Good news and bad news for southern California in 2021 – Daily Democrat

While the southern California coast has taken a few hits this year, the local coast has also seen key steps towards safeguarding its future.

The downsides were the oil spill in the waters off Huntington Beach, pollution from late harbor ships, Hyperion’s sewage spill in Playa del Rey, and the extension of the lifespan of the Redondo gas power station.

But other events this year have been good for the coastal environment. Approval of Offshore Wind Bill Will Boost Clean Energy Efforts, Banning Ranch Campaigners Reach Deal to Purchase and Preserve Largest Private Undeveloped Land on Southern California Coast , and Sacramento lawmakers passed legislation to reduce plastic waste and adapt to sea level rise.

Huntington Beach oil spill

Information trickled in over several days, with the best news being that the Oct. 1 oil spill off Huntington Beach was initially estimated at 130,000 gallons, but turned out to be 25,000 gallons instead. Coast Guard officials believe a ship’s anchor caught and dragged a pipeline connected to an offshore oil rig. This could have weakened the pipeline, then an anchor impact or subsequent deterioration of the exposed pipe could have resulted in the 13-inch split which resulted in an oil leak.

One of many signs displayed for beach goers on the beach at Crystal Cove State Park in Laguna Beach on Thursday, October 14, 2021, as clean-up crews pick up tarballs that washed up on the shore , remnants of the oil spill near Huntington Beach in early October. (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register / SCNG)

Waters off Huntington Beach, Newport Beach and Laguna Beach have been banned, with the latest closure ending October 14. Oil entered the wildlife-rich Talbert Marsh, contributing to a recorded death toll of 82 dead birds and six dead marine mammals, including three sea lions. Fishing has been banned off the coast of Orange County until November. On December 15, the US Department of Justice announced indictments related to the spill, accusing Amplify Energy, owner of the pipeline, and two of its subsidiaries of failing to respond correctly to eight separate leak alarms in 13 hours. and having restarted improperly. a pipeline that had been closed.

Banishment from the ranch

The 400-acre Banning Ranch is the largest private undeveloped land on the southern California coast and the site of more than 20 years of battles between developers and environmentalists. The lands of the north coast of Newport Beach present a wide range of prized wildlife habitat, including wetlands, arroyos, and coastal cliffs.

Banning Ranch in Newport Beach, seen above, is in the process of being purchased for permanent open space and recreational use, though part remains zoned for housing and some city officials say the land is needed to meet housing needs. (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register / SCNG)

For those hoping to keep it as a space open to the public, the light at the end of the tunnel has finally appeared this year. The Trust for Public Land has negotiated the purchase of the property, on condition that it can release $ 97 million by next June. Developer and philanthropist Frank Randall and his wife, Joann, had donated $ 50 million to the project in 2019, which kicked off the process. The trust raised an additional $ 33 million this year through state and federal grants, leaving them a relatively modest $ 14 million below the target six months from end.

Hyperion wastewater discharge

When debris clogged a filter screen at the Hyperion wastewater treatment plant in Playa del Rey and began flooding the facility on July 11, authorities intentionally released 17 million tonnes of sewage rough into the ocean a mile off through an emergency drain hose to prevent further flooding and damage. Parts of Dockweiler State Beach and El Segundo Beach remained closed until July 15.

The lingering odors have caused the city of Los Angeles to shell out more than $ 1.4 million to area residents in compensation for hotel stays and air conditioner purchases. Subsequent discharges of treated sewage five miles offshore exceeded state standards for weeks.

Plastics and recycling

State lawmakers have continued to eliminate problematic waste, much of which ends up in the ocean and is responsible for the death of marine life. But the most ambitious proposal, SB 54, was tabled for the third year in a row facing opposition from the California Chamber of Commerce and the plastics and packaging industries.

The measure would require all single-use packaging and food items to be compostable or recyclable. A citizens’ initiative with the same requirements qualified for the November 2022 ballot, although there is still time for the legislator to adopt the measure before that date.

On the bright side for environmentalists, lawmakers have passed a measure that expands restrictions on plastic straw to include plastic utensils and condiment wrappers. This law applies not only to full-service restaurants, but also to take-out and fast food businesses, which are currently exempt. Other new laws coming into effect next year relate to food waste, exported recyclables, reusable glass bottles, recycling labeling and disposable wipes.

Cargo ships

The busiest year ever at the twin ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach prompted backups on the docks and in the water, as dozens of freighters could be seen anchored off Long Beach and the northern Orange County every day. This not only created a crowded view of the ocean, but also contributed to the region’s already poor air quality – and caught the attention of state and federal authorities.

Subsequent actions at the ports accelerated unloading times, reduced the backlog at the docks, and reduced the flow of ships in coastal waters, both slowing their journey from China and putting them down to 150. miles offshore. But the executive director of the Port of Los Angeles, Gene Seroka, admitted that many problems remain. “We have a long way to go and no one is claiming victory,” he said on December 15.

Struggle for power

Some believe California is turning to dreams with its goal of 100% zero-carbon electricity by 2045, especially as authorities have already had to extend the life of obsolete gas generators at four power plants. Coastal Electric – most controversial, a second expansion announced this year for the Redondo Beach plant, where the city is keen to replace the operation with a park and wetland restoration.

But the future of clean energy was boosted this year when Gov. Gavin Newsom enacted Law AB 525, forcing the Energy Commission to develop a strategic plan for offshore wind turbines, including clearly defined targets for 2030. and 2045. The measure aligns with federal plans to deploy 30,000 megawatts of offshore wind by 2030.

The sea level rises

Attention to sea level rise is rising faster than the ocean itself, as state officials hope to anticipate the consequences of the ocean that will eventually swallow up beaches, homes and resorts. existing infrastructure. SB 1 legislation formalized sea level rise as a primary responsibility of the State Coast Commission and established – but did not fund – a mechanism for

distributing up to $ 100 million per year to help local governments adapt. The commission, meanwhile, approved a 230-page set of guidelines for local governments and agencies to prepare for the ocean to be 10 feet higher in 2100.

Additionally, AB 63 is opening up marine protected areas for projects such as restoring kelp beds, which can help offset the effects of rising sea levels by strengthening the breeding grounds of some marine animals and reducing sea waves. ocean storm. AB 66 is launching a study on coastal cliff collapses and will explore the possibility of developing an early warning system. And AB 72 streamlines bureaucratic hurdles for efforts to deal with rising sea levels.

However, Gov. Gavin Newsome vetoed SB 83, which reportedly put in place a program for the state to lend money to coastal towns to buy homes threatened by rising sea levels and Rent them while they are still safe. The rent money would then flow back into the loan program.

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