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Letters to the Editor

What is the value of the ocean?

Much of the recent City Council session last Saturday was focused on financial considerations. What then is the value of the ocean to Laguna’s economy, ecology and quality of life?

One metric we found from real estate experts is the value of the Greenbelt. A nature reserve is determined to add as much as 19% to a property’s value and this benefit extends to the neighborhood and city. 

Using Surfonomics: Surfrider CEO Dr. Chad Nelsen researched, “What’s the Value of a Wave?” and pioneered the use of economics to determine the value of surf spots to their coastal economies. What is the value of Laguna’s Bluebelt and Marine Protected Areas to Laguna Beach’s economy? Is there a metric for the value added by being a coastal community? Does the ocean double the value of a property?

In addressing climate change, Laguna as a coastal city has a special role in recognizing the value of the local ocean to mitigate human-generated climate impacts. The ocean generates 50% of the oxygen we breathe while absorbing 25% of atmospheric CO2.

The ocean can make or break a climate plan. If we continue to ignore the ocean’s key role in absorbing atmospheric carbon, Laguna will miss our unique opportunity to make a meaningful difference.

What can be done? Let’s stop pretending our secondary sewage discharges amounting to 1/2 billion gallons annually just 1 1/2 miles offshore are benign and magically just “goes away.” Nothing goes away in nature.

Instead of dumping contaminates into the ocean, other communities are harvesting the methane and even hydrogen fuel from wastewater. Consider, for example, as much as 1/2 of Laguna’s drinking water is generated from wastewater at the Orange County Sanitation and Water Districts in Fountain Valley using methane from biosolids to power fuel cells filtering wastewater for reuse since 2012. The facility has filtered wastewater and produced more than 400 trillion gallons of “new water” supplying 60% of Laguna’s potable water otherwise destined for ocean discharge (see

In Australia, solar power harvests hydrogen from wastewater and is stored for hydrogen fuel cells.

Laguna should be leading and not be the last to adopt steps to repurpose our wasted wastewater fouling ocean waters – the lungs of our community and source of our wealth. But we seem to lack the education, wisdom and commitment to move ahead as we choose to conduct business as usual.

So, why does Laguna remain the only South County city without hi-purity recycled water from wastewater for wildfire prevention and suppression? Why do we refuse to implement emerging know-how and technology to protect invaluable coastal waters and cherished marine life habitats?

Who will lead and get the job done? How can those of us who love the ocean help?

Mike Beanan

Laguna Beach


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In Memoriam - Stu Saffer and Barbara Diamond.

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