Santa Monica Baykeeper Stands Up for Clean Water

Liz Crosson joined Santa Monica Baykeeper as its executive director in May 2010, and her current work focuses on eliminating pollution and preventing the degradation of Southern California’s aquatic and coastal ecosystems. With Santa Monica Baykeeper’s inaugural Splash: Stand Up for Clean Water Paddleboard Race and Environmental Festival under her belt, Liz sat down with LA Stormwater to talk about the work Baykeeper is doing in its role as Waterkeeper and “watchdog” for Santa Monica Bay.

LA Stormwater: Tell us about Santa Monica Baykeeper’s history and mission.

Liz Crosson: Founded in 1993, Santa Monica Baykeeper’s mission is to protect and restore the Santa Monica Bay, San Pedro Bay and adjacent waters through enforcement, fieldwork, and community action.  We work to achieve this goal through litigation, restoration, and regulatory programs that ensure water quality protections in our bay, beaches and other waterways throughout L.A. County.

Santa Monica Baykeeper (Baykeeper) is a proud member of the California Coastkeeper Alliance and is one of nearly 200 members of the international Waterkeeper Alliance, led by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.  Each US member of the Alliance (or “Waterkeeper”) is dedicated to enforcement of the federal Clean Water Act and the protection of local waterways.  Using environmental attorneys, marine biologists, watershed ecologists, activists, and technical experts, Baykeeper has been successfully protecting Los Angeles County’s bay, beaches and waterways for more than 17 years, often forcing corporations and local governments to abide by laws already in place.  Baykeeper also serves a vital role as a “watchdog” identifying problems that impact our coastal water quality and aggressively pursuing solutions to these problems.  Further, Baykeeper has been involved in issues of statewide and national importance, taking a lead in creating change beyond our own backyard.

LA Stormwater: Which Baykeeper program are you most proud of?

Liz Crosson: The Advocacy Program is at the heart of Baykeeper’s work. In this program, we identify and investigate major sources of industrial and bacterial pollution to significantly reduce threats to public health and aquatic organisms in our watershed and marine habitats, while actively advocating to protect and restore high quality habitats to prevent further degradation. We ensure stronger controls on stormwater and sewage pollution throughout the Los Angeles Basin, leverage our legal and scientific expertise in regional water quality and habitat decisions, and educate the public on aquatic species and marine habitats such as rocky reef, kelp forests, and eel grass in the Santa Monica and San Pedro Bays. While our approach is often focused on regulatory compliance and enforcement, we also work with municipalities and industrial facilities to creatively determine effective and affordable pathways towards clean water. For example, in 2004 Baykeeper and local environmental justice organizations entered into a settlement agreement with the City of Los Angeles that required the City to systematically improve and maintain nearly 7,000 miles of aging sewer lines. Because of that agreement, the City has reduced sewer spills in the City by 84% – measurably decreasing the risk of sickness at our beaches and in our rivers throughout the region. This has become a collaborative effort between the City and Baykeeper and represents a very important and effective working relationship.

LA Stormwater: Next year, Baykeeper will celebrate its 20th anniversary. What changes have you seen in LA’s water quality in the last two decades?

Liz Crosson: Over the past two decades, we have participated in the systematic increase in water quality at our beaches. As a result of our settlement agreement with the City of LA, the imposition of critical bacteria pollution limits at Santa Monica Bay beaches, and the enforcement of key regional and statewide permits – our beaches are on a trajectory towards cleaner water. We believe we are also witnessing a shift in awareness and attention to water quality issues in Los Angeles. Many more individuals and families are interested in clean water issues not only at our highly frequented beaches, but near our rivers and streams. This change in consciousness is necessary for urbanized Los Angeles to change its ways and prioritize clean industry and clean water throughout the county.

LA Stormwater: What do you attribute to these changes?

Liz Crosson: I think that municipalities and local residents are beginning to understand how our actions upstream affect water downstream.

LA Stormwater: What changes would you like to see in the next 20 years?

Liz Crosson: It is important that businesses and cities prioritize clean water as an objective. Meeting water quality limits meant to protect human health and the environment should be considered an essential goal of any business or city. The most important thing I would like to see in LA over the next several years is the elimination of beach closures and advisories due to human-induced pollution – fishable and swimmable waters for all!

LA Stormwater: Recently, Baykeeper hosted its inaugural Stand Up for Clean Water Paddleboard Race. What was this event’s genesis?

Liz Crosson: In celebration of the Clean Water Act’s 40th Anniversary and Earth Day, Santa Monica Baykeeper and the Waterkeeper Alliance hosted the 1st Annual Splash: Stand-Up for Clean Water Paddleboard Race & Festival to raise awareness about stormwater runoff and ocean pollution, and Santa Monica Baykeeper’s role in the protection and restoration of waterways in Los Angeles County. Hundreds of clean water supporters and outdoor enthusiasts gathered at Santa Monica Beach for a day of stand-up paddling including competitive and fun races, demos, lessons, SUP sea cleanup, and SUP Yoga.

Photo courtesy of Liz Crosson.

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Comments (2)

  1. Avatar for LAadmin
    d3 gold
    June 12th, 2012 at 8:30 am

    Very interesting information! Perfect just what I was looking for!

    • Avatar for LAadmin
      LA Stormwater
      June 12th, 2012 at 10:17 am

      Glad we could help out! Did you know that Santa Monica Baykeeper will be changing their name to LA Waterkeeper at the end of June? We look forward to partnering with them for years to come.

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