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Water: Estuaries and Coastal Watersheds

Santa Monica Bay (NEP Profile)

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Summary Information

Year Established: 1988
Location: southern California
Area of Watershed: 1,465 square kilometers
Priority Management Issues:
pathogens (recreational water quality)
contaminated seafood
habitat loss/alteration
species loss/decline
floatable debris
Major Habitat Types:
submerged aquatic vegetation (kelp)
open water geologic formations (canyons)
reefs (artificial)
lagoon/shallow open water
rocky intertidal/subtidal
beach/dune (vegetated and bare)
sand/mud/salt flats
tidal pools
salt/brackish marsh
freshwater marsh (tidal and non-tidal)
fresh water lakes/ponds
grass/open field
Federally Endangered or Threatened Species:
brown pelican
California gnat catcher
California least tern
peregrine falcon
western snowy plover
green sea turtle
leatherback sea turtle
loggerhead sea turtle
olive ridely sea turtle
steelhead trout
El Segundo blue butterfly
Palos Verdes blue butterfly
salt marsh bird's beak

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Overviews and Highlights

With more than 45 million visitors per year, Santa Monica Bay is one of Southern California's prime recreational destinations. One of the main goals of the Santa Monica Bay Restoration Project (SMBRP) has been to address public concerns regarding potential health risks to Bay swimmers. To help achieve this goal, a landmark epidemiology study--the first of its kind--was conducted in 1995 to assess the health risks of swimming in Bay waters contaminated by storm drain runoff. Earlier research efforts had determined that storm drain runoff contained pathogens and viruses--a surprising finding since the storm drain and sewer systems are completely separate.

Results of the "epi" study, released in spring, 1996, finally confirmed with solid data what experts had long suspected: beach goers who swim near storm drains are almost 50 percent more likely to contract colds, sore throats, gastroenteritis and other illnesses than those who swim farther away in cleaner water. In response to the findings, the SMBRP outlined a list of actions that the public can take to reduce urban runoff pollution. The SMBRP also developed a series of actions which government agencies have agreed to implement. Designed to better inform and further protect the public, these actions are already underway and will be updated as necessary. To ensure public safety, this NEP produced bilingual advisory signs for posting by lifeguards, and initiated one of the first stormwater runoff permit programs in the nation in order to reduce the amount of pollution entering the bay.

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