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Bruce Reznik Reflects On His 11 Years At San Diego Coastkeeper

Bruce Reznik Reflects On His 11 Years At San Diego Coastkeeper
Bruce Reznik, former executive director of San Diego Coastkeeper, looks back on his 11 years as the head of one of the city's most influential environmental organizations. Reznik talks about the accomplishments he's most proud of, and the issues he hopes environmental community will address in the future.

Bruce Reznik, former executive director of San Diego Coastkeeper, looks back on his 11 years as the head of one of the city's most influential environmental organizations. Reznik talks about the accomplishments he's most proud of, and the issues he hopes environmental community will address in the future.


Bruce Reznik, former executive director of San Diego Coastkeeper


Serge Dedina, executive director of WiLDCOAST, and author of the new book Wild Sea: Eco-Wars and Surf Stories from the Coast of the Californias

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This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

I'm Maureen Cavanaugh, you're listening to These Days on KPBS. My guests are Serge Dedina, he is executive director of wild coast, and Bruce Reznik, former executive director of San Diego coast keeper. Of I say former executive director, Bruce, because you've just stepped down from that position after a very long period of time. Of I wonder what are some of the accomplishments that you're most proud of during your time as director of San Diego coast keeper?

REZNIK: You know, we were able to get a lot done. And I'm so fortunate to have been part of coast keeper and the water keeper movement for 11 years before I stepped down at the end of November. Some of our comments relate to the subject we've been talking about, sewer spills, we did bring a lawsuit against the city. We helped force the City of San Diego to invest over a billion dollars, reduce spills 90 percent from a decade ago when we averaged a sewage spill a day in San Diego and it was initial and even international news about our chronic sure issues issue really addressing urban run off pollution, getting some of the most stringent national standards for urban run off pollution, storm water pollution, and that's played a key role in helping reduce beach advisories by almost 70 percent in that time decade time period. Alluding to something I briefly talked about earlier, creating under water parks something we worked in partnership with wild coast and surf rider and many, many other organizations helped get a ten fold increase in the amount of marine protected areas, and that just happened just as I was stepping down. Huge huge accomplishment, this has been literally decades in the making.

CAVANAUGH: Tell us a lot bit more about that. Of it's a string of under water parks along the coastline of California.

REZNIK: Yeah, exactly. We've created in the past marine conservation areas issue marine reserves, marine protected areas, but a lot of times they weren't necessarily connected as a cohesive network, sometimes there wasn't a lot of scientific research into where these would go, sometimes there was, and they have been helpful, but maybe not as helpful as they could be. I mentioned earlier [CHECK] under water parks where you either limit or totally don't allow fishing and other consumptive uses. You can still have recreational uses but no take zones. What the Marine life protection act, which was passed in 99 said is you need to go back, you need to revisit these MPAs, marine protected areas, you need to have scientific validity, you need to have a public process, and you need to create a cohesive network that is actually gonna connect these areas so you can have the maximum environmental impact. We went through a two-year long process, exhaustive public input, we found ourselves often on the other side of the fishing community, which is really unfortunate because the water keeper movement came from the fishing community. And in the long-term, and I think most of the fishing community recognizes this, to have healthy fisheries in San Diego and Southern California and internationally, we need to adopt these MPAs. Unfortunately, and I understand where they're coming from, it leaves them in a difficult spot for a few years until our fish populations can start to restock. But this is -- you know, I had scientists at Scripps institute of oceanography who have been doing this for -- been in the Marine conservation field for 20, 30, 40 years say this is their legacy accomplishment. And the fact that coast keeper really led the charge, but again, working very closely with Scripps, very closely with the coalition of environmental groups, and nothing we've accomplished we've done on our own, it's always been with the help of agency officials, elected officials, other nonprofits, and other communities out there. That's been a huge huge success, something I'm very proud of leaving behind as I leave coast keeper. As much as I am [CHECK] and MPAs, I'm really, really proud of the education program, project swell. Nobody thought we could get something like that in the school district. We're in San Diego unified and Oceanside, K-6, with a hands on inquiry based pollution prevention, education curriculum that's reaching about 45000 kids a year. [CHECK] regionally and into middle schools and high schools, and one of the great things about project swell is, not only does it promote [CHECK] science scores since project swell went into the school district. Along with many other reforms that were focused on more hands on inquiry based learning. The last two things I want to mention in accomplish ams, I could talk about this stuff forever, is really just the public engagement, you know, getting tens of thousands of volunteers out for our beach cleanups, our water monitoring programs, really getting people to play a hands on role in taking back their environment again in partnership with surf rider and wild coast and many, many other organizations out from. And lastly, I think just the fact of changing the political debate of it's not something that's as easy to quantify as spay saying that we've reduced [CHECK] it was litigation but in the end we worked very cooperatively with the city storm water department and many elected officials. But those things are easy to quantify. What I think is really hard to quantify [CHECK] very small and very under resourced. And just being able to agree an organization, similar to what our health coalition has done, and wild coast and others, and really change the political debate. You really didn't hear the environment and coastal protection being talked about a decade ago. And I think now there really isn't a conversation where we're not brought in. And I think coast keeper, again, certainly not the only group, but one of the groups that play aid key role in changing the debate.


CAVANAUGH: And Serge, I wonder if you'd like to comment, Bruce at coast keeper, and what kind of a role that play indeed San Diego's coast at environment.

DEDINA: Well, first of all, wild coast works really closely with coast keeper, especially on the Marine protected areas where we sort of took -- I guess we all sort of forge aid battle because it was so controversial. But first of all, in my book, wild sea, I really talk about the fact that at the end of day, and the [CHECK] are the coast and Oceanside. That's it. If you were out in the beach this weekend, as I was. With my family, [CHECK] scoring great waves and having a great time. People love the coast of San Diego of that's what we're here for. And I have to give credit to Bruce at coast keeper issue they've worked very closely with every other group in San Diego, [CHECK] to make sure first and foremost that agencies understand that the coast comes first. Water quality and [CHECK] and that's something that you can't expect agencies to get. You can pass laws, you can get new policies enacted, but at the end of the day, in wild sea, what I talk about, it requires an army of passionate coast lovers and Oceanside lovers who are gonna do everything they can to protect and restore every inch of coastline, every water shed, and make sure that not only our children but our grand children have access to beautiful surf, beautiful beaches and whether or not your dog at ocean beach or dog beach, and suffering seaside with Taylor Knox as my kids did, who's a pro surfer on Saturday and were thrilled, the coast is what makes San Diego San Diego.

CAVANAUGH: Let me slip in a call. Clay is calling from Ocean Beach. Gorge, clay, welcome to These Days.

NEW SPEAKER: Good morning, thanks for having me. Hey, Bruce, hey Serge, how are you guys do something.

DEDINA: Hey clay.

NEW SPEAKER: I just wanted to add a couple comments on the notification aspect of beach water quality. And I thought one of the things that was coming up as a result of the spill down at the border at the end of 2010 was some type of an amendment to the IBWC discharge permits that would require notification to the health agency department of environmental health in San Diego during those events. And the second thing I wanted to bring up was when I was -- before I left coast keeper, there was discussion with Doug Lyden at USEPA to extend public notification that's shown on SD water that would include enormous Baja beaches.

CAVANAUGH: Okay, clay, let me take that. I think you want to take that, Serge.

DEDINA: Yeah, specifically, clay, thanks for bringing that up. And what we found when we look at all these sewage spills is that agencies -- it turns out that agencies that work on the boarders like the IBWC aren't actually required to inform San Diego County agencies when sewage is discharged into the ocean. If it's into the Tijuana river, they're required by law to inform other agencies that this happens. And so we've gotta go back and get a minute put into U.S. treaty so that the IDWC can notify the county of san diego and the regional board, that's a really great policy recommendation. Soap those are the really big and small things to really improve this stuff. But clay is actually the guy that really talked to me with the small things that go into creating beach closures in.

RIH2: B. So I want to thank him specifically for making me understand that again, it's big and small sewage treatment plants and additional treaties that we can sign. But at the end of the day, we gotta make sure that citizens, groups like wild coast and coast keeper are on the ground making sure agencies doing their job.

CAVANAUGH: That was a nice wonky question, Bruce. I thought for sure you'd want to take that first.

REZNIK: It's amazing being away from coast keep a couple years, how much of this stuff has left my brain.

CAVANAUGH: Couple of months.

Reznik: Yeah, yeah. I finished up at the end of November. I finished up at the end of November. I just wanted to thank clay as well. Clay was with coast keeper running our water monitoring program for a while. And before that, spent many years at the county really working on the notification. And nobody knows more about notification requirements than clay. And really had been a -- has been an incredibly strong advocate for public notification and public awareness and getting the community involved and aware of these issues. And really is just a stellar collaborator on all of our work.

CAVANAUGH: Is there anything you say, gee, I wish I could have been around for that? Like maybe the banning of plastics? Or --

REZNIK: There's a few things. Banning of plastics is a good one. [CHECK] policy level, getting rid of plastic bags and water bottles, some of the cleanup efforts of our contaminated waters, specifically San Diego bay cleanup and dredging is something that I've worked on, for, you know, a decade or nor, and is something I'd like to see. Of the big one to me is the water supply issues. And we had a tremendous focus, I actually got a text on it, at the break that I didn't mention our work to get IPR, indirect potable reuse. The dreaded toilet to tap.


REZNIK: And if you saw the Union Tribune actually supported it, thanks that I never thought I would hear at coast keeper. So moving that along and making sure that that pilot project actually gets implemented. I'm still working on a regional study. We could reclaim a hundred million gallons a day or more for drinking water for San Diego, that's sewage that wouldn't go in the ocean, that would then become water, [CHECK] and that's the last thing. I don't know how much more time I have but I want to say a little bit. There's still an amazing team left at San Diego coast keeper. I moved on, I needed to focus on some other issues.

CAVANAUGH: What? What are you gonna be doing?

REZNIK: That's a good question. I'm still working on it, but I think hopefully this week, I'll have finalized and an announcement will go out, and it's staying within the environmental community in San Diego, and addressing some of the root cause issues that I really wanted to do more at coast keeper and some of our land use, and other types of environmental issues that I think under lie all the environmental issues, whether you're talking about air quality, toxins, water quality, energy, we really need to change the way we get our water, the way we do land use, but we have an amazing team at coast keeper, people should come out and support that. I'm gonna give one little plug. Tomorrow evening at urban pizza in Northpark, there's gonna be a celebration of my ten-year at coast keeper, a lot of coast keeper is gonna be out there, it's like 11 bucks to get a free beer, and some pizza. And I really hope everybody comes out and fills up [CHECK].

CAVANAUGH: And Serge Dedina, I want to mention that your new book, wild sea, eco wars and surf stories from the coast of the Californias, you're gonna be reading from that at the Tijuana estuary this Saturday; is that right?

DEDINA: That's right, from 6 to 8:00 PM, you can find out more information on wild sea, or wild coast dot net. And I want to thank Bruce for his work [CHECK] drives the work that we do, making sure that all those little brams in the water and on the beach, and everybody there with their dogs, and everybody loves the beach and can continue doing that. Because that's who makes San Diego San Diego.

CAVANAUGH: Bruce, Serge, I appreciate your coming on here and talking with us this morning.

REZNIK: Thanks for having us.

CAVANAUGH: And if you would like to comment, please go on-line, Days. Stay with us for hour two of These Days, coming up in just a few minutes here on KPBS.