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Lillian Boyd, Dana Point Times

Heal the Bay released its annual report for 2018-19, a compilation that rates about 500 California beaches, based on weekly levels of bacterial pollution in the water.

The report listed three Dana Point Beaches in its Honor Roll: Dana Point Harbor Youth Dock, South Capistrano Bay Community Beach and Dana Strands Beach.

“Clean beaches and ocean water quality continue to be a high priority for Dana Point residents, as indicated in our community survey last fall.  We are encouraged by the strong marks the majority of our beaches received,” said Mayor Pro Tem Paul Wyatt.

Wyatt sits on the city’s Ocean Water Quality Subcommittee as a council representative. He says that the City of Dana Point will continue to work with its partners on making improvements in the watersheds of Salt Creek and San Juan Creek, which are the most challenging.

The Salt Creek Outlet, labeled as “Monarch Beach North, Point Zero” on the report, earned an F rating for the drier months out of the year (April-October), falling on the “Beach Bummer” list.

“A creek outlet is a challenging area to address water quality,” said Lisa Zawaski, the City of Dana Point’s senior water quality engineer. “Staff is currently taking steps to address issues that impact the local water quality at Salt Creek.”

At the mouth of Salt Creek, the city’s Ozone Treatment facility has been treating dry weather flows for bacteria since 2005. According to city staff, there have been vast improvements in water quality at north and south of the outlet. After the water quality treatment, bird droppings and environmental factors—for example, seaweed buildup causing bacteria—negatively impact the water quality. The pond created by the outflow from Salt Creek is influenced by surf and tidal activity, providing a welcoming habitat for birds, contributing to the bacteria in the water.

The City is currently implementing a Water Quality Improvement Plan (WQIP) for the region, which determines priorities and strategizes how to address water quality issues. The Salt Creek watershed is listed as one of those priorities.

To read the full Heal the Bay Beach Report Card, visit healthebay.org.

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