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Taking the abstract nature out of environmentalism

September 16 2009 | Victories, Jim's Blog,
by Jim

I used to think environmentalism was abstract. I came from a world where everything was measured and managed with a perspective on...creating. If you work in a for-profit environment, you probably create something (product, service, etc) and you can go home on a Friday night and look back at the week and have a very crisp read on how well you're doing.

Non-profits are more challenging in a sense... in an environmental non-profit setting, much of what we do is to keep things looking exactly the same. We go home on Fridays and feel successful if our coastal environments are preserved for us to play in on Saturday.

A few years ago we set the goal of 150 coastal victories by 2010. Part of the reasoning behind that goal was to better understand how and what we're doing all over the world. Another part of this goal was to offer some transparency into this organization and let people know more precisely what we're focused on and how we're doing. The goal, and related list, wasn't created to pat ourselves on the back but rather gain some metrics into how we're doing, what our return on investment is and help us understand where we can improve.

The following is a quick list of our last 22 victories. Check them out. The coolest thing about these victories is that virtually all of them were achieved by volunteers. With almost all of these we were one of the players among other environmental organizations. Thus this list is really a victory list of regional wins achieved by teams, coalitions and partnerships.

The rest of the list is here.

Palm Beach County , FL

Aug 2009

Lake Worth Surf and Reefs Protected

In a landmark decision, Florida Judge Robert E. Meale recently ruled against the town of Palm Beach in de
nying the town a permit to dredge and fill 1.8 miles of beach surrounding the Lake Worth Pier with 700,000 cubic yards of poor-quality sediment. In early 2008, the Palm Beach County Chapter, The Snook Foundation, and three individuals challenged the town and the State of Florida’s intent to issue that permit. The City of Lake Worth and Eastern Surfing Association also intervened in opposition to the project.

The petitioners p
roved the dredge-and-fill project would destroy the beach and coastal environment by directly burying seven acres of reefs. The silty material would have also killed marine life, including endangered sea turtles, and seriously harmed the surfing, fishing and diving.

This decision was upheld in August by the FL Dep't of Environmental Protection when they threw out the project's application.
More info.

Santa Barbara County, CA

Jul 2009

Goleta Beach Saved - Groin Defeated

On July 8, the California Coastal Commission overturned its staff's recommendation and denied Santa Barbara County's proposed groin project at Goleta Beach. The groin project would have trapped sand at Goleta Beach but in doing so would have prevented sand from reaching beaches to the east of Goleta causing erosion and damage to beach habitats.

The chapter worked closely with the Environmental Defense Center and several members of Surfrider's Environmental Issues Team to provide technical reports and comments at and leading up to the Coastal Commission hearing.
More info.

State of Oregon

Jul 2009

Oregon Marine Reserves

The Oregon State Legislature voted to support HB 3013 (unanimously in the House, 3 nays in the Senate), which puts into practice the recommendations of the Ocean Policy Advisory Council (OPAC). These recommendations were to implement two marine reserve projects this year, one at Redfish Rocks in Port Orford and one at Otter Rock near Depoe Bay, as well as the further evaluation and collection of baseline biological, social, and economic information over the next 18 months for sites proposed off Cape Falcon, Cascade Head, Cape Perpetua and to support a proposal from the Coos County area. The bill also directs communities adjacent to the proposal areas to form teams composed of diverse and balanced stakeholders for the on-going collaborative efforts surrounding rule making, research, monitoring, and marine reserve implementation. Funding for this bill over the next two years is provided in part through funds left over from the salvage of the New Carissa, as well as the ability to secure outside funding through either grants or private donations.
More info.

Siuslaw, OR

Jun 2009

Oregon Nutrient Reduction

Oregon State Legislature passed SB 631, which reduces the amount of phosphorus contained in automatic dish soap to no more than 0.5% by volume. This effort was led by Siuslaw Chapter Blue Water Task Force Coordinator Mark Chandler. Mark worked in his community of Dunes City to pass the first phosphorus reduction ordinance in the State after seeing large algal blooms in Siltcoos and Woahink lakes that led to impacts on drinking water, recreational use, and aquatic health. This effort was helped by many written letters to Representatives and Senators by the chapter and local citizenry.
More info.

Seattle, WA

Jun 2009

Plastic Bags Banned in Edmonds, WA

The Edmonds City Council approved a ban on plastic shopping bags following a successful campaign by the Seattle Chapter. The campaign received solid support from the community and local businesses.

Lake Michigan , IL

Jun 2009

Surfing is Not a Crime in Chicago

After 9+ months of letters, emails, phone calls and meetings, activists from Surfrider Foundation's Lake Michigan Chapter succeeded in making surfing officially legal at 4 beaches in the City of Chicago!

* Memorial Day - Labor Day - Montrose Beach and 57th St. Beach
* Labor D
ay - Memorial Day (off season) - Montrose, 57th, Osterman & Rainbow Beaches are open to surfing at your own risk.
More info.

Washington DC

Jun 2009

Anacostia River Cleanup and Protection Act

Starting in January 2010, virtually every retailer in DC that sells food will charge 5 cents for each single-use paper and plastic bag distributed. Proceeds from the fee will create the Anacostia River Cleanup Fund, a dedicated trust to pay for restoration of one of the ten most polluted rivers in the country. The fund will also pay for an education campaign and reusable bags to be distributed for free to low-income and elderly residents. The DC Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation led the public outreach effort, coordinating several partner groups to mount a citywide postcard campaign that generated over 1200 signatures from supportive residents. Chapter representatives also presented at the public hearing, met with council members and staff, spoke to local school children, created a PSA for YouTube distribution, printed stickers for supporters to wear at hearings, and designed the coalition's logo.
More info.

Santa Barbara County, CA

Apr 2009

Judge Invalidates Water District Annexation of Gaviota Coast Lots

A lawsuit filed by the Gaviota Coast Conservancy and Surfrider Foundation resulted in a decision invalidating a 2008 action by the Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO) annexing prime Gaviota Coast parcels into the Goleta Water District. Without water service, development of the lots is more challenging.

“This is a second significant ruling in two weeks for the Gaviota Coast” explained Gaviota Coast Conservancy President Mike Lunsford. “The laws and policies protecting the Gaviota Coast, mean very little if they are not followed by local decision makers. This decision restores reason and fair play in the permitting process, and puts Orange County developers on notice that this community will not stand by and allow them to play fast and loose with the Gaviota Coast.”
More info.

New York City, NY

Apr 2009

New York Passes Bigger Better Bottle Bill

Environmental groups from across New York successfully passed the Bigger Better Bottle Bill as part of the 2009-10 state budget. This momentous achievement is the first major overhaul of the state's bottle deposit law since it was created in 1982, and caps a grueling nine-year campaign to expand and update the law. The update expands New York's bottle return law to include water bottles, which comprise nearly a quarter of all beverages sold in New York. The law also requires beverage companies to return 80 percent of the unclaimed bottle and can deposits to the state, generating upwards of $115 million annually for the General Fund.

"The Surfrider Foun
dation looks forward to cleaner beaches as a result of the improved bottle bill in NY. Thank you to the legislators who championed this cause and the ones who compromised to allow this," said Steff Zellinger, volunteer with the New York City Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation.
More info.

Santa Cruz, CA

Mar 2009

Watsonville Bans Styrofoam Food Containers - Last in County

SANTA CRUZ COUNTY NOW STYRO-FREE The Santa Cruz Chapter is excited to announce that all jurisdictions in Santa Cruz County now have polystyrene food container take-out bans in place, banning the use of foam take-out containers in businesses selling food for immediate consumption, such as restaurants, ice-cream parlors and coffee shops. With the recent addition of Watsonville and Scotts Valley to the list, joining the City of Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz County and City of Capitola, Santa Cruz County is now the first and only multiple-jurisdiction county in California to have a styro-ban in all jurisdictions within the county limits. The Santa Cruz Chapter has engaged in this campaign for several years, so we see it as a strong win!

State of Washington

Mar 2009

Washington State Year-Round Rescue Tug

On March 24th, Washington State Governor Chris Gregoire signed a measure that requires shippers, tankers and other large vessels to pay for a year-round rescue tug at Neah Bay. The bill's primary sponsor was long-time Surfrider activist and past regional manager, State Senator Kevin Ranker. For Washington chapters, it is hard to imagine a better way to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Exxon Valdez oil spill than by winning this long-fought campaign. Not long after the tragedy in Prince William Sound, Surfrider members and activists began advocating for a rescue tug to be stationed at Neah Bay. The tug aids ships in danger of spilling oil, forming a strong defensive line against oil spills in the Strait of Juan de Fuca and on Washington's outer coast. All of Washington's Surfrider Chapters worked hard on this issue for several years.
More info.

Monterey, CA

Feb 2009

Polystyrene Banned in Monterey

The City of Monterey follows Carmel and Pacific Grove in Monterey County in passing this important ordinance to help alleviate the amount of marine debris entering our coastal waters. With Monterey subjected to vociferous opposition from the American Chemistry Council, the City Staff was compelled to write a Negative Declaration addressing the California Environmental Quality Act. This was a long but critical process in assuring that the ordinance was indeed environmentally sound and the best choice for the city and the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary.

Throughout the process the Monterey Chapter was instrumental in garnering community and business support, addressing th
e myriad issues which City Staff had questions about, and amassing a strong coalition of 18 community and environmental organizations to support the ordinance. City residents were resoundingly in favor of the switch to recyclable and compostable alternatives, and the city council's vote was unanimous.

South Bay, CA

Jan 2009

Massive Playa Vista Development Stopped

Surfrider Foundation’s South Bay Chapter, and their partners Ballona Wetlands Land Trust and the City of Santa Monica signed a settlement agreement that sends the controversial Phase 2 of the development back to the drawing board. The settlement terms establish that the Environmental Impact Report inadequately informed the public of the foreseeable harm to the local environment from the project. Consequently the City Council’s decision to grant development permits and entitlements have been reversed.

This decision opens an opportunity for public acquisition of the property to fulfill the long held dream of restoring this relatively small, but critically important part of Southern California’s network of coastal wetlands. The Chapter has advocated using the space for “treatment wetlands” since the project’s inception.

South Orange County, CA

Dec 2008

Toll Road Stopped at San Onofre State Beach / Trestles

The US Commerce Dep't upheld the CA Coastal Commission's decision to deny a permit for the Toll Road proposed to be built through San Onofre State Beach near Trestles. This 6-lane highway would have impacted a large portion of this State Park and the adjacent Land Conservancy, along with a multitude of natural, recreational and cultural resources.
More info.

South Florida, FL

Dec 2008

Litter Campaign in Miami Beach

The South Florida Chapter has been pushing for several years to clean up the mass amounts of litter from South Miami Beach. As a result of their efforts the city is undergoing a major litter education campaign and has pledged to:
1. Train code enforcement officers to patr
ol the beach and issue littering citations.
2. Work with the County to increase the amount of trash pickups
and to provide a trash transfer station in the South Beach area to allow for increased pickup.
3. Start a recycling program for beach goers to take advantage of.
4. Institute a cigarette butt ashtray program.

Santa Cruz, CA

Dec 2008

Styrofoam Banned in Scotts Valley

In a unanimous vote by Scotts Valley City Council on December 17, 2008, Scotts Valley joined Santa Cruz, Capitola, and Santa Cruz County in adopting a local ordinance to prohibit the use of polystyrene (Styrofoam) food take-out containers in all city businesses which offer take-out food or which allow customers to package and leave with uneaten portions of their meal. The new ordinance goes into effect six months from the date of the vote.

The Santa Cruz Chapter was very active in encouraging Scotts Valley City Council to take this action, and we are pleased to see more and more local businesses eliminating polystyrene food containers from their stock. We believe this ordinance will not only help protect our many sea creatures wh
ich mistake small pieces of polystyrene for their natural food, but will also help convince other nearby jurisdictions to enact and enforce similar ordinances.

The Chapter worked with twelve partner organizations in the "Wipe Out Plastic Takeout!" Coalition. Their long-range goal is
a polystyrene-take-out-container-free county!

San Mateo , CA

Nov 2008

Increased Protection for the Monterey Bay National Marine

After 7 years of planning and extensive public input, three marine sanctuaries off Central California issued a new joint management plan. The plan includes a 775 square mile expansion to include the Davidson Seamount, one of the largest known underwater mountains in U.S. coastal waters and home to a wide variety of marine species, prohibition of harmful discharges from cruise ships, restoration of the original limitation of motorized personal watercraft to four areas off the harbors, inclusion of a wintertime zone for tow-in surfing at “Maverick’s”, and efforts to reduce the introduction of non-native species.

Through the Joint Management Plan Review process, the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary considered revisions and additions to its management plans, which created an opportunity to revisit the management of MPWC in the Sanctuary. The chapters along the Central California Coast participated in this process in hopes of affecting change to MPWC
More info.

State of California

Nov 2008

CA Beach Monitoring Funding Restored

Surfrider’s Global Headquarters and several California Chapters, including San Diego, Monterey, Sonoma and Mendocino Counties were instrumental in re-establishing funding for California’s beach water quality monitoring program. The funds were abruptly cut by Governor Schwarzenegger in September 2008, completely terminating beach monitoring in some counties and severely restricting monitoring elsewhere. In response, Surfrider launched an Action Alert that over 2400 activists responded to that sent emails to the Governor and state legislators to restore funding. Our San Diego County chapter initiated a separate action alert to urge their members to contact county supervisors to secure a new source of funding. Other environmental groups including Heal the Bay and the California Coastkeeper Alliance also lobbied to get funding restored. Surfrider participated in conference calls with these groups and state and county public health officials to strategize on ways to resolve the funding issue.

On November 4, 2008 the State Water Resources Control Board approved using Beach Grant funds from Prop 13 to backfill the be
ach funding for the fiscal year July 2008 through June 2009. There is also an option to extend this funding source for the 2009-2010 Fiscal Year. Surfrider will continue to work on this issue to identify a long term sustainable funding source to continue to fund this program for the future.
More info.

State of Washington

Nov 2008

Jetty Island Water Quality

Everett City Waste Water Treatment Plant averages 2-4 spills per year and with the current methods of reporting the public is not made aware for 24 hours to sometimes 3 days, as was the case for a spill in late October. The belief was that it wasnít a large issue with not a lot of recreational users in the water; that there were no high use beaches in the area. This is not the case. Jetty Island, just off the shore of Everett, is a prominent location for swimmers, kite surfers and wind surfers, especially the time frames of May ñ October of every year. So human health is definitely at risk. The engineers from the water treatment facility agreed to err on the side of caution and post immediately for the public to know. Surfrider Foundation in Washington is also on the notification list so that we can alert the public as well to the closures as they happen.
More info.

South Bay and West Los Angeles / Malibu , CA

Oct 2008

Smoking Banned on All Beaches in Santa Monica Bay

The City of Redondo Beach passed a ban on smoking at city beaches and parks. This is the final city in all of Santa Monica Bay to do this.

This ban eliminates smoking on the beaches thus improving the health and recreational experience of all beachgoers, reduces cigarette butt litter, reduces potentially harmful effects of cigarette butts being mistaken as food by birds and marine life, reduces the risk of burn from unextinguished cigarette butts in the sand, reduces the choking hazard of butts by children playing on the beach, and improves local water quality from cigarette butts leaching toxins into the sand and water zone.

The South Bay Chapter is part of the South Bay Coalition for Smoke-Free Beaches which includes American Heart Association, American Lung Association, American Cancer Society, Beach Cities Health District and Girls Club of LA.
More info.

San Diego County , CA

Sep 2008

Encinitas Plastic Bag Ban Ordinance

After several months of collaborative work between Surfrider Foundation San Diego Chapter activists and the City of Encinitas, the City Council voted to ban plastic bags and put a fee on paper bags in an effort to reduce single-use plastic consumption by its residents. As the first city in San Diego County to pass a bag ban, this put the City of Encinitas at the forefront of the fight against plastic marine debris. As part of the ban ordinance, there was a specific directive that there be significant education and that it be phased in slowly to work with both residents and the business community – developing a reasonable plan and time frame. San Diego Chapter RAP volunteers collected close to 2,000 signatures from residents in support of a ban and presented them to the five City Council members. This victory was part of the Chapter's Rise Above Plastics campaign efforts to educate the public and encourage reusable bags and water bottles.
More info.

Connecticut , CT

Sep 2008

Westport Connecticut Votes to Ban Plastic Checkout Bags

The Town of Westport, Connecticut,which is on a tidal estuary, Long Island Sound, voted on September 2, 2008 to ban plastic checkout bags at retail stores, becoming the first town on the East Coast to go plastic bag-free. At the stroke of midnight, the Westport Representative Town Meeting (RTM) approved a resolution, in a 26 to 5 vote (with 1 abstention), giving retailers six months to stop using disposable plastic bags at the checkout. This resolution is the first of its kind east of the Mississippi

Kasey Jacobs, Vice-Chair of the Connecticut Surfrider Chapter stated at the public hearing, "“Since their introduction to U.S. supermarkets in the late 1970's plastic bags have become a ubiquitous presence. Forty years is not a long enough time period to consider them irreplaceable though. No one is inferring that Westport can solve this global problem single-handedly, but this ban is about Westport doing its part and helping further spread this global movement. We can not ignore the fact that our oceans are connected. By voting yes tonight the RTM will forever put the Town of Westport on the map as being the first town on the East Coast to become plastic bag free." The chapter partnered with Citizens Campaign for the Environment on the campaign.

West Los Angeles / Malibu and South Bay , CA

Jul 2008

Plastic Bags Banned in Los Angeles

Surfrider’s Rise Above Plastics campaign gained another boost from Los Angeles City Council when they voted to ban plastic carryout bags in the city's supermarkets and stores by July 2010, if the state fails to impose a 25-cent fee on plastic shopping bags. In addition, the council members voted to reduce urban blight and marine debris by banning all expanded polystyrene (EPS or Styrofoam) food service products from City-owned facilities and city-sponsored events by 2010. The city’s resolution is geared at motivating consumers to begin carrying reusable bags to reduce the amount of plastic that washes into the city's storm drains and the ocean. Representatives from Surfrider’s West Los Angeles/Malibu and South Bay Chapters were present to give testimony regarding the City’s proposal. The ban was proposed by Councilman Ed Reyes, who called plastic bags "the graffiti of the L.A. River."

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