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12 • 20 • 2022

A Look Ahead at Protecting our Coasts and Ocean with Surfrider in 2023

By Zachary Plopper

As we close out 2022 and look to the future, the Surfrider team could not be more excited for what is ahead. Although the pressures on our coasts and ocean continue - from plastic pollution to sewage spills and sea level rise to irresponsible shoreline development - we have never felt better equipped to effectively protect what we love. 

With a chapter and student club network spanning 26 states and territories, along with our amazing staff of expert conservationists, scientists, and grassroots activists, we are ready to take on the biggest challenges facing our ocean in 2023.

Here is a snapshot of what we will be working on in the coming year:

Clean Water

Our efforts to protect clean water on our coasts is never ending. From aging pipes to climate-fueled storms that overwhelm our sewage infrastructure, our team is on the frontlines every day to make sure our beaches are safe to surf, swim, and play.

In 2023, we will be asking congress to provide $15 million to support the Beaches Environmental Assessment and Coastal Health (BEACH) Act. The 22 year-old law requires the EPA to test, monitor, and notify users of water quality issues on our beaches. This is the primary funding source for most of the local beach water quality monitoring programs in the U.S., yet each year the funding for this critical program is at risk. 

Thanks to Surfrider’s advocacy, the BEACH Act received a historic investment of more than $10 million in 2022. While this will help, it is still not enough to test all of our nation’s beaches. To help fill the gaps in this testing, Surfrider’s 55 volunteer-run Blue Water Task Force Labs will test 500 beaches around the nation in 2023 to keep more people informed of their local water quality. 

Meanwhile, Surfrider will advocate for more than six state policies that improve water quality monitoring, public notification, and sewage treatment infrastructure from Maine to Washington to Florida to Hawaii. 

Surfrider will also continue to work at the local and national level to stop pollution at the source. We will grow our sustainable landscaping program, Ocean Friendly Gardens, to prevent stormwater pollution in urban areas, while also providing habitat for wildlife and cultivating healthy soils. In 2023, Surfrider will continue to advocate for increased federal funding to the EPA Clean Water State Revolving Fund to upgrade our nation’s failing wastewater infrastructure, and work with state and federal agencies to address the funding gap needed to improve ocean water quality on the US/Mexico border.

Plastic Pollution

By 2035, it is our goal that all single-use plastic consumer products in the U.S. have been eliminated, preventing land-based plastic waste from entering the ocean. In 2023, we will take a quantum leap forward to achieve this ambitious target. Through passing policies at state, local, and federal levels, working with businesses, and on-the-ground actions, we will be preventing pollution on our beaches and reducing the unnecessary plastic waste that goes into our waterways and ocean.

We have nine statewide policy priorities that will skip the stuff at restaurants, ban polystyrene, require deposits to be paid on beverages sold in recyclable bottles and cans, and achieve other plastic pollution reduction measures. At a local level, we will continue to pass local ordinances where needed that curb plastic pollution, and at the federal scale, we are focusing on two comprehensive bills. 

Our goal in 2023 is to eliminate single use plastic from federal government purchasing and on public lands. Meanwhile, Surfrider will advocate for environmental justice federal legislation with the Protecting Communities from Plastic Act. This bill will establish stricter rules for petrochemical plants to safeguard human health, reduce plastic production greenhouse gas emissions, and create new nationwide targets for plastic source reduction and reuse in the packaging and food service sectors.

In addition to advocating for policies at local, state, and federal levels, Surfrider’s Healthy Beaches Programs will continue to reduce the amount of plastics from entering our oceans. Our network will carry out more than 1,000 beach cleanups in 2023 while our Ocean Friendly Restaurants will expand to new businesses.   

Coast and Climate

Our rapidly changing climate served up exactly what was predicted in 2022 - devastating hurricanes, unprecedented coastal erosion, warming ocean temperatures, and other impacts. Fortunately, Congress passed the Inflation Reduction Act to spur urgent actions that, in addition to historic investments in clean energy, will improve climate resilience on our coasts. In 2023, Surfrider will actively monitor and guide where these funds will be spent in order to maximize adaptation opportunities along our beaches and wetlands. 

Our national network will be advocating for at least 10 state-level climate policies that improve sea level rise planning and facilitate nature-based solutions on our coasts. These include providing critical funding for coastal resilience projects, addressing climate hazards, and habitat protection and restoration. At a local level, Surfrider’s chapters will continue to fight bad projects that unnecessarily harden our shores and put development in harm's way. 

To help our coastlines adapt and even mitigate the impacts of climate change, Surfrider will be working across the country to restore coastal ecosystems including coastal dunes and carbon storing mangroves. In Puerto Rico, Surfrider will be restoring 40 acres of mangrove forest that was badly damaged from Hurricane Maria in 2017 as well as adjacent dunes that help buffer this carbon-sink against future storms. Our chapters in Nouth Carolina, Maine, and Florida will continue to restore coastal dunes and nationally we will explore new opportunities for coastal habitat and blue carbon ecosystem protection and restoration. 

Ocean Protection

In 2023, Surfrider will work to stop new offshore drilling in U.S. waters. Early in the year, the Biden Administration will release a new five-year drilling plan on which our chapter network on all coasts has been advocating for no new leases. We will be watching for the release of this plan and urge congress to hold the utmost protections for our federal waters. This will include opportunities to pass legislation that prohibits drilling in the Atlantic, Pacific, eastern Gulf of Mexico, and Arctic waters.

Meanwhile, Surfrider will work to create new protections for coastal and marine habitats. We will continue with our coalition partners to establish the 4.9 million-acre Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary in California to preserve Chumash tribal history and protect the area’s rich biodiversity. On the East Coast, we will continue to work on establishing the 1.8 million-acre Hudson Canyon National Marine Sanctuary that will protect the largest submarine canyon in the U.S. Atlantic and one of the largest in the world. 

In Puerto Rico, Surfrider will be working with local communities to establish a new marine protected area (MPA) as well as open illegally blocked access to other MPAs on the island.

Beach Access

Maintaining public access to our coast is paramount to the work of Surfrider and in 2023 we will have at least two access related priority campaigns. In south Texas, we will be working to protect public beach and open space access as well as habitat for endangered birds, Kemp’s Ridley sea turtles, and other wildlife against the expansion and beach impacts of the Boca Chica SpaceX launch site. Among its many threats, the project is poised to close the only public road to the coast for approximately 800 hours a year. 

In Oregon, Surfrider will be working to restore the public’s long-standing access to Lighthouse Beach in Coos Bay. The pathway to this beloved community beach was suddenly cut off to the public by barbed wire in 2021, spurring the Coos Bay Surfrider Foundation Chapter to take action to restore access. Surfrider has filed litigation to defend public beach access rights, and the case is scheduled to go to court in April 2023.

As you can tell, 2023 will be another busy year for the Surfrider network. When you love something as much as we love our coasts, there is no choice but to work everyday to protect it. Please join us on our mission and become a member of the Surfrider Foundation today.