Annual Heal the Bay Report Card ranks local beaches


Not all news about the state’s drought is bad, with a report released June 17 citing the lack of rainfall as a major contributor to improved water quality at California beaches, although the beach at Mission Bay Park’s Visitor Center was rated as among the 10 most-polluted in the state.

The environmental group Heal the Bay’s latest Beach Report Card, which assigns letter grades to beaches based on water quality, found that the lack of storm runoff pouring into the ocean actually helped keep pollution down.

In San Diego County, 96 percent of the area’s 72 beaches received A or B grades for water quality from April through October 2014, down 2 percent from the average of the past five years.

The beach in front of the Visitors Center, on the eastern shore, was the first Mission Beach location listed as a “Beach Bummer” in five years, when the north cove of Vacation Island was included.

On the other hand, five San Diego beaches landed on the group’s “Honor Roll” for earning A+ grades — San Elijo State Beach and Cardiff State Beach in front of the Chart House restaurant, both in Encinitas, the Ocean Beach Pier, Point Loma Lighthouse and Silver Strand in Coronado.

Heal the Bay’s report gave letter grades to beaches up and down the West Coast in three categories, the dry season from April to October, dry periods from November through March, and during wet weather.

Locations that received F grades were the Cottonwood Creek Outlet at Moonlight Beach in Encinitas, Seascape Surf Beach Park in Solana Beach, the San Diego River outlet at Dog Beach in Ocean Beach, the Imperial Beach Pier, the foot of Cortez Avenue in Imperial Beach, the mouth of the Tijuana River, and beaches at Border Field State Park — all during wet weather.

The group gave D grades to Swami’s Beach in Encinitas and three quarters of a mile north of the Tijuana River outlet — also during wet weather. The only dry weather D was given to the San Diego River outlet at Dog Beach.

Heal the Bay officials noted that while the dry weather has improved beach water quality, government officials should explore ways to prevent stormwater from ever reaching the ocean and develop projects to capture and reuse rainwater.

“In a time of severe drought, it’s madness to send billions of gallons of runoff to pollute the sea when we could be capturing and cleansing that water for daily use,” said Sarah Sikich, vice president of Heal the Bay. “The rains will return, and when they do, we need to capture this valuable resource to maximize our local water supplies and keep polluted water out of our ocean.”