A Coastkeeper Update from Executive Director Megan Baehrens


Executive Director. Water Warrior. I answer to both.

The past two months, I’ve been on the front lines advocating for what will best protect our wetlands, watersheds, ocean and the water quality of San Diego County. There are two events in particular I want to give you the inside scoop on.

The first involved Del Mar Fairgrounds and protecting the wetlands threatened by its expansive parking lots. On October 11, County Supervisor Dave Roberts, former supervisor Pam Slater Price and the San Dieguito Joint Powers Authority joined our team to urge the California Coastal Commission to protect the wetlands that surround overflow parking areas at the Del Mar Fairgrounds. I love the races as much as anyone else, but we just can’t sacrifice the surrounding environmental habitats. There has to be a meeting of the minds on long term sustainability.

The Coastal Commission sent the 22nd District Agricultural Association, which manages that property, back to negotiate about what areas would remain protected from parking, paving and other high-impact use and what time each year these productive natural spaces would be subject to that pressure. Meanwhile, our Board President Jo Brooks appeared at the most recent Coastal Commission meeting to urge the Commissioners to require a “hands-off” approach because this is an important natural space that filters pollution and protects our waters better than any man-made construction can.

The results were mixed. The Coastal Commission did not grant our “hands-off” request and permits will be issued to allow the fairgrounds to use the wetlands for parking during additional horse races and activities. However, the Agricultural Association will end all activity, restore acres of wetland and study the feasibility of alternative parking that would allow economic activity to continue on the remaining East Lot area while still protecting the habitat that provides the stunning backdrop to those events. You can read more about our previous work to protect the wetlands at the Del Mar Fairgrounds here. Moving forward, we will continue to watch the health of our San Dieguito lagoon and Torrey Pines State Beach and advocate for protection from any threat we see.

Come November, things were still moving quickly in my water warrior world. I was asked to provide the Wetlands Advisory Board with insight on the new stormwater permit and what it offers to protect wetlands in San Diego.

There is a lot that is new and innovative about this permit, and I wanted the Board to understand how it can work for wetlands. This new way of managing stormwater promotes a watershed-based approach, replacing traditional approaches that would leave cities compliant, but potentially uncoordinated.

At this moment there are so many reasons to get involved; we have the opportunity to use a combination of structural and non-structured measures that target the highest-priority pollutants with the lowest-cost solutions. It combines the efforts of cities, businesses and public information campaigns to change residents’ behaviors. 

Lastly, we discussed how special studies can provide us more information about wetlands and alternative compliance solutions might protect important areas, especially those under threat. All of this is happening now, and early involvement by Board members and the members of the resident, scientific, environmental and business communities is critical. It’s the only way to find effective, cost-conscious decisions.

Plans are in the works to continue the conversation in early 2014. While this life of Executive Director/Water Warrior is constantly in motion, I couldn’t do it without your support. Thank you, and please stay tuned.