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By Lillian Boyd

Stakeholders within the Dana Point Harbor are naming water quality and environmental stewardship as a priority.

In an effort to keep local waterways clean, Dana Point Harbor Partners has invested in working with a team of expert organizations to track, prevent and manage potential water pollutants and risks in order to protect Harbor waters and the marine life that call it home. Meanwhile, Ocean Institute is continuing a partnership to regularly test water temperature, dissolved oxygen, conductivity, pH, and salinity.

Dana Point Harbor Partners, LLC (DPHP) is a collaboration created to operate and redevelop Dana Point Harbor in a private-public partnership with the County of Orange.

Officials on behalf of DPHP say the group has committed to the long-term water quality health of the Harbor through utilizing partnerships such as GEO4 Services, Inc., with the priority to reduce urban runoff and protect marine ecosystems.

Practices include environmental initiatives such as storm drain filter insert devices for trash and debris management. The storm drain insert devices capture trash at the entrance of the drain before it can enter the storm drain and would otherwise enter into the ocean. The devices also have filters that treat the water for any chemicals that may have originated from urban runoff.

“Such programs show a commitment to sustainability and will enable clean recreation for future generations,” said Simona Tzagournis, President of GEO4 Services. “The Partners understand the need of the community to go above and beyond to ensure good water quality through comprehensive environmental stewardship.”

Dana Point Harbor is part of the CA Fishing Line Recycling Program conducted by the CA State Parks, the CA Coastal Commission, NOAA Marine Debris Program and the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation.

Fishing lines that are improperly disposed of or abandoned in the environment can lead to boat damage, or potentially entangling and killing wildlife. There are currently five fishing line recycling container stations located throughout the Harbor, available to boaters and anglers to properly discard their used line.

As part of the Clean Marine program, The Marina at Dana Point maintains a plan for pollution prevention and control through a variety of practices, such as offering free recycling to boaters, a free bilge pad exchange program, providing environmental best practices and educational materials to boaters, and staff training in hazardous response and management practices for emergencies, petroleum containment, vessel cleaning and maintenance, facility operations, sewage and waste management, a storm prevention pollution plan, as well as an emergency action plan for fuel and oil spill prevention and containment practices.

The Clean Marine Program is a partnership of private marina owners, government marina operators, boatyards and yacht clubs, developed to ensure clean facilities exist in our boating communities and protect our waterways from pollution.

One of Dana Point Harbor Partners’ environmental initiatives includes storm drain filter insert devices for trash and debris management. Photo: Courtesy of Emma Opie

The Marina at Dana Point also implements environmental initiatives and best management practices, including covered trash receptacles to help prevent debris from getting into the water, trash skimmers in high-debris collection areas throughout the Harbor, regular trash skimming by Marina staff, boater pump-out stations, spill containment and clean-up materials in case of an emergency oil spill, and storm drain grates to help with debris collection and monitoring.

Dana Point Harbor Partners has also recently partnered with local nonprofit Stand Up To Trash, to help keep the surrounding areas of the Harbor clean and free of trash.

One of Dana Point Harbor Partners’ environmental initiatives includes storm drain filter insert devices for trash and debris management. Photo: Courtesy of Emma Opie

Ocean Institute has partnered with Swift Engineering, which has a test buoy on its dock that collects real-time water quality data in the harbor in terms of water temperature, dissolved oxygen, conductivity, pH, and salinity.

“They send scientists down every two weeks or so to test and calibrate the buoy, as they look to add more features such as air temperature, pressure, surface and subsurface light levels, and wave sensors for buoys in the open ocean,” said Wendy Marshall, president for Ocean Institute. “We are thrilled to partner with them to showcase innovative technologies and promising practices for gathering water quality remotely and consistently through their buoy technology.”

Additionally, staff tests water quality daily as part of a partnership with the White Seabass program run by Hubbs SeaWorld Research Institute in Carlsbad. Ocean Institute receives and grows out hundreds of white seabass each year.

“We monitor the fish and water quality daily, and report back to HSWRI,” Marshall said. “Relationships between temperature and dissolved oxygen, as well as how water conditions impact feeding and growth rates, are interesting points of study.”

For example, warm water means active fish—which means more feeding and more fish excrement, which means frequent pen cleaning. Weather can also impact dissolved oxygen levels and the health of the fish.

“These real-life tools and needs for water quality testing ensure that ongoing data on the water quality in the Harbor is maintained,” Marshall said.

Additionally, Ocean Institute runs several water quality programs that Marshall says will likely return again in the fall as pandemic conditions allow. The watershed program is an integrated-discipline experience designed for fifth-grade students who explore the science of watersheds. Students investigate ecological integrity and environmental impact, while learning essential research techniques at the Ocean Institute.

“They use their field experience to develop research projects, with a focus on their local community, that are presented at the Kids’ Conferences on Watersheds,” Marshall said. “Students emerge from the program with skills in scientific research, communication, and an increase in understanding about watershed issues.”

The Engineers Wanted! Water Quality program for middle and high school students, originally funded and sponsored by Boeing, engages students in engineering activities that help them understand the complexity of clean drinkable water in our coastal desert. Students explore water sources and conservation methods through hands-on engineering activities and on-the-water data collection.

“From building aqueducts to model buildings with ‘green rooftops,’ students gain an understanding of the many threats to our drinking water and aquatic ecosystem and how personal behaviors and choices, as well as environmental engineering approaches, can contribute to the conservation and quality of this precious resource.,” Marshall said.

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