Newman bill would bolster conservation along coast

State Sen. Josh Newman. Courtesy photo

State Senator Josh Newman (D-Fullerton) introduced legislation today to establish an independent workforce corps that will focus on restoration and climate resiliency along the California Coast. SB 1036 will establish the California Ocean Corps through a four-year pilot program, based in Orange County that may serve as a model for replication and expansion throughout the state.

“Recent oil spills, as well as the growing threat posed by climate change, demand that California take steps to protect and preserve one of our most precious and irreplaceable resources—our coastline and beaches,” said Senator Newman. “There are few places where this is truer than in Orange County. Piloting this groundbreaking program in OC seems fitting, and I look forward to working with a broad and growing coalition of environmental and community advocates to make this happen.”

From raging wildfires to devastating droughts, the effects of climate change are apparent across California. The impacts of climate change are acute in California’s coastal communities, home to 75% of the state’s nearly 40 million residents. Over the past two decades, sea levels have been increasing at a rate of nearly double the past century, and are predicted to rise an additional two to seven feet by 2100. Rising temperatures and sea levels pose a serious and costly threat to the public infrastructure, housing, natural resources, and commerce located along California’s 840 miles of coastline.

“We need to be doing everything we can to protect our coast from sea level rise,” said Laura Walsh, Surfrider Foundation California, co-sponsor of SB 1036. “So many of us in the world of ocean conservation were motivated by early memories in the ocean and at the beach. We can’t think of a better way to prepare for the future than to engage young people in restoration and resiliency.”

On October 1, 2021, a broken pipeline operated by Beta Operating Co., a subsidiary of Amplify Energy, began to leak more than 25,000 barrels of oil off Orange County’s coast. This spill resulted in environmental catastrophe, harming wildlife and the ecosystem, prompting a massive cleanup that required more than 1,800 people and took upwards of three months. This disaster demonstrated the need to invest in a conservation-focused workforce that may be deployed for oil spills and climate change-induced disasters.

“The Orange County Conservation Corps is looking forward to expanding opportunities for young people to gain valuable job skills while mitigating climate change and conserving our precious coastline. Especially when we consider the impact of recent oil spills in Orange County, we’re so proud that Senator Newman asked us to be part of this effort,” said Katharyn Muniz, Orange County Conservation Corps CEO, co-sponsor of SB 1036.

Over a four-year term, SB 1036 will allocate $12 million to establish the California Ocean Corps, while authorizing the Orange County Conservation Corps (OCCC) to design, implement and manage the pilot program. Orange County’s coastal location, OCCC’s institutional capacity, and the community’s recent experience with large ocean conservation and recovery efforts make OCCC a strong organization to administer the pilot.

The Ocean Corps will focus on the restoration and protection of coastal habitats and waters, specifically on wetlands and marshes hardest hit by the Orange County Oil Spill. Through all of this essential environmental repair work, the Ocean Corps will serve in an invaluable capacity as environmental stewards in the community, and better educate the public about climate issues along the coast.

Newman bill would bolster conservation along coast