Last week, CCKA teamed up with environmental and labor groups from throughout the state to rally support in Sacramento for critical oceans and coastal reforms. For more than a decade, California Ocean Day has educated decision-makers on ocean and coastal issues and rallied support for key legislation. This year’s event was the most successful to date, with 100 advocates from environmental, environmental justice, business, and labor organizations participating in over 90 meetings with California Senators and Assembly Members. CCKA convened a special Ocean Day delegation of Blue Business Council members who spoke firsthand about the impacts of ocean acidification and water pollution to North Coast oyster growing operations.
Our ocean partners are advancing dozens of critical reforms worthy of support. Here are our top five priorities for heathy oceans in 2017:
Defend the CA Coast and Ocean from National Attack
Senate Bill 49, the Environmental Defense Act, is arguably the most important piece of legislation on the California docket this year. By embedding federal protections at risk into our state law, we can preserve minimum safeguards that protect endangered and threatened marine and coastal species, such as the Guadalupe fur seal and blue whale, as well as clean water standards that guard against degraded coastal water quality.
The Environmental Defense Act is part of a package of bills aimed at shoring up state protections against federal rollbacks. Included in that package is SB 50, which establishes a new state process to ensure that federal lands in California are protected through state action.
Together these bills ensure that weakened standards at the federal level will not reduce the existing protections upon which California’s communities, businesses, and environment have come to depend.
Protect our Coast from Oil and Gas
Our Governor, Legislature, and state agencies will have a vital role in protecting the West Coast from renewed interest in offshore oil and gas exploration. Local Waterkeepers who have been affected by recent spills, Santa Barbara Channelkeeper and San Francisco Baykeeper, are at the forefront of efforts to advance reforms to protect our coast from oil impacts, including measures to remediate legacy oil and gas wells and develop tar sands oil spill response plans.
Access for All to the Coast
Coastal access is guaranteed for all Californians by law and integral to our way of life. However, a recent UCLA study found that while 90% of Californians find the coast personally important, a majority thought coastal access was difficult, all too often because of rising costs. Reforms are underway to reduce those barriers and make the coast accessible to all by increasing the availability of affordable overnight accommodation, reasserting the authority of local agencies to develop affordable coastal housing, and minimizing the access limitations imposed by sea walls.
Make our Coast and Oceans More Resilient
Last year, the West Coast Ocean Acidification and Hypoxia Panel recommended a number of research and management strategies to address changing ocean conditions. Local Waterkeepers are assisting with research and monitoring while Orange County Coastkeeper is leading local seagrass restoration efforts, which may mitigate acidic conditions.
As part of larger efforts to increase resilience to climate change, CCKA is supporting wetland carbon sequestration. Assembly Bill 388, a priority piece of legislation for CCKA, makes the reuse of dredged materials for carbon sequestration, wetland protection, and sea level rise mitigation eligible for Greenhouse Gas Reduction Funding, providing both climate change mitigation and adaptation benefits.
Reduce Pollution to the Coast and Ocean
Pollution that originates on land, such as agricultural pollution and stormwater runoff, has a profound impact on coastal water quality. Pollution hotspots and toxic conditions trigger beach and fishery closures that harm the people, businesses, and marine life that depend on our coast. CCKA and Waterkeepers work every day on policies, permits, and restoration to reduce pollution flows to the coast. Sacramento decision-makers can directly support these efforts by disbursing Proposition 1 and other bond funding to local restoration projects that reduce pollution and make our coast more resilient.