Mailbag: Readers respond to oil spill off the Orange County coast

Crude oil covers the sand as a bulldozer creates a berm at the mouth of the Santa Ana River in Newport Beach.
Crude oil covers the sand as a bulldozer creates a berm at the mouth of the Santa Ana River in Newport Beach on Sunday, Oct. 3.
(Raul Roa / Staff Photographer)

Whenever an ecological disaster occurs there is always a hue and cry about the damage to the flora and fauna, the killing of the birds and fish. Yet when their is an opportunity to anticipate this environmental destruction and prevent it, there is no specific interest. This is what is taking place with Poseidon’s plant to build a $1.4-billion desalination plant in Huntington Beach. The process involves the use of approximately 100 million gallons of ocean water derived from as far south as Dana Point to as far west as Palos Verde and forcing it through membranes, extracting the salt, in the process killing all the minute sea creatures such as fish eggs, larvae, newly hatched fish to produce 50 million gallons of fresh water and then dumping the salt and chemicals back into the ocean, creating a dead zone through which fish, including whales will not swim. The sea birds which are dependent on the food chain for sustenance will cease to exist, but that will be considered collateral damage.

The California Coastal commission will soon meet to determine whether to approve Poseidon’s request for final approval and can avert another ecological environmental disaster from taking place.

Richard C. Armendariz
Huntington Beach

I have a monitor on my main water supply at my house that alerts me whenever I have a leak (it cost $200). I was very disappointed to find out that the leak detection system for an underwater oil pipeline relies on residents calling authorities to report the foul odors and boaters and the coast guard reporting oil slicks on the water days after the leak began. Do you think that it would be prudent to require monitors and automatic shut-offs on all oil pipelines?

Steve Brahs
Costa Mesa

I’ve had a number of political highs in my life — like shaking hands with presidential candidate John F. Kennedy at the San Francisco Airport in 1960, serving as Bill Honig’s Orange County fundraiser when he successfully ran for State Supt. of Public Instruction in 1982 and ’86, or being then-Sen. Barack Obama’s “wing man” for nearly an hour when he visited Newport in 2007 — but none have come close to when I represented the beach cities of San Clemente, Laguna, Newport and Huntington Beach and the Orange County Supervisors in the “No on Offshore Oil Drilling” campaign in 1985.

Back then, the Reagan administration had its sights set on drilling off the California coastline, so when 22 local Republican mayors publicly rejected the idea here in Orange County, I knew our collective mission to protect the ocean and local beaches for future generations was secure. That is, until this past weekend’s oil spill affecting Huntington Beach, Newport and Laguna. It pains me beyond words to read about the ecological disaster that has killed wildlife and forced beaches to close.

I was a junior at USC when the massive 1969 oil spill turned Santa Barbara beaches black with tar balls. Its impact was felt for decades. I know Rep. Michelle Steel has sent a letter to President Biden requesting a major disaster declaration for Orange County. As far as I am concerned, word from the White House can’t come soon enough.

Denny Freidenrich
Laguna Beach

Citizens of Huntington Beach rightly place a huge premium on local control of local resources to solve local problems. The city response to the recent oil spill is a prime example: The city did not rely on federal officials or Amplify Energy for instructions — had they done so, oil would have infiltrated every sensitive wetland along our coast. The City Council (led by Mayor Kim Carr) and city management team deserve kudos for deploying city resources in a critically timely fashion to safeguard our most important and most fragile environmental commonwealth!

This is what local control looks and feels like. It is a shame that the most proactive and effective members of the council are facing the threat of recall on the incorrect and deceptive premise that the council is a passive tool looking out for nefarious, hidden interests. We are all very fortunate that even in the face of that distraction, the vast majority of the elected leadership of the city saw their duty clearly and acted to protect our — and their — home.

Galen T. Pickett
Huntington Beach

Vaccine rates an embarrassment

It is not only alarming but also indicative of a certain political mindset that relatively wealthy areas such as Newport Beach and San Clemente have vaccination rates below the state norm. In an Oct. 5 article in the California section of the L.A. Times, “COVID vaccine disinformation a big reason behind low inoculation rates, officials say,” it is acknowledged that “California and the country have made significant progress in their inoculation efforts.” The article goes on to point out that in California’s third most populous county, Orange County, health officials expressed concern about low rates among “neighborhoods along the coast, such as in Newport Beach, Huntington Beach and San Clemente.”

In relatively wealthy areas, the low vaccination rates can mostly be attributed to misinformation and more prominently to the politicization against all governmental efforts to abate the pandemic. A negative attitude toward the state’s effort to do so became apparent from the very beginning in these three beach communities. Protests, locally displayed negative attitudes toward statewide health efforts and simply nonaction when it came to providing any leadership of their own for fighting the pandemic are characteristic of these three communities’ local leaders as well as the O.C. Board of Supervisors. In contrast to these three beach cities, there are inland and farming communities who have achieved through hard work higher rates of vaccination.

It is incomprehensible to me and a majority of Americans how supposedly educated communities could be undermining national efforts to rid the country of this terrible scourge. At these moments, it certainly does not make me proud to be from a city and a county which show such a lack of understanding and empathy.

Lynn Lorenz
Newport Beach

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