Guest Letter

Michael Beanan

South Laguna Beach

Wake up call for HOPE

Guest Letter Mike Beanan

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Mike Beanan

Last month, I felt hopeful when our City Council, State & County leaders stood together at Main Beach to declare a commitment to protect Laguna’s Bluebelt and California’s coast from another oil disaster. We need to stand behind them and make it happen.

The recent oil release to Southern California coastal waters is a tragic reminder of the essential role a healthy ocean contributes to our way of life, ecology and ECO-nomy. Yet, there remains hope in California’s network of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) initiated more than ten years ago when Laguna took leadership in ocean protection and conservation. 

Our Marine Protected Areas create a necklace of regional fish nurseries. As a complement to the Laguna Greenbelt, the MPAs are known locally as the “Bluebelt.”

Lessons from the recent oil disaster can motivate us to move forward purposefully, with determination, to retire old, leaking offshore oil platforms in favor of green energy alternatives. One emerging technology, for instance, grows and harvests giant kelp on underwater offshore platforms to produce biofuel. In essence, the process bypasses millions of years required to produce today’s fuel from ancient kelp deposits offshore, deep under the ocean.

Sewage operations like the Coastal Treatment Plant can also switch to perpetual supplies of biogas, like OC Sanitation District, to generate power for filtering and distributing new recycled water. Laguna’s annual wildfire threats, relatively remote location and increasing demands for more water as drought conditions advance will benefit more from recycled water than paying to discharge secondary sewage wastewater to the ocean.

Guest Letter sea lion in kelp

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Courtesy of Mike Beanan

An entry by Alex Coldwell for the Laguna Bluebelt Photo Contest

Partnering with citizen environmental groups and progressive city leaders is a potent strategy to achieve what we all ‘hope’ for - to move hope to action. In our ‘hope’ to reduce plastic pollution, for example, Water Bottle Refill Stations are being installed in Laguna, simultaneously fulfilling State requirements for City trash reduction while advancing a citizen led campaign to reduce plastic bottles polluting Laguna’s beaches and ocean waters.

More can be done and must happen to protect ocean water quality. None of us want to discharge secondary sewage to the ocean at Aliso Beach, yet according to billing records, everyday Laguna residents and visitors send 1.87 million gallons of secondary sewage (over 500,000,000 gallons - that’s one-half billion gallons annually!) to the Aliso Creek Ocean Outfall, located 1.5 miles offshore creating a one-mile-long diffusion plume just off Aliso Beach.

Secondary sewage is free of biosolids but it transports liquid wastewater from toilets, showers, laundry and kitchens to the ocean. Pharmaceuticals, hormone endocrine disruptors, plastic microbeads in cosmetics, synthetic microfibers in clothing and other Constituents of Emerging Concern (CECs) remain discharged in the ACOO Plume. Ocean upwelling, currents and countercurrents circulate the ACOO Plume as it bio-accumulates within the marine life food chain and, ultimately, popular recreational and commercial fisheries.

Guest Letter map chart

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Courtesy of Mike Beanan

Aliso Creek ocean outfall

The October Oil Spill is another wake-up call. Let’s move our hope to action now to end ocean pollution from secondary sewage near Laguna’s MPAs and, at the same time, create local “new water” supplies to address annual wildfire season and prolonged droughts. Will you be the solution to ocean pollution?