Now You Sea Me, Now You Don’t

Written by San Diego Coastkeeper

Part three of four in our “I Love My ASBS” blog series highlighting why we love San Diego’s Areas of Biological Significance.

How do you describe your time in the water? For some, it’s a workout- like swimming laps in the ocean, preparing for a triathlon in the coming months. For others, it’s a religion- like surfers paddling out every sunrise and sunset, no matter the size of the swell or the direction of the winds. In both of these groups, attendance in the water isn’t expected: it’s second nature.

During the past few months, I’ve been absent when Poseidon taps his trident and takes roll. In fact, this mini-exile from any saltwater has left me feeling pretty dry (insert any common excuse here). So when given the chance to finally end my dry spell in the La Jolla Cove, courtesy of Hike, Bike, Kayak, I couldn’t resist. Despite the fact that I had never kayaked before, it’s not easy to pass up an opportunity to visit (in my opinion) the most beautiful area of special biological significance (ASBS) that San Diego has to offer.

Last Wednesday I accompanied two of my esteemed water-crazy colleagues into an adventure that would last around two hours in the La Jolla Cove. One of them, honored as Commuter of the Year on land, could just as easily win the same honor in the water (she may have to wait until her next life as a blue-nose dolphin.) The other learned how to surf in Maryland and loved it so much that she moved to San Diego just to keep at it. Not to my surprise, both of them had already swum La Jolla Shores that same morning.

After we rented our gear and agreed to a trip without a guide, we approached the sands of La Jolla’s beaches. I tempered my excitement with caution while we learned how to paddle, and about the ins and outs of where to go and what is/is not allowed. There were couples, families, tourists and locals: each of them seemed to be enjoying the day despite the breezy conditions and the fickle absence of the Sun.

Soon after the three of us made it out past the break, we seemed to drift into our own separate directions for a bit. Personally, I was fine with this— being without a tour guide facilitated a freedom in this experience that I always cherish in the water. The ebb and flow of my body in the kayak coupled with the unmistakable scent of the sea evoked a familiar mind-body-environment connection that transcends the physical senses. It’s easy to “lose yourself” in this moment, especially in the La Jolla Cove.

It wasn’t long after we regrouped that we came upon a most curious sea creature bobbing its head above and below the water not more than five feet from two swimmers. Even as the three of us drew closer, the seal swam a half-circle around us, as if he came around to close his front door on our way in to greet him. Bobbing its head up and down at an unpredictable rate, “Now you see me, now you don’t” said the seal.

At first, I was sure this seal was a young pup. But upon further inspection, I took note of its salt and pepper whiskers and imagined it as an elderly man embracing the joys of a long-anticipated swim. Sticking his tongue out as he shoots through a wave, the old man isn’t acting his age— he’s a boy again. He can’t remember his age and neither can this wise, old seal playing peek-a-boo with us in the Pacific. 

Eventually he moved along, and so did we. Throughout the remainder of our expedition, the Cove came and went, along with several moaning seals that formed a dog-pile on the cliffs overhead. I have never heard the siren’s sound, but I am sure that wasn’t it. Accompanied by some stoic cormorants perched nearby, the seals seemed comfortable enough— I think their calls were an ode to self-expression. “It’s my cove, and I’ll moan if I want to.” 

On our way back, I noticed a jellyfish so bright that I swore it was yellow. As it drifted along not more than two feet away from my kayak, I decided that I had seen the same one that some swimmers had mentioned earlier in our trip. At that point, I was sure my time kayaking in the La Jolla Cove was a memorable one. Feeling as if our experience had reached its end as we pulled into shore, my kayak took hold of a wave that sent it rushing forward and to the left: sending me spiraling out of the vessel with a quick smack to my forehead.

Sheepishly, I flipped over the kayak and pushed it into shore. Apparently, Poseidon wasn’t too happy with my long absence from the ocean. Nonetheless, I felt blessed to kayak the La Jolla Cove that day and truly enjoyed my time as a guest in that silly seal’s water— I love my ASBS.

 
Published in Marine Conservation

Coastkeeper Makes Waves at the Water Board: San Diego Bay Cleanup on Horizon

Written by San Diego Coastkeeper

shipyard-011-s

Yesterday was a big day for San Diego Bay. The San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board issued a waste discharge permit for cleanup at the shipyard sites just south of the Coronado Bridge. This permit allows the cleanup to move forward and imposes requirements that will protect water quality while toxic sediment, the ground beneath the water, is removed from the bay.

The Regional Board called upon all dischargers listed in the Cleanup and Abatement Order to get involved in cleaning up San Diego Bay. Waterkeeper Jill Witkowski has collaborated with representatives from NASSCO and BAE Systems since the Order was issued in March 2012 and yesterday defended the work that those corporations have done to move the cleanup forward. The power of that collaboration was clear when NASSCO and BAE Systems supported all of the permit revisions that Coastkeeper proposed, which were accepted by the Regional Board.

Regional Board Vice Chair Gary Strawn thanked Coastkeeper publicly for the thoughtful, detailed comments that we submitted on the draft waste discharge permit. He appreciated our sharp eye in making sure that the permit was robust and followed the Order as well as the implementation plan developed by cleanup stakeholders.

The next step for the cleanup is to receive a coastal development permit from the Port of San Diego. Coastkeeper’s involvement in the cleanup will continue when our legal team attends the Port’s July 16 hearing on the issue. If you want to make sure San Diego Bay gets clean, join us at the hearing and say so!

 

Get Involved Today–Inland Trash and MPA Watch

Written by San Diego Coastkeeper

volunteer san diegoDid you read our Annual Report?

If so, we hope you enjoyed it- and if you are still wondering how you can get involved with Coastkeeper this year, look no further. Starting this fall, Coastkeeper will launch two new volunteer programs complete with training dates, as well as flexible scheduling: Inland Trash Assessment and MPA Watch.

Can’t wait that long? Email volunteer@sdcoastkeeper.org for more info about Heroes Brew Festival happening Saturday, July 20 and find how you can help.

Inland Trash Assessment

Starting on September 15, Coastkeeper will participate in a marine debris project for the Southern California Bight ’13 research project under the “Inland Trash Assessment” subgroup. Several different groups throughout Southern California, including us, will look at the rates of trash accumulation in rivers and streams throughout the year. We will survey sites from Vista to Sweetwater in this three-week project with flexible scheduling, and best of all, there is only one day of required training. Click here for more info and be sure to RSVP today.

MPA Watch

mpa_watch_appAfter months of planning and prep, we are ready to launch our MPA Watch program in La Jolla. This program will afford volunteers an opportunity to document human uses of our marine protected areas through surveys that will run throughout the state. The first training, on August 24, will focus on La Jolla’s marine protected areas and our partner WiLDCOAST is running training sessions for Tijuana Rivermouth, with South La Jolla and Swami’s coming later this fall. Once trained, volunteers can conduct surveys whenever they are able, so the schedule is very flexible. Volunteers will play a pivotal role in contributing data to the future assessment of our MPAs in San Diego and understanding how human use has changed since their implementation. Click here for more info and please RSVP if you would like to attend the training on August 24.

 
 

The Best Thing About San Diego

Written by San Diego Coastkeeper

Part two of four in our “I Love My ASBS” blog series highlighting why we love San Diego’s Areas of Biological Significance.

Each Spring, I wait impatiently for Daylight Saving Time. Like many others, I’m anxious to “spring ahead” to take advantage of the longer days. But the thing I most look forward to after the time change is swimming in La Jolla Cove. Every Friday evening during the summer, dozens of triathletes gather at La Jolla Cove to enjoy one of the most breathtaking swims in the country.

As I walk down the stairs to the beach at the Cove, it’s hard not to be overwhelmed by the place’s beauty. Kids and parents playing in the surf, sea lions and cormorants perched on the cliffs above the water, the Cove is unlike any other place I’ve been.

Jill MPA la jolla covePlunging into the refreshing water, the first thing I always spot is a Garibaldi or two swimming by. The bright orange color of this California state marine fish makes them easy to spot even on days when visibility isn’t great. These fish are only found from Baja California to Monterey Bay—nowhere else in the world—and it’s illegal in California to collect them or keep them without a permit. Another notable feature in the Cove is the swaying sea grass. Stare at it too long and it will make you seasick!

Swimming from the entrance to the Cove out to the ¼ mile or ½ mile buoy is always an adventure. Friday night swims are so popular that it’s important to keep an eye out for other swimmers to avoid collisions. Once out in the open water, I keep my eyes peeled to try and avoid swimming through kelp beds. The kelp forests of La Jolla Cove provide a habitat to many species and are beautiful to behold. Of course, swimming straight through a patch of kelp is a strange and slimy experience. On a clear day, it’s not unusual to see a school of fish swimming deep below.

Once out at the buoy, I always pause to enjoy the beauty of La Jolla Cove and the Shores. I’m grateful the area is a marine protected area and an Area of Special Biological Significance (ASBS). As an ASBS, there are strict rules protecting water quality here— making La Jolla Cove and Shores possibly the best place in San Diego to go for a swim.

A few weeks ago, I brought a friend from Austin, Texas out to a Friday Cove swim with me. She summed up the experience by saying, “Best happy hour ever.” My thoughts exactly.

Published in Marine Conservation

Participate in Public Hearings!

Written by San Diego Coastkeeper

Here is an update on the proposed Toll Road project from student attorney Morgan Embleton.
For more info about our legal clinic, click here.

When most people think “legal,” they immediately think courtroom. But participating in public hearings is one of the many tools that San Diego Coastkeeper uses to advocate for clean beaches, clean water, and sustainable water use. Just this summer alone, Coastkeeper has attended several public hearings at the Port of San Diego, the San Diego Planning Commission, the San Diego Regional Water Quality Board – and we plan to attend a few San Diego City Council meetings later this summer. At these hearings, Coastkeeper has addressed climate change, air quality, water quality, vernal pools, San Diego fairy shrimp, protection of coastal resources, and cleanup of San Diego Bay at the shipyard sites.

trestles_tesoro

During the majority of these hearings, Coastkeeper representatives address the decision makers during the public comment period, which means we have three minutes to voice our concerns and present solutions. But sometimes we attend public hearings to show support for issues championed by our fellow environmental advocates. It is very important to collaborate with organizations that have similar concerns about a particular issue or a project. It would be impossible for one organization to attend hearings related to every environmental issue in the region.

For instance, members of Coastkeeper’s legal team attended a Regional Water Quality Control Board public hearing to show our support for Surfrider and to Save Trestles! At the hearing, Transportation Corridor Agencies (TCA) asked the Board to approve their plan to build a segment of the SR-241 toll road that would undoubtedly have turned into a larger toll road, extending all the way to Trestles and San Onofre State Beach. But hundreds of supporters turned out to show the Board that Southern Californians don’t support a new toll road that threatens our watersheds, Trestles, and San Onofre State Beach! That participation paid off when the Board denied the permits necessary to build the toll road extension.

Sometimes it takes more than just the facts to show decision makers how the public feels – it requires interested citizens and organizations to come and show support by taking up space in the hearing room. Can’t get off work to attend a public hearing? Don’t worry, there are other ways to participate that do not require attendance. Interested members of the public can submit written comments to voice their support of or opposition to a project. Coastkeeper will also keep participating in as many hearings as possible to continue protecting and restoring fishable, swimmable, and drinkable waters in San Diego County.

Published in Marine Conservation

It’s Better Than Bottled!

Written by San Diego Coastkeeper

The following blog about potable reuse was written by student attorney Courtney Cole.
For more info about our legal clinic, click here.

gwrs_potable_reuse

To learn more about water recycling, I recently toured facilities in both San Diego and Orange County that treat wastewater to better-than-tap quality. I’ll have to admit, I had my reservations. What about all of the teeny tiny bacteria and viruses and…stuff? But that was before I knew how things worked.

Once biosolids are removed, the water undergoes a three-step process: microfiltration, reverse osmosis, and UV + H2O2. Microfiltration uses hollow fibers, similar to straws, with tiny holes (1/300 the diameter of a human hair) in the sides to remove suspended solids, protozoa, bacteria, and some viruses from the water. Next, during reverse osmosis, water is forced through the molecular structure of plastic membranes, removing dissolved chemicals, viruses, and pharmaceuticals. Water is near distilled quality after this step, but as an additional safeguard it is treated with a combination of high-intensity ultraviolet light and hydrogen peroxide. This destroys the DNA of any organism that might have made it past microfiltration and reverse osmosis. So much for my concern about the teeny tiny stuff.

An important part of the tours for me was the drink test. After hearing about destroyed DNA, my main concern was what the water would taste like. I hesitantly filled my test cup and raised it to my nose. It seemed fine, so I drank. Better than fine, the water tasted wonderful! It was clean and refreshing, and better than any bottled water I have ever had.

Aside from tasting great, recycled water has other benefits for San Diego. Over 80% of our drinking water is imported from the Colorado River or northern California, which uses energy and costs money. To address this, Coastkeeper advocates for potable reuse – a process in which highly-treated wastewater is added to local reservoirs to increase drinking water supply. Utilizing recycled water will help secure a local and reliable source of water for our city. And if I’m still here to write this blog post, maybe toilet to tap isn’t so bad after all.

What’s Happening to Otay Mesa’s Vernal Pools?

Written by San Diego Coastkeeper

The following blog was written by student attorney Morgan Embleton.
For more info about our legal clinic, click here.

The endangered San Diego fairy shrimp lives in vernal pools, increasingly rare seasonal wetland habitats found in southwestern coastal California and northwestern Baja California, Mexico. Vernal pools are active in the spring and lie dormant during the rest of the year. But even when vernal pools are visible, San Diego fairy shrimp are very difficult to see with the naked eye – they only grow to be about a quarter of an inch long! Although San Diego fairy shrimp are not easily seen, they play a vital role in the vernal pool environment by eating smaller organisms and being eaten by birds and toads. Vernal pools were once present on over 200 acres of San Diego County however, as a result of development, only scattered pools remain. Since San Diego fairy shrimp and vernal pool habitat is being destroyed, the City of San Diego is in the process of developing a Habitat Conservation Plan to preserve the species and its sensitive habitat.

But the San Diego Planning Commission recently reviewed the Brown Field Metropolitan Airpark project, which will destroy five vernal pools in Otay Mesa, and approved it. The Commission also recommended that the San Diego City Council do the same. The project as proposed will develop 331 acres of land into a massive airpark in Otay Mesa, including a fixed based aviation operation, fueling stations, offices, hotels, restaurants, industrial space, commercial space, airplane hangars, and a helicopter operating area. But the project site is home to some unique animal species, like Burrowing Owls, Coastal California Gnatcatchers, and San Diego fairy shrimp. Unfortunately, the project will greatly impact these unique species’ habitat – especially that of the San Diego fairy shrimp.

The Brown Field project is set to destroy at least five vernal pools that house the endangered San Diego fairy shrimp. To mitigate the project’s impact, the developer plans to recreate vernal pools elsewhere in Otay Mesa. But Coastkeeper is concerned because vernal pool reconstruction has been unsuccessful in the past. San Diego fairy shrimp can only survive in very specific vernal pool conditions. San Diego fairy shrimp cannot survive in recreated vernal pools if the pools hold water for the incorrect period of time, are the wrong temperature, or the wrong depth. Also, San Diego fairy shrimp eggs can be damaged when the bottom of the vernal pools are scraped to collect eggs for relocation. Relocation of San Diego fairy shrimp is also difficult because they reproduce with other shrimp in vernal pools, creating a new hybrid species and minimizing the population of actual San Diego fairy shrimp.

After providing comment at the Planning Commission meeting, Coastkeeper’s next step is to ask the San Diego City Council to do one of two things: require the developer to redesign the project to avoid the vernal pools or put the project on hold until the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issues a biological opinion establishing that reconstruction of vernal pools will be successful for San Diego fairy shrimp. Coastkeeper believes that the Brown Field project should not be approved unless more information is made available. Otherwise, Otay Mesa may lose vernal pool habitat and San Diego fairy shrimp forever. If you want to protect San Diego fairy shrimp, join us at the hearing on September 9 at 2 p.m. or email a letter to the Mayor and City Council at hearings1@sandiego.gov

Published in Marine Conservation

Coastkeeper is Making Sure San Diego Bay Gets Clean

Written by San Diego Coastkeeper

Here is an update on the San Diego Bay Cleanup from student attorney Courtney Cole.
To learn more about our legal clinic, click here.

Toxic chemicals released during ship building and repair have accumulated in the sediment below San Diego Bay for decades, threatening aquatic life, aquatic-dependent wildlife, and human health. Last March, the San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board issued an order requiring those responsible for the discharge to remove the contaminated sediment and restore water quality in San Diego Bay.

San Diego Coastkeeper recently submitted comments on the cleanup’s Waste Discharge Requirements, regulations designed to protect water quality while sediment is being dredged. Our primary concern is that dischargers are required to conduct the cleanup in the manner most protective of water quality and the communities surrounding the project site. Also, protocol should be presented as clearly and specifically as possible to ensure that it is followed.

San Diego Coastkeeper has been committed to seeing contaminated sediment removed from San Diego Bay for over twenty years. Our involvement in the cleanup will continue when Coastkeeper’s legal team, with Waterkeeper Jill Witkowski at the helm, attends the Regional Water Quality Control Board hearing on July 10 to voice our concerns. If you want to make sure San Diego Bay gets clean, join us at the hearing and say so!

Diving and Snorkeling the ASBS

Written by San Diego Coastkeeper

Part one of four in our “I Love My ASBS” blog series highlighting why we love San Diego’s Areas of Biological Significance.

I recently took up scuba diving. The classes were held at La Jolla Shores and this weekend, I went exploring at La Jolla Cove. So far, I’ve scuba dived a total of 3 days: all in the La Jolla ASBS.

Mostly, I was concerned with completing all of the tests according to my instructor’s directions, and trying to prevent any of my organs from exploding. But I was able to look around a little bit while I was underwater and discover what an amazing place the Cove and the Shores are. One may even call it an area that had special biological signifigance.

California has 34 Areas of Special Biological Significance (ASBS). You can view a statewide map here. San Diego’s La Jolla Cove and Shores are home to one of them. The San Diego Basin Plan (our region’s Water Quality Control Plan) describes the process as:

The Regional Boards were required to select areas in coastal waters which contain “biological communities of such extraordinary, even though unquantifiable, value that no acceptable risk of change in their environments as a result of man’s activities can be entertained.”

These areas are now known as “Areas of Special Biological Significance” and La Jolla is home to my favorite ASBS. This area is so rich in biodiversity that more stringent protections need to be in place to safeguard this special place: safeguards that prevent urban runoff from polluting this area.

Back to the underwater world- I had a very short time to look around. Again, I was trying to keep my organs from exploding (granted, a mostly irrational fear). But, in that short time I was able to see:

While snorkeling afterwards, I saw a bunch of Shovelnose Guitarfish and a ton of Leopard Sharks. The two things I still want to see are Octopus (the best sea creature, hands down) and Mantis Shrimp (click this link to see how awesome these little guys are).

I got to see all of this marine life in a very short time out there and I’m already looking forward to doing even more explorations in our ASBS. After all, it is right here, no need to travel far.

I love my ASBS.

Published in Marine Conservation

test

Written by San Diego Coastkeeper

 

California has 34 Areas of Special Biological Significance (ASBS). San Diego’s La Jolla Cove and Shores are home to one of them. The San Diego Basin Plan (our region’s Water Quality Control Plan) describes the process as:

 

The Regional Boards were required to select

areas in coastal waters which contain “biological

communities of such extraordinary, even though

unquantifiable, value that no acceptable risk of

change in their environments as a result of man’s

activities can be entertained.” These areas are

known as ‘Areas of Special Biological

Significance’ (ASBS).

 

This

states that this area is so rich in biodiversity that more stringent

protections need to be in place to safeguard this special place.

Safeguards that prevent urban runoff from polluting this area.

I

very recently took up scuba diving. The classes were held at La Jolla

Shores and I went again this weekend at La Jolla Cove. So far, I have

dove a total of 3 days, all in the La Jolla ASBS. Mostly I was concerned

with doing all the tests the instructor did, and trying to not die of

have any of my organs explode. But in the very short time I had to look

around here is what I was able to see down there:

 

• Dolphins

• Seals

• Sheep Crab – This thing was huge. Bigger than my head

• Halibut

• Grunion – A whole school swam overhead during the class. I admit I breifly stopped paying attention to the instructor and just stared at them

• Kelp Bass

• Opaleye

• Garabaldi

• Sheephead – One of these chased me around

• Señorita

• Blacksmith – A large school passed right over me. It was pretty awesome

• Stingray

While snorkeling afterwards I saw a bunch of Shovelnose Guitarfish and a ton of Leopard Sharks. The two things I still really really want to see are Octopus (the best sea creature – hands down) and Mantis Shrimp (seriously – click on this link to see how awesome these little guys are).

 

All of this in not a very long time out there. I am looking forward to doing even more explorations out in our ASBS. It is right here, no need to travel far.

 

I love my ASBS.

 

 

 

Published in Marine Debris