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Cowell Beach Sees Modest Improvement on Heal the Bay Water Quality Report

Post Date:06/15/2017

SANTA CRUZ, CA—Cowell Beach moved to third from first on the Heal the Bay “Beach Bummer” list, after holding the top spot for many years. The narrow portion of Cowell Beach monitored for the report is directly west of the Santa Cruz Municipal Wharf.  City staff and community partners believe birds that roost on or near the Wharf are a major source of water quality issues there. 

The Cowell Beach Working Group, which includes representatives from the City, Santa Cruz County, Save the Waves, Sierra Club and Surfrider Foundation, spent the past two years studying the issue and developed recommended solutions to improve water quality.  The City implemented bird exclusion measures under the Wharf in late summer 2016, as suggested by the group, to ward off pigeons that roost near the shoreline. 

Since that work was completed last summer, Cowell Beach experienced a 50% drop in the number of beach postings and the number of water quality samples exceeding State standards dropped to 22% from 59% (2016 compared to 2015).  

“While we are encouraged by the improvement of water quality at Cowell Beach, more work is still required to obtain improved results and to get off the Beach Bummer list,” stated Vice Mayor David Terrazas. “After holding the top spot for many years, despite significant efforts by City staff, we knew a different approach was required.  I’m very thankful for the contributions of the Cowell Beach Working Group and that of our Wastewater and Wharf staff to put measures into place that will improve water quality.” 

To continue making progress, the Cowell Working Group is developing a technical advisory committee to analyze the data and refine recommendations. In addition, the City Wharf Crew will ratchet up efforts to move birds off the Wharf near the shoreline. Finally, as five of the top ten beaches listed on the Beach Bummer list are adjacent to wharfs along the coast of California, the City will reach out to them to see what is working and not working for their water quality efforts. 

“Any improvement is good, but we need to do more,” added Nik Strong-Cvetich, Executive Director of Save the Waves and facilitator of the Cowell Beach Working Group.  “We hope to build upon our modest success, and once and for all get Cowell’s off the list.”  

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