Beachgoers may need to think twice before wading in the surf this coming fall season.
President Barack Obama’s 2013 fiscal year budget cuts include proposed elimination of federal funding for ocean water quality monitoring efforts in coastal states across the country. With the loss of funding — $9.9 million in federal BEACH Act grants — it is likely that local agencies would have to limit water quality testing and frequency.
Ventura County’s Ocean Water Quality Monitoring Program costs up to $300,000 annually, and without federal funding the program would lose about $25,000, limiting test frequency. Current funding is guaranteed through September.
“Obviously, we are concerned that beachgoers will be at risk due to lack of monitoring,” said Paul Jenkin, Ventura campaign coordinator for the Surfrider Foundation.
Ventura County began testing ocean water after Assembly Bill 411 passed in 1997, requiring California counties to test.
“The ocean water monitoring results gave the city of Ventura a scientific basis for diverting the storm drains that were delivering chronic polluted flows to the beaches at Surfers Point and along the Promenade,” explained Jenkin. “It also provided a basis for the Rincon septic to sewer project, which will also receive state clean water grant funding. Without this testing, these tangible improvements that are cleaning up our local beaches would not have been possible.”
The Environmental Protection Agency’s point of view, said Ashley Schapitl, spokeswoman for Rep. Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara, is that this program has been in place for more than a decade and the state should be able to handle the testing by now. Capps disagrees with the EPA’s decision, considering the budget constraints that still exist at the state, county and local levels.
“Our public beaches on the Central Coast are popular spots for recreation, and our local economies depend largely on clean and healthy beaches for use by residents and tourists alike,” said Capps in a media release. “The possibility of cutbacks is not good news for Central Coast residents and small businesses, and that’s why I’ll be fighting to restore this funding during the upcoming budget process."