This Week in Clean Beaches: Hands Across the Sand, Eelgrass Beds, Kids Ocean Day

Hands were also held Feb. 3 on Laguna Beach’s Main Beach to oppose offshore oil drilling. Photo: Wave4All


They held hands on the beach in February, and they will again on Saturday.

No, this is not a reference to lovey-dovey couples out for strolls on the sand but demonstrators who prefer clean-energy solutions to dirty-fuel excavation and distribution fouling coastal Orange County and elsewhere.

For instance, Saturday marks the three-year anniversary of a pipeline carrying offshore oil rupturing onto Refugio State Beach near Santa Barbara, where about 126,000 gallons of oil were flushed into the Pacific Ocean, sparking 46 criminal charges against Plains All American Pipeline, company plans to replace the source of that rupture and another from the year before and legislation Gov. Jerry Brown signed that aims to prevent future disasters.

February 7 marked the 18th anniversary of the American Trader oil tanker running over its own anchor 1.3 miles off Huntington Beach, causing 400,000 gallons of crude to spill into marine waters, the death of about 1,000 birds, the three-week closure of 15 miles of Orange County shoreline, at least $35 million in clean-up costs and a $16 million court settlement tanker owner Attransco reached with the state and local government.  

“Hands Across the Sand” will have ocean advocates, beach-goers and others joining together at noon Saturday north of Huntington Beach Pier near Ninth Street and at Belmont Veterans Memorial Pier in Long Beach. Here is why, according to organizers:

Courtesy of Hands Across the Sand

On Jan. 4, 2018, the Trump administration released the 2019-2024 draft plan to drill for oil and gas in U.S. waters. The proposal has been met by fierce opposition by leaders in almost every state with lease sales. This includes Governor Jerry Brown and Attorney General Xavier Becerra from California, where a massive oil spill in 1969 devastated Santa Barbara’s coastal habitat—and set in motion bipartisan support for a ban on new drilling in state waters that became law in 1994. The practice remains deeply unpopular in California, where 7 in 10 people oppose new offshore drilling, according to a July 2017 survey from the Public Policy Institute of California. Tourism, recreation and fishing along California’s coast generate nearly $20 billion a year and support 400,000 jobs.

Three years ago, a pipeline carrying offshore oil ruptured in Refugio State Beach just north of Santa Barbara, spilling 2,500 barrels of crude across a 7-mile stretch of one of California’s most biologically diverse habitat. California legislators are currently considering a state ban on offshore drilling (AB 1775 and SB 834), a state ban on offshore drilling. The proposal includes a ban on the development of infrastructure that would increase offshore drilling. Saturday’s Hands Across The Hands events, organized by local chapters of Surfrider, Oceana, Sierra Club, Greenpeace,, Heal the Bay, Sea Shepherd, and others, give Californians a platform to send a strong message to state and federal leaders that offshore drilling is a dirty and dangerous practice that has no place in our oceans.

If you are not going to be in OC Saturday morning, but will still be near the Southern California coast, you can go hold hands at Moonlight State Beach in Encinitas (by the volleyball courts), Mission Beach in San Diego (on the south side of the grassy area), Playa Del Rey Beach (by the lifeguard station near Culver Boulevard), Santa Monica Beach (at Bay Street) and Will Rogers State Beach in Pacific Palisades (near Tower 7). Go here for a complete list of locations:

Gas, eelgrass or bass: Nobody dives for free. Photo courtesy of Orange County Coastkeeper

In other clean saltwater news, local volunteers and university students gather at the Back Bay Science Center in Newport Beach Sunday morning to see how man-made oyster beds are bringing Upper Newport Bay back to life.

Since the 1990s, more than 85 percent of the world’s oyster reefs have disappeared, according to The Nature Conservancy. Seagrass beds remove carbon from seawater, hopefully fighting ocean pollution, habitat loss, rising sea levels and other ill effects from acidification and climate change.

Orange County Coastkeeper used natural materials to build habitat for the nearly extinct native Olympia oysters for the first time last year. The first anniversary checkup will be done under the watchful eye of Coastkeeper’s Marine Restoration Director Katie Nichols, with about a dozen volunteers surveying the shoreline as Cal State Fullerton and Cal State Long Beach graduate students inspect seabeds, count native Olympia oysters and collect shell samples.

The latest work on the project begins at 9 a.m. Sunday at the science center, 600 Shellmaker Rd., Newport Beach. The same eelgrass beds are scheduled to be inspected by a team of scientific divers on Tuesday afternoon as part of a multi-year study led by UC Davis and UC Santa Cruz.

Kids Ocean Day 2017 in Humboldt. Courtesy of California Coastal Commission

Finally, did you know there is a Kids Ocean Day and that it falls this year on Thursday, May 24? That morning, more than 1,300 students from under-served schools across Orange County will spend the day removing trash from the sand at Huntington State Beach, where they will celebrate their efforts afterward by having a group photo taken from hundreds of feet above.

But this will not be any old group photo; the kids will be arranged to form a wave shape and this year’s slogan “Make Waves.” Allow Dyana Peña, Coastkeeper’s educational director, to explain: “Kids Ocean Day allows students who have grown up without access to the beach to interact and have a meaningful experience with the coastal environment, instilling in them a sense of stewardship. This year’s aerial artwork message, Make Waves, shows that young people have the power to improve inland and coastal communities by protecting the health of the region’s waters.”

Kids Ocean Day is part of the California Coastal Commission’s Adopt-A-Beach School Assembly Program, which informs students that storm drains in urban (and suburban) neighborhoods connect to the ocean, thus driving home the lesson that recycling and keeping litter out of storm drains matter.

“Children are the wave of the future,” says Jack Ainsworth, executive director of the California Coastal Commission. “And these kids understand that we need to change our consumption and disposal habits and reduce our reliance on single use plastics, so the beaches and ocean don’t keep suffering from plastic pollution. I’m proud of all these students for making some waves.”

The Huntington State Beach cleanup begins at 9 a.m., and the aerial art creation happens at 11 a.m. The patricipating students then get to spend the rest of the afternoon enjoying the waves and, barring a nagging marine layer, the sun. To register as a volunteer for the event, email Peña at dy***@co*********.org.

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