Save the boos for Halloween, not for children speaking their minds

Written by San Diego Coastkeeper

I heard my first “BOO!” of the year…but it wasn’t for Halloween.

megaphone1Last Wednesday, over 1000 Southern Californians attended the California Fish and Game Commission public hearing to comment on the Marine Life Protection Act that establishes marine protected areas (MPAs), aka Yosemites of the sea, along our California coast. As a self-proclaimed “educated and informed” youth, fresh out of graduate school with a Master’s in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation, I was encouraged to see the hundreds of students from elementary to college level in attendance to express their desire for these underwater national parks. One speech given early in the day by a student from High Tech High School stood out to me. She was composed, elegant and intelligent in articulating her reasons for establishing a marine reserve.  When personally commended by one of the Commissioners for her presentation, she was also met with some rude booing from those with an opposing view.  Luckily, it was the only “boo” of that day, and I hope that most people were more respectful and dignified than to verbally harass someone with a different perspective.

To all those who mistake youth for stupidity…

We are a far cry from naïve and uninformed children you think we can be. The students in that room are not the ones following the flock. Quite the opposite, we know that we need to begin conserving our scarce resources. Our education only serves to empower us because we know what we have lost and what is at stake, but we know that we can begin taking back our future. We have power and conviction in our views. WE are the ones who will ultimately have to live with the decisions made today. But, our generation is taking the first steps toward change. It is our future and we are taking the opportunities to show our support and voice our opinions. Let’s restore our oceans and coasts by establishing a strong network of scientifically-supported MPAs.  

Everyone, regardless of age, should join San Diego Coastkeeper in the fight and voice your support for MPAs by sending a letter to the Fish and Game Commission before the vote in December!

Let’s leave the “BOOs” for Halloween.

Published in Marine Conservation

Let Children Speak For Themselves

Written by San Diego Coastkeeper

children_mplaI want to express deep gratitude to all of you who attended the California Fish & Game Commission meeting yesterday to speak up for a healthy coast, as well as everyone who has supported the Marine Life Protection Act process at every step of the way. Thanks to you we are on the right road and have taken a giant leap towards a sustainable network of marine state parks! We had unbelievable speakers, and the shear volume of supporters filled the meeting hall to capacity and spilled over into the courtyard and beyond. EPIC JOB FOLKS!

That said, I want to touch on something that upset me greatly at the meeting and has been on my mind since. As many of you are aware, large groups of students from all over San Diego attended the meeting to show their support for conservation. Over the past several months these students have done their own research, created projects, and worked tirelessly to prepare to present their views on the importance of marine protected areas to the commission. I know because I was with them every step of the way.

Due to time constraints and the volume of public comment many students did not have the opportunity to speak. This is regrettable but understandable.


Student presenter Genevieve Baumann speaks with North County Times Reporter Deborah Sullivan Brennan regarding comments that she was “coerced” to testify.

What is entirely unacceptable, absolutely appalling, and the cause of a very unhealthy spike in my blood pressure, is the insinuation by some members of the opposition that these students were somehow deceived, manipulated or coerced into attendance. How disrespectful! How wrong! How completely offensive to young people doing everything they can to defend their right to live in a community that values their views and protects the environment that belongs to them! (Check out this article in the North County Times in which one of the students gives her response.)

How insulting to teachers who have made a proud career of encouraging the future of our state to learn and grow and think for themselves! Incorporating environmental protection into a curriculum is not coercion! It is a testament to their passion for their students and the health of their community!

mlpa_meeting_san_diegoI could go on forever about the heroics and maturity of San Diego’s youth, and about the crass hypocrisy of those with the audacity to try and debase them. I won’t because there isn’t room here, and I don’t want to have a stroke.

Instead I have a favor to ask of you: Please show your support for the students who put themselves on the line to defend something precious to us all. Please comment here, or email me at and I will be more than happy to pass your messages along. These brave people put a huge collective effort into doing something great, and it is critical that they feel our appreciation!

Published in Marine Conservation

Explore the Underwater World

Written by San Diego Coastkeeper


“How inappropriate to call this planet Earth, when it clearly should be named Ocean.”
— Sir Arthur C. Clarke

Imagine exploring another world just beneath the surface of the ocean. As you enter the blue water you see sunlight streaming through majestic stalks of giant kelp and know you are in for a great dive. You head to the bottom of the ocean and start looking for colorful creatures including nudibranchs, anemones and fish hiding in crevices.

While diving, there is nothing quite like the exhilaration of seeing a shark swim gracefully by you, the humor in a curious Harbor Seal peering over your shoulder or the awe in watching dozens of playful sea lions whizzing by you. I feel so fortunate that I get to explore the underwater world and see these strange and beautiful creatures. SCUBA diving is why I chose a career working to protect marine and coastal resources. I want to be a voice for the ocean, and do what I can to protect this amazing world and the animals that call it home.

Right now, you have the chance to make history and support stronger, expanded marine protected areas in southern California. It is imperative that we protect these special places for future generations to enjoy.

Now, call a buddy, don your gear, and explore San Diego’s underwater world. I know I will soon!

If you want to help protect the Yosemite’s of the sea:
•    Write the Fish & Game Commission to tell them to select strong marine protected areas in San Diego
•    Eat sustainable Seafood
•    Volunteer for a beach cleanup, water monitoring or our volunteer core

Published in Marine Conservation

The Treasure Hunt for Beach Monitoring and Notification

Written by San Diego Coastkeeper

advisory“Arrgghh, whar be thy treasure?”

Ever since the elimination of state funding for beach water monitoring and public notification (AB411) in September 2008, the County of San Diego has been on a treasure hunt to find replacement funding for the Department of Environmental Health’s (DEH) Ocean Recreational Water Program.  So far, they have done pretty well in securing other funds from the state. (And Coastkeeper is assisting DEH by posting the beach status on its website. However, these have been short term funds and the most recent will expire Jan. 1, 2011.  

The County of San Diego is now holding its breath and hoping the State Water Resources Control Board will adopt a resolution to fund beach monitoring and notification programs for the county health departments. Not surprisingly, considering the state budget, this is another short term funding source.

San Diego Coastkeeper, Surfrider Foundation, and WiLDCOAST met with County of San Diego officials last spring to address this issue. While we have worked with County staff to streamline and improve the cost-effectiveness of its monitoring program and have supported past emergency funding requests to keep the program going, it was with the caveat that the County develop a long term, sustainable and local funding source for beach monitoring and public notification. We want the County to stop the state treasure hunt and own up to funding this program. Everyone agrees the county beaches are integral to the status of the county as a Southern California icon of ocean recreation. Everyone agrees that millions of visitors and residents alike enjoy these beaches and that the beach-related recreation and tourism generate millions of dollars for the San Diego County economy. So why are we asking taxpayers in Eureka, Frenso, Bakersfield, Modesto and El Centro to pay for our beach water monitoring and notification program?   

And, sorry, but I do not buy the argument that the County cannot afford $300,000 a year for a well-funded beach water monitoring and notification program. Acknowledging how serious our current budget crisis is, all elected officials, including County Supervisors, love to point out the beauty and value of our coastal resources. It is time for them to put some money where their mouths are.  

How about looking for that treasure locally? Property owners in San Diego County pay an annual property tax assessment for vector surveillance by DEH, i.e., controlling mosquitoes, rats, and mice. While we appreciate the importance of vector control in monitoring and notifying the public of exposure and risk of disease, it is similarly critical to ensure people who enjoy our beaches are not taking an involuntary risk (by not having information on water quality).  How many tax payers would like some of this assessment to go toward beach water monitoring and notification? I know I would.   

To be fair, it is a matter of political will that rests with the County Board of Supervisors.  Supervisors Cox and Slater-Price have demonstrated the most leadership on these issues.  Maybe the remaining three supervisors need to hear from their constituents – the surfing, swimming, tide pooling, beach visiting, and kayaking voters like you.       

So, if you live in central San Diego, east county or north county, please go ahead and call them.

Dianne Jacob, District Two:  (619) 531-5522
Ron Roberts, District Four: (619) 531-5544
Bill Horn, District Five: (619)-531-5555

“Onward, to the treasure!”

Reconnecting to healthy waters: an uphill battle

Written by San Diego Coastkeeper



I remember the first time I saw water flowing uphill – no, this was not an optical illusion like Magnetic Hill. it was in fact one of the many conduits of the State Water Project, snaking its way hundreds of miles from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to Southern California. I had been driving dusty roads out of Bakersfield west towards the coast after a backpacking trip. Of course, I had read about the massive canals and pipes that pushed melted snowpack from the Sierra mountains to Southern California; I had seen the figures of how much energy (average net use, 5.1 Billion kWh) it takes to pump that water over those mountains, among other things.

But I had to actually see the size of the pipes and how far uphill they had to move water, defying gravity every step of the way, before I could really fathom how crazy, fantastic and scary the California water supply really is.

With these concrete behemoths at the back of my mind, I was not that surprised to read that globally, water security and freshwater biodiversity are critically threatened. A recent report in Nature co-led by Peter McIntyre and Charles Vörösmarty analyzed simultaneously the effects of multiple stressors like pollution, dam building, agricultural runoff, wetland loss and introduced species on the health of the world’s freshwater systems. While some aspects of what they determined are not surprising (wherever there are too many people, watersheds get degraded; in developing nations, access to safe water is tenuous at best) – one finding was particularly striking to me: that even in highly developed nations like the U.S., water security and biodiversity were deemed to be highly threatened. It is only reliance on massive technological solutions – like California’s water infrastructure – that holds our water security in place. To people reading the thoughts and insights about water on Blog Action Day, the conclusions drawn by McIntyre and Vörösmarty will likely hit home – we need to rethink how we manage water.

Consider this – that for everything it gives (drinking water on demand, emerald lawns, swimming pools, playing fields; generally, our high quality of life), California’s vast water infrastructure takes away as well. Our reliance on imported water helps us to disconnect from problems in our local waters – polluted runoff, channelization, habitat destruction – we don’t think too much about our local creeks and rivers because we don’t have to.

At San Diego Coastkeeper, we are working to turn the tide on that disconnect. By doing things like training local residents to go out into their watersheds and monitor water quality and getting people out into their creeks and beaches to clean them up we are working to help people understand the true value of water.

Confessions of a Momentarily Lapsed Environmentalist

Written by San Diego Coastkeeper

I have a confession.

Last week, I drank bottled water from a single-use plastic bottle.

I didn’t mean to, but I was at choir practice, and I was really, really thirsty after all that singing, and we still had an hour of singing left. I forgot to bring my own reusable water bottle, and there was nary a water fountain in sight. The case of bottled water was just sitting there, pleading for parched singers to take one.

I couldn’t help myself….

The water was cool and refreshing, soothing my Beethoven-worn pipes.  Yet as I walked back to take my seat in the rehearsal room, I felt a creeping sense of shame.  How could I face the woman sitting next to me, after we had just had that nice conversation before rehearsal started about how I was so excited to be working for a great organization protecting our coast from pollution and marine debris?  

As I sat down in my seat with a plastic single-use water bottle in my hand, I had to explain myself to the woman sitting next to me.  “You know, I’m really kicking myself for not bringing a reusable water bottle to rehearsal tonight.  I ran out of the office quickly and forgot to grab it.  I just hate using these plastic bottles because they’re so bad for the environment and so many of them end up in a huge garbage patch in the middle of the Pacific Ocean!”

My fellow soprano listened politely and nodded and then opened her score.  She was judging me; I knew it! I promised myself I’d never forget my reusable water bottle again and hoped that I didn’t make too much of a fool of myself.

At the break during this Monday’s rehearsal, I ran into the woman I had sat next to the week before.  To my surprise, she said to me, “Hey, I’ve been trying to cut down on using plastic water bottles since we talked about it last week!”

I was stunned… and then elated.  Here I was, crushed, thinking that I was setting such a bad example.  But what I hadn’t realized is that my momentary lapse in sustainable behavior gave me an opportunity to teach a new friend about the perils of single-use plastics.

So even if we can’t be perfectly sustainable all the time, we can still teach others about why sustainable practices are important.

Published in Marine Debris

Can you imagine California without its parks?

Written by San Diego Coastkeeper

Last weekend a close friend and I sat on the banks of a pristine glacial lake along the John Muir Trail, 12,000 feet above the madness of human development. In reverent silence we reflected on the magnificence of the park and our debt of gratitude to those who fought to protect it.

Can you imagine California without its parks?

In a world where natural beauty too easily falls prey to greed, where would California be without John Muir, Edward Abbey, and all those who have fought to keep the wilderness wild?

Today we find ourselves entrenched again in the age-old battle to protect that which cannot protect itself.  Our coastal wilderness has endured a century of unbridled assault and protective neglect.  Its remoteness has left its destruction out of sight and out mind while our local kelp forests bear more and more resemblance to the clear-cut wastelands of the Pacific Northwest.  


No more!  Does a vibrant kelp forest inspire less awe than a pine forest?  Is an underwater canyon less majestic than a granite peak?  Does a thresher shark deserve less respect than a black bear?  It’s time to extend park status to our states underwater treasures.  We can be the John Muirs of our generation.  We can make our children proud of us.  We can keep California wild.

The California Fish and Game Commission is holding a public comment hearing on Wednesday, October 20 to discuss whether and where to create underwater state parks along the southern California coast.  Get there and speak up.  Make South La Jolla the next Yosemite.  Make Swamis the next Kings Canyon.

See you there!

Published in Marine Conservation

My “brief” debrief on our legislative summit

Written by San Diego Coastkeeper

Summit kickoff breakfast, including an overview of the state of water in San Diego. Photo credit

Now that I’ve had 24 hours to decompress from Coastkeeper’s Inaugural Legislative Summit on the “State of Water in San Diego,” it’s time to do a brief (for me!) debrief of the event. First, a huge thanks to our Co-Chairs Senator Kehoe and Assemblymember Fletcher, our many sponsors, elected officials and 100 environmental, business, labor, community and academic leaders who filled the UCSD Faculty Club to discuss the critical issues of the San Diego region’s water future.

I am happy to report that the event was a tremendous success – not only because of the good information shared about water supply options for the region, but more importantly because of the sense from a broad array of stakeholders in the room that we need to work collaboratively to solve our water issues in a way that will also strengthen our economy, provide needed green-collar jobs and enhance local communities.

Also critical was the event’s solution-oriented focus – brainstorming about possible legislation or regulatory approaches to address the region’s water issues. While much work is still needed to flesh out these ideas, many kernels of solutions germinated from our discussions.

First, it was clear from our very first panel on water supply options that agencies are using different cost numbers based on different assumptions, which makes informed decision-making impossible. Legislators discussed directing a statewide independent cost-analysis for various water supply options, such as conservation and efficiency, harvesting, potable and non-potable reclamation, desalination and additional water transfers. Such an assessment is needed so we all – decision-makers and the public alike – have consistent numbers. In fact, this may have been the most important outcome of the summit, as we simply cannot make the best management decisions if we can’t agree on the underlying numbers or assumptions.


Members of San Diego’s state delegation sign a resolution to make San DIego the nation’s Clean Water Capital.

Additional ideas centered around an increased local focus on conservation and Low Impact Development projects and pursuing water pricing strategies to incentivize conservation – and disincentivize waste – among consumers (through tiered rate structure) and at the water agency level (through decoupling of water utility revenues from quantity of water delivered so more money is made when less water is used).

Overall, while exhausting for the organizers (us!), it was also energizing to see so many people representing diverse constituencies coming together to delve into an issue that is so critical for our region’s residents and businesses, and for the long-term health and sustainability of San Diego. This is just the beginning of a dialogue, and Coastkeeper remains committed to leading these discussions to develop real solutions for our region.  

I will blog more about the summit and its outcomes as a legislative and regulatory agenda are refined and as Coastkeeper continues to develop its vision for water policy in the region. Until then, remember what Michelangelo said, “The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark.”

Let’s aim for a truly water independent and secure region!



Some of our event sponsors with Assemblymember Fletcher. Photo credit



Our Legislative Summit co-hosts Assemblymember Nathan Fletcher and Senator Christine Kehoe. Photo credit

A car hood, a toy piano and a pair of antlers?

Written by San Diego Coastkeeper



As co-coordinator of Coastal Cleanup Day in San Diego County, one of my favorite parts of the day is returning to the office to see what interesting items are reported from our data cards.

At this year’s Coastal Cleanup Day, our volunteers came back with some memorable ones that I thought the blog world might enjoy:

•    Car hood – Fiesta Island
•    RV port-a-potty – Borderfield State Park
•    Traffic ticket for an open container – Ocean Beach
•    Baby’s devil costume – Tijuana River at Dairy Mart Rd
•    Hello Kitty children’s piano – City Heights (a young volunteer was very excited to acquire this hand-me down)
•    Antique leather football helmet and a mannequin – National City
•    Newspaper stand – San Diego Bay
•    Fake pair of antlers and a Norwegian passport (if anyone knows Stine Grytten Nærum, please tell her to call me) – Pacific Beach
•    Model rocket fuel – Chula Vista, Salt Creek
•    Bag of drugs (found by a troop of girl scouts) – Imperial Beach, South Bay Wildlife Refuge
•    Christmas Tree (in September) – Lemon Grove, Bakersfield Drainage Ditch
•    Model ship – Southcrest Community Park
•    Styrofoam foot with a sandal on it – Vista, Buena Creek
•    Refrigerator door – Otay Valley River Park
•    And of course, the proverbial kitchen sink – Rolando Park, Zena Canyon

Thankfully, our site captains reported less hazardous and electronic waste than in previous years so maybe this means that the message is getting across about disposing of these materials appropriately (maybe?). While it’s sad to think of all the trash in our environment that needs collecting year after year, at least we can find the humor in the world around us and the interesting waste of us crazy humans.

Published in Marine Debris

Do clean water issues cut right to your “Core”?

Written by San Diego Coastkeeper



Join San Diego Coastkeeper’s Amazing Volunteer Core

If you’re reading this article, something about San Diego Coastkeeper intrigues you.  And how could it not?

We tackle everything from marine conservation, reducing marine debris, eliminating urban runoff, educating our community about the importance of clean and healthy waterways and everything else related to water in San Diego.

And if you’ve browsed the website, you’re probably also thinking you should thank your lucky stars San Diego has an awesome organization like this to protect our quality of life.

But even with a team of educators, scientists, lawyers, volunteers, and members, we still can’t do it all. . . and this is where you come in:

Join our Volunteer Core starting on Wednesday, October 6.

We’ll provide you with the chance to get your hands dirty in one of our truly important campaigns. We provide a six-session training course, a chance to get to know the ins and outs of Coastkeeper’s work and the opportunity to do something outstanding for our planet and our community.  On top of all that, we provide you with a customized six-month volunteer plan that fits your interests and your time availability.

And the best thing about dedicating your time to Coastkeeper? You have San Diego’s largest environmental non-profit at your back.  So any project you take on, you have those 17 full-time professional scientists, lawyers and educators, plus our current Volunteer Core, helping you make the most of your time and energy.

Oh, and one more thing, you have me, Dylan Edwards, our full time Volunteer and Outreach Coordinator, to make sure your volunteer experience is everything it can be.

Email or call me (619.758.7743 x 131). I can’t wait to hear from you.