Your Week in Ocean: Beautify Your Beaches, Happify At A Hoedown

Jennifer Savage / Wednesday, April 16 @ 5:51 a.m. / Ocean

Spotlighting beach trash

Yesterday I interviewed Angela Haseltine Pozzi, founder of Washed Ashore, a project dedicated to saving the ocean through creating art out of marine debris. One of the key experiences propelling Pozzi into this line of work happened when she was walking on the beach seeking comfort – “The cure for anything is salt water: tears, sweat, or the sea,” the Isak Dinesen quote goes – and discovered her refuge littered with plastics and other trash. 

Most of us already get that litter is bad, but there’s something different about coming upon trash in the wilderness than, say, in San Francisco’s Tenderloin. You’re not usually heading to the Tenderloin in search of peace and beauty. Excellent food and drinks, maybe, and cheaper apartments than elsewhere in the City, but the streets are something to get through quickly; walking through them does not exactly refresh one’s soul. Of course trash wafts over sidewalks, piles up in the gutters – look where you are. It’s appalling on an intellectual level and worthy of note, but lacks the visceral punch-in-the-gut people feel when they are in the redwoods, by the river, at the beach, in the ocean, anywhere we’ve instinctively turned for sanctuary and respite, and find trash blighting the experience.

Recently, stories about the impact of beach and ocean trash have been on the rise. From the search for a missing plane highlighting the massive plastic soup in the Indian Ocean to the ongoing path-crossing between clean beach advocates and homeless folks, debris remains a problem plaguing our ocean, rivers, bay and beaches. Where to start solving it?

The usual litany of buying less, reusing more, recycling what you can and properly disposing of what you can’t remains a legitimate start to a more ocean-friendly lifestyle. So does getting yourself out to any of our ongoing local cleanup events.

For some hands-on action – and in honor of Earth Day – you’re invited to make an impact at any of the following locations on Saturday, April 19:

It feels good to leave the beach cleaner than you found it. There’s a satisfaction that comes with looking across a newly pristine swatch of sand, birds fluttering along the wave slope, that grand blue ocean unfurling across the horizon.

And after you’re done inhaling the salty sea breeze, you can celebrate at the Second Annual Earth Day Hoedown at the Humboldt Coastal Nature Center – HUMBOLDT’S BEST BUILDING – from 3 to 7 p.m. Admission is $5-$10 sliding scale, free for cleanup volunteers, with music by Lyndsey Battle and the Striped Pig Stringband, plus barn dance calling by Nigella Mahal. Want more? Dell’Arte stilt walkers, facepainting and other children’s activities await, and Nature’s Serving will offer food for sale. Let’s not forget that beer, sangria and lemonade will be available as well. 


Tune into Coastal Currents today (Wednesday, April 16) on KHUM at noon to hear yours truly debate midday DJ Mike Dronkers on the pros and cons of dumping garbage into the bay. (Spoiler: There are no pros!)

Tune into The EcoNews Report tomorrow (Thursday, April 17) on KHSU at 1:30 p.m. for an interview with Washed Ashore Founder Angela Haseltine Pozzi and Mad River Alliance’s Dave Feral.

Save the Date for DamNation

This’ll be a big one. Join the NEC, Humboldt Baykeeper and Humboldt Surfrider for a showing of DamNation, one of the most requested movies Ocean Night coordinators have experienced, on Thursday, May 1 at 6:30 p.m. in the Arcata Theatre Lounge. Also showing: Southern California Steelhead: Against All Odds and Swing North. CalTrout and Friends of the Eel River join this special night. More details next week.


Your Week in Ocean, Part Two: U.S. Navy vs. Whales Comments Due

Jennifer Savage / Friday, April 11 @ 2:37 p.m. / Activism , Ocean

A humpback whale in the Navy’s Northwest Training and Testing range by Jeff Jacobsen.

A quick reminder: The period for public comment on the Navy’s proposed sonar and explosive weapons testing was extended through Tuesday, April 15. If you haven’t already submitted comments to the Navy’s website, you’ll want to do it before then.

Environmental advocates (including the Northcoast Environmental Center and Humboldt Surfrider) are urging the Navy to use “exclusion zones” – to avoid areas known to be critical habitat and feeding/foraging grounds for whales and dolphins.

A recap

  • The proposed activities are expected to injure, disturb or kill more than 100,000 individual animals, including 29 different marine mammal species protected under the Marine Mammal Act.
  • The proposed activities can cause whales and dolphins to abandon important habitat, halt foraging behavior and forgo critical feeding opportunities needed to survive.
  • Similar testing and training projects have resulted in mass strandings elsewhere, which is not adequately addressed in the Environmental Impact Statement.
  • This proposal does not ensure adequate mitigation to prevent harm to sea life.
  • In particular, on-ship “lookouts” are an insufficient means of detecting nearby marine mammals.
  • Areas of critical habitat, foraging and feeding have been identified and should be avoided.
  • Establishment of “exclusion zones” around these areas would go a long way to protecting endangered species, such as the blue whale.
  • More progressive alternatives to traditional training and testing should be explored; simulations and other non-harmful training methods should be emphasized and utilized to the maximum degree.  




Your Week in Ocean: Fecal Matters, Whales and Birds

Jennifer Savage / Wednesday, April 9 @ 7:42 a.m. / Activism , Ocean

Children playing at Moonstone Beach courtesy Jen Kalt, Humboldt Baykeeper.

One of the problems with water is how many of the problems pass by undetected. The ocean looks fine from the beach, the rivers race along merrily and the streams serve as poster children for bucolic photos illustrating our high quality of life.

Burbling along in those streams, however, is  notable amount of poop-related bacteria. If we’re not attentive, we may find ourselves up that proverbial creek without a paddle. Back in March, we noted Humboldt Baykeeper’s winter flow study on Janes, Jolly Giant, Jacoby and Campbell creeks. You’ll remember that those results showed Janes Creek is responsible for more than 75 percent of the fecal coliform (E. coli) going into Humboldt Bay – a whopping 375 lbs. per day. (During dry weather, Jolly Giant Creek carries the majority of E. coli- polluted runoff.)

Runoff polluted with fecal coliform has long been a significant water quality problem in the Humboldt Bay watershed, affecting the Bay ecosystem, water-based recreation and the commercial oyster industry. The County Environmental Health monitors local beaches and posts warnings, but little has been done to pinpoint the sources and solve the problems.

Due to the continued presence of fecal coliform in our streams, Regional Water Board staff is recommending six streams for listing under Section 303(d) of the Clean Water Act due to bacterial pollution:

  • Little River: The Little River at Moonstone Beach County Park is a popular spot for children to play in the shallow river all year long. Many people surf, boogie board, fish and crab at Moonstone Beach, and they kayak, stand up paddle, and even swim in the Little River.
  • Jolly Giant Creek & Campbell Creek in Arcata: These two creeks flow into the region of Humboldt Bay that support commercial oyster farms. Although the Bay itself does not have high E. coli levels when oysters are harvested, the farms are required to stop harvesting after major storms, when E. coli washes into the creeks and flows into the Bay. On average, the oyster industry shuts down 30 days each year to protect public health and safety.
  • Widow White Creek/Mad River: This creek winds through suburban neighborhoods of McKinleyville, where children play in the water. Children often play in the creek where its lower reach flows onto a popular public beach before reaching the Mad River.
  • Martin’s Slough/Lower Elk River: The Elk River supplies drinking water to many residents. Martin’s Slough attracts children to play in its waters where it flows through suburban neighborhoods. People have been known to surf at “Stinky Beach” near the Elk River mouth in Humboldt Bay.

Note that Humboldt Bay is not being considered for listing, since monthly samples collected by the Shellfish Technical Advisory Committee (under the California Department of Public Health’s Management Plan For Commercial Shellfishing In Humboldt Bay) are below the threshold for shellfish harvest. These samples are collected when shellfish can be harvested, so the 303(d) listing will not negatively affect the oyster industry. 

Humboldt Baykeeper is encouraging residents to write brief comments supporting the recommended listing so that this type of pollution will become a higher priority for state and local agencies.

Baykeeper’s Jen Kalt will discuss all this today on Coastal Currents at noon on KHUM 104.7 FM (stream here).

Further reading: “Northern California rivers and fish doomed.

Navy still killing whales

The U.S. Navy continues to be implicated in mass whale strandings while “playing war games.” The comment period for the Navy’s plans to utilize sonar technology, electromagnetic devices and explosives in its testing and training grounds that run offshore from Humboldt to Alaska has been extended to April 15. The Northcoast Environmental Center has a summary and petition signing effort here.

Arcata still celebrating birds

The 19th annual Godwit Days Spring Migration Bird Festival kicks off April 16. Tune into KHSU 90.5 FM’s The EcoNews Report tomorrow at 1:30 p.m. for an overview of all the different ways in which our feathered friends are being celebrated.

PacOut Green Team still cleaning up

Pacific Outfitters’ effort to rid Humboldt County beaches of trash continues every Saturday. Join the weekly event on a regular basis or as you’re able. 

Additionally, several local organizations are celebrating Earth Day by collecting garbage off local beaches and rivers – and then continuing the celebration in Humboldt’s County’s best building

Jennifer Savage is the Northcoast Environmental Center’s Coastal Programs Director and chairs the Surfrider Foundation’s Humboldt Chapter.

Your Week in Ocean: Rebels, Saviors

Jennifer Savage / Wednesday, April 2 @ 9:18 a.m. / Activism , Ocean

“Beginning in the 1950s, a national bipartisan movement was born of principles that may seem obvious today. Unconvinced by land developers who promoted residential construction as unmitigated progress, citizens and politicians banded together to preserve open spaces near where they lived. Without these efforts, the Point Reyes National Seashore and the Golden Gate National Recreation Area would not be the coastal wonders they are today.”

– from a National Park Service press release announcing ‘Rebels With a Cause’

Tomorrow’s Ocean Night feature, Rebels With a Cause, seems particularly timely given all the discussion around Humboldt County’s General Plan Update. 

The film documents efforts that began in the 1950s to protect wild areas near cities for parks and farms. Behind those efforts were garden club members, ranchers, farmers, conservationists, politicians from both parties, widows, and volunteers working together through compromise and negotiation. Their demands traveled all the way to the White House, where a Vietnam-mired Nixon initially fought to keep funding from the National Park Service. Ultimately these “Rebels With a Cause” emerged victorious – the 14 National Seashores dotting California’s coast stand in testament to their success. The American public, the film notes, came up as a winner.

Director Nancy Kelly will be on KHUM‘s Coastal Currents today at noon. 

Ocean Night takes place Thursday, April 3 at 6:30 p.m. in the Arcata Theatre Lounge.

In other news, two of those pesky dock blocks that keep washing up on our beaches have been removed, thanks to Humboldt Surfrider members tracking and reporting the debris and the Humboldt Bay Harbor, Recreation and Conservation District taking action. The concrete, fiberglass and styrofoam blocks pose a navigational hazard in the water and an environmental one on land. Kudos to the folks who helped get them off the beach! (Photos courtesy of Bill Lydgate)

Finally, a quick reminder that on Saturday, April 5, the Humboldt Bay Maritime Museum is hosting renowned photographer/author/diver Richard Salas at the Wharfinger Building in Eureka for an underwater photography lecture/slideshow from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Cost is $16/$13 and more info available at the museum’s website.

Jennifer Savage chairs Humboldt County’s Surfrider Chapter and serves as the Northcoast Environmental Center’s Coastal Programs Director. 

Your Week in Ocean, Part Two: Pack Your Bags, Take a Walk, Admire the Improved Call Box

Jennifer Savage / Wednesday, March 26 @ 4:21 p.m. / Activism , Ocean

Other ocean-related things to know this week:

How about that tsunami warning test? Did you hear anything? Did it prompt you to finally get that emergency kit ready?

Concerned about highway trash getting into the bay and ocean? Join volunteers from Arcata Sunrise Rotary, Friends of the Dunes and PacOut Green Team to help clean up Highway 255 as part of CalTrans’ Adopt- a-Highway program. Meet at the Humboldt Coastal Nature Center, at 220 Stamps Lane in Manila for bagels and a safety video at 9:45 a.m., then head out to help keep 255 beautiful. Bags and equipment will be provided. No children please. Call (707) 444-1397 for more information.

Need an excuse to stroll along the beach at sunset? Experience a Low Tide Sunset Walk with a Friends of the Dunes naturalist on Saturday, March 29 from 6 to 8 p.m. Low tide at sunset can be a magical place to explore; while no one can promise a clear evening, this guided walk will help participants identify beach wash ups found at low tide. After the walk, enjoy some light snacks and a sip of wine or soft drink back at the Humboldt Coastal Nature Center. The cost for this program is $6/person. Meet at the Humboldt Coastal Nature Center, 220 Stamps Lane in Manila. Reserve your space by calling (707) 444-1397 or email

Remember when we talked about seal pups? Tune into the NEC’s EcoNews Report tomorrow (Thursday) at 1:30 p.m. on KHSU 90.5 FM for an interview with Janet Dickey, volunteer veterinary technician at the Northcoast Marine Mammal Center. 

Remember when we talked about the Navy’s sonar testing program? The comment period has been extended till April 15. (More via KHSU’s Through the Eyes of Women; audio below:

Through the Eyes of Women

Do you know about the call box out at the North Jetty? If you don’t, you should – lives have been saved. Sure, most folks have cell phones now, but just in case, be glad to note that the call box has been rejuvenated with a new bracket, solar panel and battery thanks to Case Systems. 

There ya go!

LoCO contributor Jennifer Savage is the Northcoast Environmental Center’s Coastal Programs Director and Humboldt Surfrider Chairperson.