City says ‘challenges’ delay action on sea lions at La Jolla Cove


Citing public safety, the infamous stench and a conflict with shoreline park use, La Jolla Parks and Beaches advisory group urgently requested the City of San Diego take action on the sea lion presence at La Jolla Cove. Following its April monthly meeting, the board wrote a letter to the city with the following suggestions:

■ Install some form of gate mechanism or other temporary barrier on the stairway leading to/from La Jolla Cove Beach to prevent sea lions moving up from the beach.

■ Start regular cleanup of sea lion feces from the stairs, deck and walkway areas.

■ Institute a program of morning beach inspection and sand cleaning at La Jolla Cove.

On July 1, San Diego Park & Recreation director Herman Parker responded with this letter:

“As you are aware, the list of potential solutions is constrained by a host of regulatory, environmental and practical considerations. Public safety and the enjoyment of the beaches is a priority for the city and we continue to address these issues to the best of our abilities and with the constraints of our resources and the law. What follows is my response to the numbered list in your April 28 letter.

Installing a gate mechanism at the stairway to the Cove has resource, design and regulatory challenges. Building a gate structure that would prevent sea lion intrusion would require the design of a capital improvement that is beyond the City’s sole permitting authority.

Cleanup of the sea lion feces from the area continues to be performed by Park & Recreation Department staff within the limitations of our existing resources. (Editing note: The current foam sprayed here only cleans bird waste, the city has previously stated.) Currently, the city does not have the equipment or staffing levels required to perform the cleaning of the beach area at the Cove beyond that of the tidal flow.

The city has engaged Doyle A. Hanan, Ph.D. of Hanan and Associates, Inc., to monitor the sea lion population at the Cove area. Based on this ongoing work, the city will look for opportunities to address issues that may arise from the sea lion population. Additionally, funding was allocated in the Fiscal Year 2015-2016 budget to begin work to develop a coastal marine life management plan for the area that will address the interaction of people, animal and marine life in the area. The activity of sea lions will be part of that plan.

Any bluffside or off-shore construction would be subject to local, state and federal regulations that would require thorough review and permitting processes. Currently, there are concerns that any attempt to construct a barrier along the bluffs may have the effect of moving more of the animals onto the beach at the Cove itself. Staff will be further evaluating any viable options based on the information provided by Hanan and Associates.

We will be continuing the application of the microbial spray to the bluff areas to mitigate the odors. We will conform to the application protocols established in partnership with the appropriate regulatory agencies. Unfortunately, there is a strict prohibition against any form of discharge into the waters surrounding the Cove and bluffs. The State of California has designated this ocean area as an Area of Special Biological Significance (ASBS) and as a Marine Protected Area (MPA). Spraying or washing activities that would drain to this ocean area are not permitted.

As I referenced earlier, funding has been budgeted in the Fiscal Year 2015-2016 budget for the department to begin preparing a coastal marine life management plan.”

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