Environmental Activist Emily Durbin Is Dead at 57


Emily A. Durbin, 57, who worked to stop development projects that she believed would harm the environment, died Thursday of cancer in her Point Loma home.

Durbin was born in New Britain, Conn. She had lived in Point Loma for 15 years and had been an active member of the Sierra Club since the mid-1970s.

“She worked incredibly hard and had the accumulated knowledge of 10 people at least,” said Barbara Bamberger, conservation coordinator of the San Diego chapter of the Sierra Club. “She is really irreplaceable. She had so much information inside, we all depended on her information and knowledge.”


As an environmentalist, Durbin’s most recent work included being named as an intervenor, along with the Sierra Club, in a federal and state lawsuit against the city of San Diego for its failure to comply with the U.S. Clean Water Act.

In 1976, Durbin also opposed the Sun Desert Nuclear Power Plant, proposed for Blythe, on the Colorado River, said Ann Durbin, Emily’s daughter. The plant was never built.

Durbin also fought against building two dams on the Santa Margarita River and worked to preserve Pamo Valley north of Ramona by opposing the building of a dam there, her daughter said Tuesday.

The permit to build the dam was eventually withdrawn, said Norma Sullivan, a Sierra Club member who worked with Durbin.

“She did the homework, she did the research,” Sullivan said.

For her contributions in protecting the environment, Durbin received the Roger Revelle Award in 1988 from Citizens Coordinate for Century 3 and the Silver Cup, the Sierra Club’s highest honor for her work in 1986.

Durbin graduated with a bachelor’s degree in history from Wellesley College in Massachusetts in 1953.


But her involvement in local environmental issues prevented her from completing her thesis for a master’s degree in hydrology from San Diego State University, Ann Durbin said.

Besides her daughter, who lives in San Diego, Durbin is survived by a sister, Zelle W. Andrews of New York state; two sons, Peter Durbin Jr., 34, of London and John Durbin, 32, of San Diego, and four grandchildren.

Durbin’s husband of 35 years, retired U.S. Navy Capt. Peter Durbin, died in 1988.

A memorial service for Durbin is planned for 3 p.m. Thursday at Ft. Rosecrans National Cemetery.