Getting our beaches in shape for summer
by Brian Bilbray, 50th District, U.S. House of Representatives
Published - 07/09/08 - 12:16 PM | 1234 views | 0 0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Hanging out at the beach is one of San Diego County's favorite pasttimes.

Whether it's strolling the sand in Ocean Beach or Point Loma, riding the surf at Swami's, flinging a Frisbee at Fletcher Cove or wading through the waves at Tamarack, our beautiful beaches are a great place to have fun and unwind.

Beaches are undeniably an essential part of the wonderful quality of life we enjoy here.

With another San Diego summer set to begin, I'm happy to say that great progress has been made to improve the water quality at our beaches. As a surfer and former lifeguard, the health of our coastal waters has always been important to me, and I am very pleased by the collaboration that has taken place between our local, state and federal representatives.

According to the latest Beach Closure and Advisory Report by the San Diego County Department of Environmental Health, beach closures have dropped significantly since 2000. The county measures beach closures using "beach mile days" (BMDs), which are calculated by multiplying the number of beach closures by the number of miles of beach that are closed or posted.

Up and down the coastline of San Diego County, the number of BMDs for bacterial contamination fell from 83 in 2000 to just 11 in 2007.

In addition, the number of beach closures that have been caused specifically by sewage spills has dropped dramatically in recent years.

How was this accomplished? Much of the credit goes to local regulators, wastewater agencies and the business community for making great strides to reduce the amount of contaminated stormwater runoff that empties into our beaches and bays. Not to be left out, Mother Nature has certainly done her part by limiting the amount of local rainfall.

Also key to our success was the passage and implementation of the bipartisan BEACH (Beaches Environmental Assessment and Coastal Health Act) Act of 2000.

This important piece of legislation, which I authored and President Clinton signed into law, established national standards for beach monitoring and public notification programs. It also provided federal funding to local water quality agencies to help implement these programs.

Last month, the House of Representatives voted to reauthorize the BEACH Act through 2012 and increased by 33 percent the amount of federal funding available to expand local monitoring. The House also approved my amendment, which could lead to a new water testing method where results could be returned in a matter of hours, not days. Specifically, the amendment requires the EPA to assess the benefits of using molecular testing "” a newer, faster process that has shown great promise "“ with the more commonly used method known as culture testing.

Has the battle for clean water been won? No, not by a long shot. We still have much to do. But with Democrats and Republicans working in a bipartisan fashion with local leaders, I have every reason to believe that progress will continue.

Surf's up! Have a great summer.

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