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Morro Bay’s estuary director

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Lexie bell

keeping morro bay’s estuary healthy for all By Charmaine Coimbra

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n estuary formed where the Euphrates River met the Persian Gulf and brought about one of our earliest civilizations. More than 5800 years ago, the ancient Mesopotamian city of Ur, in what is now modern Iraq was geographically perfect: Fresh water for drinking, wetlands and flood plains for wild game and agriculture, and access to a shipping port and seafood. Cities around the world have historically developed around estuaries: New York City, Tokyo, San Francisco, and our own Morro Bay.

While Morro Bay is far from the size of San Francisco in both population density and environmental impact to the estuary, the Morro Bay estuary has its challenges, which led me to an informative email question and answer communique with Lexie Bell, executive director of Morro Bay National Estuary Program. Charmaine Coimbra: Were there definitive threats to the estuary that led to the formation of Friends of the Estuary and eventually to become a part of the national estuary program? Lexie Bell: In the late 1980s, thousands of people joined in the effort to protect Morro Bay. They came together to form the Friends of the Estuary Program and the Bay Foundation in order to protect and restore the Morro Bay estuary for future generations. One of their main concerns was that, while estuaries naturally fill in over time, Morro Bay was filling in at a dramatic rate. In the late 1980s, it was estimated that 45 tons of silt were entering the bay each year as a result of erosion. This was causing the salt marsh to build up and encroach on the bay, among other issues. Another concern was the possibility of increasing development near the bay. The Friends of the Estuary and the Bay Foundation wanted to address the causes of the erosion, and preserve open

lands so that Morro Bay would be here in an unspoiled state for many years to come. Together, these groups worked tirelessly until Morro Bay was recognized as a State Estuary in 1994, and accepted into the National Estuary Program in 1995. Then, they collaborated to create a management plan that guides our work today. You can find this document on our website at http://www.mbnep.org/comprehensive-conservation-management-plan/ CC: Are there any new threats that the estuary is working to deflect now? I ask this with the consideration of the current condition of

M A Y

2016

Journal PLUS


May 2016 Journal Plus Magazine