Clean water groups highlight progress for Monterey Bay, call for more success stories

Environment California Research & Policy Center

Santa Cruz, CA-On the heels of the 42nd anniversary of the Clean Water Act, a new report tells the story of how the bedrock environmental law has helped to restore and protect Monterey Bay, funding conservation for a key tract of land upstream.

Clean water advocates, small businesses, and local elected officials released Waterways Restored, a series of case studies compiled by Environment California Research & Policy Center, on the shore of the Monterey Bay to highlight the need for a new rule to restore full federal protections for two thirds of the state’s rivers and streams.

“The Clean Water Act has brought triumph to Monterey Bay, but the law’s promise isn’t yet fulfilled,” said Nathan Weaver, organizer with Environment California.  “All of our rivers and streams deserve a success story.”

Home to a national marine sanctuary known as the “Serengeti of the Sea” for its diversity of wildlife, Monterey Bay and its tributaries have long been threatened by the potential of runoff from rapid regional development. Funding made possible by the Clean Water Act helped conserve a key tract of land upstream, according to the Environment California Research & Policy Center report. This and other efforts under the Clean Water Act have helped to ensure that the Monterey Bay endures for future generations to enjoy.

“To protect California’s marine waters such as Monterey Bay, EPA established a ‘no discharge zone’ that banned sewage dumping by ocean-going ships,” said Jared Blumenfeld, EPA’s Regional Administrator for the Pacific Southwest. “And under the Clean Water Act, we are also working to protect freshwater streams as our communities deal with the challenges of drought and a changing climate.”

While the Monterey Bay is guaranteed protection under the Clean Water Act, more than 140,000 miles of California’s rivers and streams are not, thanks to a loophole in the law secured by developers and other polluters nearly a decade ago.

In March, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency proposed a rule to restore protections for the headwaters, streams, and wetlands left in limbo by the loophole. But oil companies, agribusinesses, and developers are campaigning bitterly against it, and last month the U.S. House voted to block the rule.

“The Monterey Bay is recognized internationally as an example of what coastal conservation can accomplish, and the Clean Water Act has played a critical role in preserving the area,” said Assemblymember Mark Stone. “Protecting the bay and the surrounding watersheds has been critical in supporting and sustaining our local marine environment.”

Advocates at today’s event, however, stressed broad support for the proposal from environmental groups, farmers, small businesses, and ordinary citizens. Tomorrow, supportive public comments from California will be among the 500,000 delivered to EPA officials in Washington, DC.

While the Monterey Bay is getting cleaner, polluters still dump about 2.4 million pounds of toxic chemicals into waterways statewide each year. Protection from pollution and development for the smaller streams that flow into Monterey Bay, advocates said today, is crucial to protecting it for future generations.

“The only way to continue Monterey Bay on the path to success is protect all the rivers and streams that flow into it,” said Weaver. “That’s why it’s so important for EPA to restore protections for all the waters that crisscross our state.”


Environment California Research & Policy Center conducts research and brings citizens together to advocate for the places we love and the environmental values we share.