This November will decide the next few years for Laguna Beach as we vote on three of the five City Council seats. My vote will go to the candidate speaking the most about one particular word. This one word defines Laguna and the health of our greenbelt and bluebelt. It is the source of the air we breathe, the rainwater and distant snowmelt we depend upon to quench our thirst, water our crops and feed our community. The word also determines our economy, the high cost of rent and mortgages, and is the driving theme in local art and culture. The word I will be listening for is “ocean.”
Pretty much everyone loves the ocean. It is beautiful and gives us cool coastal breezes as the rest of the country sizzles in record-breaking temperatures. It is both inspirational and meditative, a source of pleasure and restoration. Unfortunately, the ocean is also where we ultimately dump our wastewater after we flush the toilet, wash our clothes or do the dishes.
Environmental awareness and social consciousness guide us to consider our impacts to our surroundings. Mindfulness can direct our attention to the health of the ocean we love and move us to take sustainable action to protect what is so essential to our community, our health and our wealth—the ocean.
City Council candidates will have the next few months before the November election to express their awareness of the ocean’s importance to Laguna Beach voters. They can tell us why the city’s 1.6 million gallons of sewage conveyed to the Coastal Treatment Plant just inland of the Aliso Creek Golf Course is never recycled but sent as secondary sewage to the Aliso Creek Ocean Outfall. The city’s water district is the only South County agency without recycled water, claiming “we are an old city,” like Dana Point and Newport Beach, both of which have added extensive recycled water programs funded by generous state grants and “new water” revenues.
Since South Laguna is served by South Coast Water District, much of our wastewater is recycled to irrigate the Montage Resort, Village Green Park and, recently, Mission Hospital. More is sent south to Dana Point for citywide use. Every gallon of wastewater “upcycled” as recycled water is one less gallon discharged to the Aliso Creek Ocean Outfall just 1.2 miles offshore. Inland cities and our cousins north of Nyes Place in Laguna Beach, however, add 10 million gallons each day to the underwater “Laguna Poobelt” plume.
Some City Council candidates will say “there is nothing we can do” and will get elected to do nothing about local ocean pollution. Others may take the next few months to add meetings to their campaigns with inland water districts and design new solutions to ocean pollution by bringing recycled water to all of Laguna Beach. A few leaders may even present a plan for public-private partnerships (PPPs) with smart companies to design, build and operate improvements to the Coastal Treatment Plant and finally bring a perimeter recycled water system to prevent and suppress annual wildfires threatening our community.
Of course, not every City Council candidate is skillful enough to regularly monitor the ocean’s health, but they can have a designated swimmer or diver report to them the ever-changing conditions in local ocean waters. Candidates may come to realize the central role the ocean plays in Laguna Beach and promote an Ocean Commission to attract the world’s top scientists to study and improve the Laguna Bluebelt. Hopefully they recognize the value of a healthy ocean that sequesters carbon to mitigate global warming and insures a thriving and well-hydrated Laguna Greenbelt and community.
In this contested election, every City Council candidate will want your vote, so your voice matters. If you care about the health of the ocean, let them know it.
Mike Beanan serves on the city’s Environmental & Sustainability Committee and is co-founder of the Laguna Bluebelt Coalition.