New Report: Understanding the Flow of Microplastics from our Cities to the Ocean

Despite increased awareness, plastic pollution continues to infiltrate our oceans and beaches, littering the seafloor, ocean surface, beaches and shorelines. It also takes a toll on our economy: California communities spend more than $428 million annually to clean up and control plastic pollution. Because plastic never truly degrades, only breaks into smaller and smaller pieces, clean up and control is extraordinarily difficult.

The good news is California has been a leader in slowing down plastic at the source by banning single-use plastic bags and the use of microplastics in face scrubs and toothpaste. Microplastics, those under five millimeters in size, are found even in places considered “pristine,” as well as in drinking water and food, including shellfish, salt, beer, and honey.

Understanding how microplastics end up where they do is critical to eliminating them from the environment. Toward that goal, OPC funded a study by the San Francisco Estuary Institute (SFEI), A Synthesis of Microplastic Sources and Pathways to Urban Runoff.

Building on SFEI’s major finding that storm-driven runoff from cities is a major pathway for microplastics to enter California’s waterways, this new report pulls together available information on pollution sources, including textiles, cigarette filters, other fibers, single-use plastic foodware and vehicle tires. It illustrates how plastic products break down into microplastic particles as they move through the environment, traveling through the air, depositing on the urban landscape, and washing into streams, rivers, and coastal locations during storm events.

SFEI’s findings, alongside the Microplastic Pollution in California: A Precautionary Framework and Scientific Guidance to Assess and Address the Risk to the Marine Environment released in May 2021, provide the foundation for the forthcoming Statewide Microplastics Strategy being developed by OPC pursuant to SB 1263 (Portantino, 2018), which will be considered for adoption by the Council at its Feb 2022 meeting.

Together, these reports have informed a two-prong approach to addressing microplastic pollution: ‘no-regrets’ actions that can be employed now to prevent the proliferation of microplastic pollution, and identifying California-specific research needs to inform future action.

Prop 68 Climate Resilience Miniseries Episode 13: Trinidad Community Coastal Resiliency Planning Project

“We would like our project to be an example of how to invite tribal entities to participate in and be integral to a collaborative coastal resilience planning process. The Trinidad area has three strong tribal entities that take a very active interest in what happens here. Everyone can benefit when we work together.” –  Becky Price-Hall

Photo by Shaun Walker for the Times-Standard, courtesy Trinidad Coastal Land Trust

Today we are in the City of Trinidad, within the ancestral coastal village of Tsurai in the aboriginal territory of the Yurok people since time immemorial.

This Prop 68 Project seeks to develop the Trinidad Community Coastal Resiliency Planning Project, the primary goal of which is to build community capacity and a shared vision for coastal resilience in the Trinidad area. Project managers will develop the Coastal Resilience Action Plan to be our roadmap, including a set of prioritized adaptation measures and implementation projects that emerge through the community engagement process. 

Community engagement is the key component of this project. “This coastal resilience planning process is not just a City exercise with input solicited from others. This is a Trinidad area or regional plan,” says Becky Price-Hall, Project and Grant Coordinator for the City of Trinidad. … read more

California Joins Global Network of Subnational Governments Promising Action on Biodiversity Conservation

Scientists have made it clear that stakes couldn’t be higher in the fight to save our planet’s species and habitats from extinction and devastation. On November 3, California became the first U.S. state to sign the Edinburgh Declaration, joining a global network of subnational governments promising bold action to conserve the planet’s biodiversity in the face of climate change.

The Edinburgh Declaration calls for transforming all sectors of society to address species loss and habitat destruction. It also highlights the key role that subnational governments can play in implementing global biodiversity goals.  

California’s Lieutenant Governor Eleni Kounalakis met with Scotland’s External Affairs Secretary Angus Robertson at COP 26 to formally sign the Declaration. “The nature crisis is real. We must move faster and on multiple fronts to address the joint crises of climate change and biodiversity loss,” Kounalakis said. “I am proud to sign the Edinburgh Declaration on behalf of Californians and our strong commitment to this global effort. As a subnational party with 40 million people to protect, 105 million acres we rely on for food, water, and habitat, and the fifth largest economy in the world to sustain, we understand what is at stake. There is no future in business as usual.” 

And California is already delivering on this vision. In October 2020, Governor Gavin Newsom issued Executive Order N-82-20, which elevates the role of nature-based solutions in California’s efforts to address climate change, protect biodiversity, and provide access for all Californians to the state’s precious natural areas.  … read more

Prop 68 Climate Resilience Miniseries Episode 12: Wiyot Climate Change Adaptation Plan

(Intro to the series here)

“Sea level rise will affect everybody and everything… We need to spread the word and work together.”  – Hilanea Wilkinson

Today we are in the ancestral territory of the Wiyot, in what is now known as Humboldt County, talking with members of the Prop 68 project carrying out Phase I of the Wiyot Climate Change Adaptation Plan. The goal of this phase of the project is to identify cultural and natural resources within its ancestral lands and waters vulnerable to SLR and climate change.

Interviews with Tribal elders, youth, and community members is an integral part of this project as the project team works towards developing a use protocol for the collection and application of traditional ecological knowledge, or TEK. The TEK protocol will serve as guidance on how to appropriately and respectfully apply TEK, with the ultimate goal of ensuring the protection of tribal cultural resources. … read more

Prop 68 Climate Resilience Miniseries Episode 11: Evaluating Sea Level Rise Adaptation Planning in Coastal California

(Intro to the series here)

“I hope we don’t fall into reactionary status quo.. but rather, take some bold steps in planning actions to try to adapt to sea-level rise in ways that might be a good bet.” – Charles Lester

Today we are talking with the University of California Santa Barbara project team leading a statewide evaluation of sea-level rise adaptation planning across California’s 76 coastal jurisdictions. One of the products of this work will be a user-friendly online inventory of adaptation planning occurring throughout the state. The Ocean Protection Council and the Office of Planning and Research are closely tracking the progress of this project and exploring opportunities to align and potentially merge the products from this work with the state’s Adaptation Clearinghouse.

Applying lessons learned from current and past action, the project team will develop recommendations for improving California’s coastal adaptation planning process, including the Local Coastal Plan policy update process. They will also assess alignment between local plans and the State’s Sea Level Rise Principles, released October 2020. … read more

Prop 68 Climate Resilience Miniseries Episode 10: Developing a San Diego Regional Coastal Resilience Roadmap

(Intro to the series here)

“By working together to develop a shared understanding of the risks we face as well as to prioritize the actions we can take to address them, we can be better prepared for the challenges that lie ahead.” – Emily Young

Today we are in San Diego County talking with members of the project team leading the development of a coastal resilience roadmap that will facilitate accelerated action for coastal resilience projects and investments that prioritize benefits to underserved communities in the region.

This Prop 68 Project will build capacity for the region as a whole and design an equitable approach that is community-led, allowing individuals living in these impacted or at-risk areas to inform the future direction of how the area is managed. The Nonprofit Institute and the San Diego Regional Climate Collaborative are partnering with the Local Government Commission and Resilient Cities Catalyst to complete this work. This large collaboration exemplifies how inclusivity has been at the center of this roadmap process since its inception.   … read more

Announcing Our New Sea Level Rise Campaign to Shore Up California!

(SACRAMENTO, California) – The California Natural Resources Agency today launched the nation’s first statewide campaign to raise awareness about the urgent threat that sea level rise poses to coastal and inland communities.

Dubbed “The Ocean Is Moving In,” the campaign features humorous videos and posters of various sea creatures taking up residence in people’s homes with the goal of inspiring people to visit the state’s new sea level rise website. While the tone is light-hearted, the messaging underscores the very serious impacts sea level rise will have on quality of life unless Californians start actively preparing:

  • 60 percent of California beaches are highly vulnerable to sea level rise.
  • $150 billion in California property is threatened by severe flooding.
  • Salt-water intrusion could compromise groundwater and drinking supplies.
  • Transportation hubs like the Pacific Coast Highway and SFO could be immobilized.

… read more

Prop 68 Climate Resilience Miniseries Episode 9: Bayshore Bikeway Resiliency Project

(Intro to the series here)

“I’ve seen Imperial Beach become the city it is today… We have a lot of opportunities to do really cool projects, and one of them is here on the south end of San Diego Bay.” – Chris Helmer

Today we are in the City of Imperial Beach, discussing a Prop 68 Project to determine the best path forward for a retrofit of a 1.2-mile segment of the San Diego Bayshore Bikeway. This project provides multiple benefits to the surrounding underserved community of Imperial Beach, including flood protection, sea level rise resilience, and enhanced coastal access. The bikeway is a heavily used recreational corridor that connects to adjacent communities (National City, Chula Vista, San Diego, Coronado, and Imperial Beach). This area is already experiencing coastal flooding during king tides, so action is needed now to remedy the flooding risks of today and into the future.

 Collaboration is key to the success of this project. Ultimately the project team is interested in leveraging their existing and growing partnerships with local and state agencies and organizations to protect this low-lying community of Imperial Beach from current and future flooding. The project team is hyper aware of the potential climate-driven impacts facing Imperial Beach and they’re working hard to be proactive and adapt before it’s too late.

“We’re looking to re-envision the future opportunities for this community, their recreational opportunities, and options for expanding habitat,” says Chris Helmer the Project Manager. “We’re thinking about our community, we’re thinking about the region, and we’re thinking about the environment and I think it’s essential for us to be pursuing projects like this,” adds Meagan Openshaw, a Senior Planner on the project.

The City of Imperial Beach, in collaboration with Nexus, will be working alongside GHD and City Thinkers to develop a variety of strategies for how to best address existing and future flooding for this community and its surrounding infrastructure as risks grow with sea level rise. The project team has prioritized engagement with the community and other relevant stakeholders throughout this process.  … read more

Prop 68 Climate Resilience Miniseries Episode 8: BEACON Sediment Management Pilot Program

(Intro to the series here)

“I’m excited to shorten the distance between the science that we all support and the actual way that we apply it to our restoration projects” – Marc Beyeler

Today we are in Ventura, California visiting the Surfer’s Point Dune Restoration Site which is an exemplary case study of sediment management, restoration, and managed retreat. Adjacent to this dune restoration site is an area that has experienced extensive erosion with remnants of bike pathways, parking lots, and sewage plumbing from decades past now eroded, exposed, and part of the beach landscape. This stark contrast provided a nice visual representation of the problem (beach erosion) facing much of California’s coast juxtaposed to one of the many solutions (managed retreat).

The Beach Erosion Authority for Clean Oceans and Nourishment (BEACON) is a Joint Powers Authority whose members include the Counties of Santa Barbara and Ventura as well as the coastal cities of Santa Barbara, Goleta, Carpinteria, Ventura, Oxnard and Port Hueneme, covering 144 miles of coastline. BEACON seeks to keep important sediment within the coastal watershed that would otherwise be hauled to a disposal site. To increase coastal resilience to erosion and sea level rise impacts, BEACON works to plan and implement projects that include sediment management, beach nourishment, and beach and dune restoration. … read more

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