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Green O.C. includes ocean blue

Green O.C. includes ocean blue

Groups encourage responsibility in keeping the county’s waters free of runoff.

An ideal climate, 42 miles of coastline, hills, canyons, beaches — these are just some of Orange County’s natural allure. But these characteristics aren’t just great real estate selling points; they are integral to the quality of life in our region, helping businesses and others draw top talent and keep the county prosperous. Being good stewards of our natural resources doesn’t just protect Orange County now,but it also helps sustain it for the future.  

“Orange County is one of the most biodiverse and ecologically unique regions in the nation”, says Todd Hanson of the Orange County Community Foundation. “It makes sense to teach both adults and children to enjoy and preserve the unique legacy of our county.”

Caring effectively for our natural resources takes many hands and deep knowledge of the risks and opportunities facing our county. We asked the leader of Orange County Coastkeeper, a nonprofit that works to protect local beaches and waterways, about the most immediate challenges facing our local environment.  

“The biggest issue affecting Orange County’s waterways and beaches is urban runoff,” says Garry Brown, Orange County Coastkeeper’s executive director. 

“(Runoff) is also a problem that most people are unaware of, so they have no idea that they are contributing to it. Most urban runoff occurs when over-watering takes pollutants and debris from yards and driveways into streets, down storm drains and into the ocean. If trash and hazardous materials are not properly stored and there are no barriers to capture runoff on property, pollutants can be carried by storm water, irrigation or power-washing to waterways.”

Urban runoff put Doheny State Beach and Poche Beach, on the north end of San Clemente,  on Heal the Bay’s 2013 Beach Bummer list—the fourth and fifth appearances on the list in the past five years.  It also contributes to high bacteria levels that cause posted warnings at other Orange County beaches throughout the year.

“The health of our harbors is most certainly at risk because of (runoff),” Brown says. “Runoff carries sediment laden with heavy metals, pesticides and toxic chemicals and it settles in the harbors and affects water quality, degrades habitat, which affects fish stocks… Then taxpayers have to pay the millions of dollars it costs to dredge and clean it up.”

Coastkeeper works with government agencies, business and the public to find solutions that save money and curb further environmental damage, proving you can be environmentally conscious and economically sound. 

Another water-oriented O.C. nonprofit, Miocean has picked up the standard of integrating business and environmental interests to curb effects of urban runoff in order to protect Orange County’s coastline.

Citing a report by the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy stating urban runoff is “one of the most serious impacts on ocean and coastal areas” and is “destroying the qualities that draw people to the coast,” Miocean co-funds projects such as natural- treatment technologies, research, upstream prevention and watershed-education programs.


If you would like to learn more about helping preserve our county’s natural resources, visit ConnectOC’s Nonprofit Central to find out about local nonprofits leading the charge.

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Shelley Hoss is president of the Orange County Community Foundation. She can be reached at shoss@oc-cf.org

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