By Ryan Masters,Santa Cruz Sentinel
SANTA CRUZ — Heal the Bay released its 2015-2016 Beach Report Card Thursday. The good news is that California’s overall water quality was fantastic along with 95 percent A or B grades. The poor news is that Santa Cruz’s Cowell Beach is the most polluted beach in the state for a 3rd consecutive year.
In fact, for seven straight years, Cowell Beach, which stretches west from the Santa Cruz Wharf to the cliffs, has actually ranked either No. 1 or No. 2 on the nonprofit’s “Beach Bummer” list.
During the dry summer months, 62 percent of samples taken at Cowell Beach exceeded at least one state bacterial standard, according to the report.
“This community prides itself on environmental consciousness. This is one of our iconic beaches and it’s an discomfort to be on this list,” assistant to the city manager Scott Collins regarding the beach celebrated as the birthplace of North American surfing.
But there is hope. City officials believe they have actually located the source of the higher bacteria rates: droppings from pigeons living among the beams and pylons beneath the Santa Cruz wharf. Job is currently underway to install 150 feet of steel exclusion grating under the pier to avoid the birds from roosting.
The Cowell Functioning Group, a coalition of scientists, environmentalists and city officials, has actually been Functioning for the past year to know the problem from a scientific perspective while educating the public and solving it through policy action. It involves representatives from Save the Waves, the Coastal Watershed Council, the Surfrider Foundation, the Sierra Club, also as Santa Cruz and Santa Cruz County officials,
“We’re not thrilled along with the news that it’s been ranked No. 1 again, Yet it’s not surprising either,” said Nik Strong-Cvetich, executive director of Save the Waves and a member of the Cowell Functioning Group. “We believe we’ve characterized the problem and we’re Functioning on a long term solution.”
Strong-Cvetich said similar issues along with bird-induced water contamination were fixed along with exclusion grating on the Pismo Beach and Santa Monica piers.
The city has actually been making others improvements as well, including sealing the pipe from Neary Lagoon and dealing along with residential sewer lateral lines that run adjacent to the beach, according to Collins. In addition, the bacterial “hot spots” have actually been much more accurately identified.
“It appears to be concentrated under the wharf. There doesn’t appear to be an additional source at this time. Logically, if we can easily get hold of the pigeons to relocate along, we chance to see overall improvement,” Collins said.
Although the Santa Cruz wharf exclusion grating won’t be for good finished until June, Strong-Cvetich said recent water sampling indicates it is already working.
Despite these indications of success, the Cowell Functioning Group is not assuming pigeons are the sole source of contamination.
“We have actually brought in an external technical advisory committee to ensure we are not overlooking others scientific explanations for the bacteria,” Strong-Cvetich said. “We hope to identify or rule out any kind of others possibilities.”
These independent scientific advisors are uncompensated volunteers, according to Collins.
Despite the poor press Cowell Beach receives every year the Beach Report is released, it has actually not adversely affected regional tourism.
“Using our transit occupancy tax receipts as a measure, we’re seeing stable growth,” Collins said.
To preserve the public apprised of the situation, the Cowell’s Functioning Group is hosting a public forum from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Thursday in the Dream Inn’s Ocean View Room.
2015-2016 BEACH BUMMER LIST
1. Cowell Beach, west of the wharf.
2. Clam Beach, near Strawberry Creek, Humboldt County.
3. Shoreline Beach Park at Shelter Island, San Diego County.
4. Monarch Beach, north at Salt Creek, Orange County.
5. Santa Monica Pier, Los Angeles County.
6. Marina del Rey, Mother’s Beach, Los Angeles County.
7. Redondo Municipal Pier, Los Angeles County.
8. Candlestick Point/Sunnydale Cove, San Francisco County.
9. Pillar Point, end of West Point Ave., San Mateo County.
10. Pismo Beach Pier, 40 feet south, San Luis Obispo County.
Source: Heal the Bay —— (c)2016 the Santa Cruz Sentinel (Scotts Valley, Calif.) Visit the Santa Cruz Sentinel (Scotts Valley, Calif.) at http://ift.tt/WLeEqW Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC. AMX-2016-05-27T00:01:00-04:00