable seafood reception where important connections are made between legislators, environmental leaders, agency representatives, and funders. The event is always an excellent way to end a full day of ocean advocacy – by planning future collaborative efforts, celebrating accomplishments, and supporting California businesses that see the value in sustainable fisheries and oceans. Plus, the Drakes Bay Oysters are truly delicious…..
On March 11, our advocacy staff closed one chapter in a very long, contentious, and arduous book: cleaning up the toxic legacy of sediment contamination in San Diego Bay. Though not one dredged scoop of toxic sediment has been removed, March 11 marked the end of the discovery period.
This year-long process allowed all the affected parties, those named by the Regional Water Quality Control Board for causing pollution and public watchdog groups San Diego Coastkeeper and the Environmental Health Coalition, to gather information to make their cases. The year was marked by an avalanche of information demanded of the environmental groups, including 841 written requests and more than a month of live witness depositions – three aimed at environmental staff and experts. Staff ably rose to the challenge, completing the discovery and both defending and taking depositions. The information we gathered will be critical to gaining a protective and scientifically defensible cleanup of the Bay. A briefing and public comment period will take place over the summer, with a final hearing currently scheduled for mid-October.