Reposted from Save The Waves
SANTA CRUZ — For the first time in 10 years, Cowell Beach is not included on Heal The Bay’s “Beach Bummer” list. The environmental nonprofit’s annual Beach Report Card, released today, shows improvement for the iconic City of Santa Cruz beach located west of the Municipal Wharf in weekly levels of ocean bacterial pollution.
“This is the good news that all of us in Santa Cruz have been waiting for,” said Mayor Justin Cummings. “Many thanks to our determined City staff and Cowell’s Working Group for the bird exclusion measures under the Wharf and other efforts that led to this tremendous breakthrough.”
This water quality improvement measured by independent analyses reported in 2019 by the City of Santa Cruz Environmental Laboratory and Santa Cruz County Environmental Health Department, derives from combined efforts by City of Santa Cruz staff and Cowell’s Working Group. Their work revealed and addressed the issue of birds roosting on or near the Wharf as a major source of past water quality issues.
Cowell’s Working Group was launched in 2014 at the direction of the Santa Cruz City Council. It includes representatives from the City, Santa Cruz County, Save The Waves Coalition, Sierra Club and Surfrider Foundation with the mission to study and develop recommendations to improve the water quality at Cowell Beach.
“In late summer 2016 the first steps were taken to ward off birds roosting in the area,” said Nik Strong- Cvetich, Save the Waves executive director and facilitator of Cowell’s Working Group. “The very next year, the number of water quality samples exceeding state standards dropped by over 50 percent indicating that we were on the right track to improve our beloved and famous surfing beach.”
The group, in conjunction with the City’s Wharf crew, oversaw installation of bird screening designed to reduce pigeons and gulls roosting and defecating under the Wharf. This, in combination with routine City cleaning and management practices at the Neary Lagoon outlet and Cowell Beach vault, plus improved Main Beach cleaning and management practices, has radically reduced bacteria count.
“An important action instigated by Cowell’s Working Group that helped with the water quality breakthrough was oversight from a third-party Science Advisory Committee,” said Vice Mayor Donna Meyers. “Cowell’s Working Group left no stone unturned with dedication that fueled the City’s scientific driven solutions.”