Cleaner surf

Wa­ter qual­ity has con­tin­ued to go up, but fund­ing cuts im­peril mon­i­tor­ing.

Los Angeles Times - - Latextra - Tony Bar­boza­

This sum­mer was one of the best on record for Cal­i­for­nia.

Wa­ter qual­ity at Cal­i­for­nia beaches has con­tin­ued to show im­prove­ment, even as the fu­ture of mon­i­tor­ing pro­grams re­mains un­cer­tain be­cause of state bud­get short­falls, ac­cord­ing to a re­port re­leased Wed­nes­day by Heal the Bay.

This sum­mer was one of the clean­est on record for Cal­i­for­nia beaches and the fourth straight sum­mer of ex­cel­lent wa­ter qual­ity grades statewide. Of the beaches tested, 92% re­ceived A or B grades dur­ing the high-traf­fic beach­go­ing sea­son, ac­cord­ing to the en­vi­ron­men­tal group’s End of Sum­mer Beach Re­port Card.

But if money isn’t found to con­tinue fund­ing the $1mil­lion-a-year beach test­ing pro­gram next year, the state and coastal coun­ties may be forced to dis­con­tinue wa­terqual­ity mon­i­tor­ing, end­ing pub­lic alerts when the ocean poses a health risk to swim­mers and surfers, ac­cord­ing to the re­port.

“We con­tinue to see wa­ter qual­ity im­prove­ments at Cal­i­for­nia beaches,” Heal the Bay Pres­i­dent Mark Gold said in a news re­lease. “How­ever with­out a sus­tain­able source of beach-mon­i­tor­ing fund­ing, the pub­lic health of mil­lions of ocean users will be jeop­ar­dized.”

A Los An­ge­les Times in­ves­ti­ga­tion this sum­mer found state and county bud­get cuts al­ready tak­ing a toll on beach health test­ing, which has slumped to its low­est level in more than a decade, led to fewer beach clo­sures and ad­vi­sories, and put swim­mers and surfers at greater risk of get­ting sick from ex­po­sure to con­tam­i­nated wa­ter.

The State Wa­ter Re­sources Con­trol Board in Novem­ber will con­sider a pro­posal to use $984,000 in state bond money to con­tinue test­ing through 2011, spokesman Wil­liam L. Rukeyser an­nounced Wed­nes­day.

“It’s a very im­por­tant pro­gram and the board con­sid­ers it vi­tal to find sources of con­tin­ued fund­ing,” he said.

This sum­mer in Los An­ge­les County, wa­ter qual­ity re­mained fair, with 79% of beaches earn­ing A or B grades on the Heal the Bay re­port, which is based on wa­ter qual­ity sam­ples taken be­tween Me­mo­rial Day and La­bor Day at about 450 beaches statewide.

Wa­ter qual­ity dipped slightly in Santa Mon­ica Bay, which runs from the Pa­los Verdes Penin­sula to Point Dume in Mal­ibu, with 87% of lo­ca­tions earn­ing A or Bgrades com­pared with 91% last year. A no­table ex­cep­tion was the chron­i­cally pol­luted beach at Santa Mon­ica Pier, which had earned fail­ing grades the five pre­vi­ous sum­mers. This sum­mer the pop­u­lar tourist spot earned an A.

Heal the Bay chalks up the dra­matic turn­around at the pier to a di­ver­sion project that keeps runoff from a storm drain from pool­ing along the beach, and to nets in­stalled un­der the pier that keep bird fe­ces out of the surf.

Wa­ter pol­lu­tion con­tin­ued to mean low grades for other Los An­ge­les County beaches, how­ever, in­clud­ing Avalon Beach on Santa Catalina Is­land, Long Beach’s Colorado La­goon, Will Rogers State Beach at Temescal Canyon, and Cabrillo Beach.

Else­where in South­ern Cal­i­for­nia, beach­go­ers en­joyed some of the clean­est wa­ters in the state.

All but one of San Diego County’s 77 beaches earned Agrades. In Orange County, 97% of beaches earned A or B grades.

Poche Beach in San Cle­mente and New­port Bay at Gar­net Av­enue, how­ever, re­ceived Fs, and pol­lu­tion-plagued Do­heny State Beach in Dana Point earned aD.

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