Cowell Beach moved down to third from first on the Heal the Bay “Beach Bummer” list, after holding the top spot for many years. The narrow portion of Cowell Beach that is monitored for the report is directly west of the Santa Cruz Municipal Wharf where birds that roost on or near the Wharf are a major source of water quality issues.
The Cowell Beach Working Group, which includes representatives from the City, Santa Cruz County, Save the Waves, Sierra Club and Surfrider Foundation, spent the past two years studying the issue and developed recommended solutions to improve water quality. The City implemented bird exclusion measures under the Wharf in late summer 2016, as suggested by the group, to ward off pigeons that roost near the shoreline.
Since that work was completed last summer, Cowell Beach experienced a 50% drop in the number of beach postings and the number of water quality samples exceeding State standards dropped to 22% from 59% (2016 compared to 2015).
Vice Mayor David Terrazas said, “I’m very thankful for the contributions of the Cowell Beach Working Group and that of our Wastewater and Wharf staff to put measures into place that will improve water quality.”
To continue this progress, the Cowell Working Group is developing a technical advisory committee to analyze data and refine recommendations and the City Wharf Crew will ratchet up efforts to move birds off the Wharf near the shoreline. Finally, as five of the top ten beaches listed on the Beach Bummer list are adjacent to wharfs along the coast of California, the City will reach out to them to see what is working and not working for their water quality efforts.
“Any improvement is good, but we need to do more,” added Nik Strong-Cvetich, Executive Director of Save the Waves and facilitator of the Cowell Beach Working Group. “We hope to build upon our modest success, and once and for all get Cowell’s off the list.”