Riding a Wave of Concern About Beach : Surfers Push an Environmental, Sea-Front Restoration Project for San Juan Creek

Some of the most imaginative ideas about being kind to the waterfront have come from the beach up. Through their concern for the quality of ocean water, surfers who are tired of filthy water and beach closures have been demonstrating that there is a touch of the reform impulse to be found in their romantic lifestyles.

One such example is in Dana Point, where the mouth of San Juan Creek, now a concrete-lined path for rainwater that also collects debris, is being targeted for restoration.

The goal is to return the area to its earlier state as a wetland so that it could host wildlife, fish and water grasses. The state Department of Fish and Game has been impressed sufficiently with the lobbying effort and with the imagination of the Doheny Longboard Surfing Assn.'s Blue Water Task Force that some state representatives have begun to help find money for some of the work.

The plan would remove the concrete walls and eventually involve a series of locks upstream to handle water flow, while widening the mouth.

Scott Jenkins, an oceanographer at Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, who has worked on the plan, suggests that the successful completion of the project eventually could stand as a prototype for others to follow around the nation.

The surfers already have done important work by monitoring the ocean water at Doheny with help from Surfrider Foundation, and there is the possibility of funding for the project's projected costs, now at $6 million to $10 million, from the Port of Long Beach, which is looking to pay for restoration projects in exchange for credit on wetlands it may endanger through expansion.

The restoration of an important wetlands area in this region would be exciting. The surfers and others are showing the importance of taking a direct grass-roots interest in the quality of water and quality of life along the waterfront.

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