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Beach Report Card Gives California Good Marks, Unless It Rains

Los Angeles County's beaches fare worse than last year in annual ratings released by environmental group Heal the Bay. Mother's Beach in Marina del Rey and Dockweiler State Beach in Playa del Rey fare poorly in wet weather.

Los Angeles County's beaches are among the state's most bacteria-ridden, according to an annual Beach Report Card from environmental group Heal the Bay that was released Wednesday morning at a press conference on the Santa Monica Pier.

Four of the 10 "Beach Bummers," Heal the Bay's list of worst-performing beaches statewide, are located in Los Angeles County: Avalon Harbor on Catalina Island, Cabrillo Beach, Topanga State Beach, and Colorado Lagoon in Long Beach.

Only 75 percent of L.A. County's beaches scored A or B grades during year-round dry weather, Heal the Bay reported, a 5 percent decrease over last year.

Still, overall, California's beaches fared well. The reports, which are calculated based on weekly testing across 445 state beaches, showed that almost 90 percent of state beaches routinely receive A or B grades.

The real issue is rain.

In Los Angeles County, 46 percent of our beaches get an F during wet weather, when rain overloads drainage systems and pushes sewage and other bacteria out to sea.

"People blame birds or kelp," but that doesn't explain the huge discrepancies between dry weather and rainy weather bacteria levels, said Heal the Bay president Mark Gold. "A hundred percent of beaches with no drainage got an A in dry weather."

"Soon or later, local government is going to have to generate revenue to clean up our beaches," Gold said.

Gold pointed where he was standing, Santa Monica Pier, as an example of how local government can help protect the ocean and swimmers. Santa Monica replaced the storm drain under the pier, and has installed nets to prevent birds. The project was funded by Measure V, the Clean Beaches and Ocean Parcel Tax, which passed in 2006.

"This beach, which went from one of the worst in the state, got an A this year," Santa Monica City Councilman Bobby Shriver said. He thanked Santa Monica residents for voting to tax themselves to complete the project.

Locally, the placid waters of Mother's Beach in Marina received an A in the mandatory reporting period from April through October and an F in wet weather and during the winter. The area near the lifeguard tower received an A in April through October, with an F grade in wet weather and a C in the winter. In the current 30-day scorecard, the playground area has an A+ grade in dry weather and an F in wet weather and an A in dry weather and F in rainy weather for the area near the lifeguard tower.

At Dockweiler State Beach in Playa del Rey, the area near the mouth of Ballona Creek has B marks for April through October and dry weather, an F when it's wet and a D in the winter in the 2011 scorecard. The Culver Boulevard drain has A ratings except when it rains, then it scores a B in the 2011 scorecard. The Imperial Highway drain gets A's in the scorecard, except when it rains and scores a D.

"Water quality is very important to public health," said Cedar Sinai's Dr. Aliza Lifshitz. She cautioned swimmers and parents to be alert for upper respiratory and intestinal infections, as well as rashes from exposure to bacteria.

She also warned parents of the still waters that families tend to flock to. "The areas that seem ideal for young kids are also ideal for bacteria," she said.

This was the 21st year Heal the Bay released a Beach Report Card. Heal the Bay's local partners test the ocean for contaminants year round, but due to cuts enacted during the Schwarzenegger administration, state funding for beach monitoring is expected to end this year.

The complete report can be found at www.beachreportcard.org.

This was also the first year Heal the Bay's report card included beaches in Oregon and Washington.

Nancy Vernon Marino May 26, 2011 at 04:03 PM
An A+ for the Mothers Beach playground? Incredible! What report did you use for your article? My downloaded HtB2011 annual report shows the following grades for the Mothers Beach playground: A AB411 (April - October testing period mandated by AB411) B Dry (year Round) F Wet (year round) F Dry (winter) The area near the lifeguard tower was rated a "C" during the winter dry period. Mothers Beach water has greatly improved since the installation of the water circulators several years ago. But the beach is still far from pristine, especially during the winter--and especially in the vicinity of the playground.
Paul Chavez May 26, 2011 at 05:33 PM
The A+ for Mother's Beach playground was from the current Heal the Bay scorecard: http://brc.healthebay.org/

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