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La Jolla Cove Stinks. What Are The Options For Cleaning Up The Bluffs?

Dave Gibson, the executive director San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board, talks to KPBS about the options for cleaning up the stink at La Jolla Cove.


Dave Gibson, executive director San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board

Serge Dedina, Ph.D. is the executive director of WiLDCOAST, an international conservation team that conserves coastal marine ecosystems and wildlife. He is the author of "Saving the Gray Whale" and "Wild Sea."


The bluffs around La Jolla Cove have long been fenced off to people, allowing cormorants, seagulls and pelicans to have the place to themselves.

Everyone agrees, the unintended consequence -- bird and sea mammal excrement -- is making La Jolla cove stink.

This problem has made national headlines, and now the story line has shifted from the stench to the regulations that are preventing a solution.

But people don't agree what to do about it. The latest conventional wisdom on the topic says a fix is possible, but state regulators are slowing down the process.

Dave Gibson, executive director San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board, told KPBS no one from the city of San Diego has yet reached out to him but said "we're always willing to work with people at the beginning stages of an issue like this."

"If they are contemplating needing a permit to spray something on the rocks, our doors are open to them to meet with them to discuss what we would have to do to develop the findings of fact we would need to base a permit on," he said.

Gibson said state and federal regulations, including the Clean Water Act, puts strict control over what the city can do at the cove.

"If they were going to be spraying something on the rocks, they would have to have a permit from us," he said.

He said the state also prohibits "discharges" into water, except in special circumstances.

But Gibson said if the poop is scooped up or swept up on shore instead of into the ocean, that might not require a permit.

Potential bluff cleaners would have to be careful not to get too close to the seals and sea lions, he said.

Gibson said Pier 39 in San Francisco faces a similar problem, but hasn't done much of anything about it.

Claire Trageser contributed to this report.

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