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Surfrider Washington 2021 Annual Recap

While this past year continued to have its fair share of challenges with the ongoing pandemic, Surfrider Foundation in Washington had an extremely successful year by all measures thanks to the leadership of our local chapters and the support of our grassroots members. In Washington, we aligned our efforts at the local and regional level to dovetail with the Surfrider Foundation's national priorities to 1) Take Action on Climate Change; 2) Protect Clean Water; and 3) Reduce Plastic Pollution. From major coastal victories addressing the impacts of plastic pollution, to protecting our nearshore waters from the potential threat of seabed mining, to ongoing programmatic work like water quality monitoring and coastal cleanups, we have demonstrated the adaptability of our powerful activist network in efforts to protect and enjoy our ocean, waves, and beaches. Dive into a few of the highlights over the past year and celebrate all of the success that we've enjoyed. It would not be possible without all of your leadership and support!

Happy Solstice, Happy Holidays, and Happy New Year!!!


Liz Schotman, Surfrider Washington Regional Manager
Gus Gates, Surfrider Washington Policy Manager

WA Surfrider staff Liz & Gus leaning into the enjoyment part of our mission at Surfrider

Clean Water

Improving coastal water quality has been one of Surfrider Foundation’s top priorities over the last 30 years. Our Clean Water Initiative strives to protect water resources and prevent pollution from reaching the ocean because everyone should have access to clean water to surf, swim, and play in. To help ensure that, our volunteers test coastal waters for bacteria, raising public awareness and finding real solutions to ocean pollution - solutions that restore healthy watersheds, protect local water supplies, and prevent pollution from reaching the ocean.

Blue Water Task Force Program
This year, dozens of WA Chapter volunteers collected 198 water quality samples (an increase of 54 form 2020, but still less than pre-pandemic numbers) from 15 beaches around Washington. This program is a great way for volunteers to get involved with their local chapter and get connected to their local waters! You can see yearly summaries and results of our testing by visiting our BWTF database.

Puget Sound Nutrient Reduction
After 20 years of study, the Department of Ecology recently released a Nutrient General Permit under the Clean Water Act that will require all wastewater treatment plants to monitor for nutrient reductions, optimize their current treatments to remove as much nitrogen as possible, and plan for future upgrades to remove more nutrients before they can expand capacity. Nutrient pollution impacts salmon and shellfish by decreasing oxygen and worsening acidification. As aquatic recreational enthusiasts, we have a vested interest in improving the health of the Salish Sea marine ecosystem. Our goal for this campaign is to reduce nutrients and other pollution from wastewater treatment plants discharging into Puget Sound by implementing advanced nutrient-reduction technology as quickly as possible and in an equitable manner, including a strong Puget Sound Nutrient General Permit. Check out our earlier blog post for more background on this issue.

Harmful algal blooms visible from above. Image courtesy of Eyes Over Puget Sound.

Healthy Beaches

Surfider's Plastic Pollution Initiative is all about preventing plastic pollution through source reduction. We encourage individuals, industry, and government to move away from unnecessary single-use plastics by encouraging reusables and alternative products, as well as by advocating for policy change. We also work hard to remove plastic from our environment through regular beach cleanups, leveraging these events to raise awareness about the threats of plastic pollution to our wildlife, our environment, and our communities.

Olympia Chapter volunteers after another successful downtown cigarette butt pickup

Coastal Cleanups
Washington chapters held over 40 cleanups this year, during which over 400 volunteers collectively removed over 7500 lbs of trash from our coasts, despite the challenges of the pandemic limiting group sizes and in-person events. In addition to a wildly successful International Coastal Cleanup Day, we also collected over 50,000 cigarette butts from downtown Olympia as part of the Olympia Chapter's Hold On To Your Butt program, as well as over 80,000 yellow ropes from outer coast beaches!

Plastic Pollution Victory
The Surfrider Foundation in Washington and our partners in the Plastics Free Washington Coalition/Washington Sin Plástico celebrated as Governor Jay Inslee signed into law SB5022, a major piece of legislation that will help tackle the plastic pollution crisis. This comprehensive policy bans certain expanded polystyrene products, such as hinged clamshells, plates, and cups. It also mandates minimum recycled content in plastic bottles, jugs, and trash bags. Additionally, this legislation is the first in the nation to comprehensively require people to opt-in for utensils, cup lids, and condiments. More on this huge victory here!

Bellingham Plastic Ordinance
On May 24th, 2021, Bellingham's city council voted unanimously on a city-wide ordinance to address plastic pollution by banning many single-use plastics and encouraging compostable alternatives. The ordinance will ban Expanded Polystyrene (EPS - commonly known as 'Styrofoam'), require takeout containers be made of compostable materials, mandate that hotels replace single-use toiletries with refillable dispensers, and makes straws available upon-request only. Most of these rules will go into effect on July 31st of 2022, well ahead of the recently-passed statewide plastics bill SB5022. The Northwest Straits Surfrider Chapter and the Western Washington University Surfrider Club launched a local campaign in 2018 to reduce plastic waste, including a ban on EPS. More on this great coastal victory here!

Climate & Coasts

As part of our Coastal Preservation Initiative, Surfrider Foundation has been actively addressing coastal hazards and the impacts of climate change for decades. In Washington, this work has focused on shoreline planning at the local and county level, addressing the impacts of ocean acidification, raising awareness about Sea Level Rise through our engagement on King Tides, and serving as the recreational representative on the Washington Coastal Marine Advisory Council (WCMAC).

Coastal Hazard & Economic Resilience Recommendations
The focus of WCMAC over the past few years has been to develop recommendations on Coastal Hazards and Economic Resilience for the Washington Coast. Washington State is particularly vulnerable to sea level rise. While 42% of the US population lives along the coasts, here in Washington, 68% of Washingtonians (4.6 million people) live along or near the state’s 3,026 miles of coastline. Washington’s mountains and marine environment are vital economic and environmental resources, supporting some of the largest industries in the state, including forestry, agriculture, tourism, and the maritime sector. Globally, annual coastal flood damages are projected to increase significantly, with floods becoming 100 to 1000 times more costly by 2100 compared to today. Surfrider effectively used our seat as the ocean recreation representative to introduce and pass recommendations requiring sea level rise planning, as well as to initiate policy development around public disclosure of coastal hazards during real estate transactions. Learn more about these recommendations here.

State of the Beach Report
After another year of intense climate change impacts, Surfrider’s 2021 State of the Beach Report revealed that 67% of coastal states assessed are performing at adequate to poor levels. The report grades 30 U.S. coastal and Great Lakes states, in addition to Puerto Rico, on how they manage their coastlines and are preparing for sea level rise. While Washington is doing a good job preparing for climate change impacts and reducing greenhouse gas emissions, the state would benefit from requiring local municipalities to incorporate sea level rise into local land use plans. Check out our post for more info on how Washington scored.

A Few More Highlights

Image credit: Pew Charitable Trusts

Seabed Mining Victory
Surfrider and our partners celebrated the passage of a law to permanently protect Washington’s marine environment from the destructive practice of seabed mining. The bill (SB 5145) passed with almost unanimous bipartisan support and was signed into law on May 3rd, making Washington the second state in the country to ban this destructive extractive industry. More on this important victory here.

Washington Chapter leaders and staff zooming with Congressman Derek Kilmer as part of the Surfrider Coastal Recreation Hill Days

Coastal Recreation Hill Days
Leaders from all five Washington Chapters joined over 160 Surfrider Foundation members and recreation industry leaders to lobby on behalf of our ocean, waves, and beaches during this year's Ocean Recreation Hill Day. On March 10th and 11th, our activists participated in a virtual 'fly-in' to D.C., meeting with a record-breaking 162 Senate and House offices to encourage our federal leaders to support ocean climate solutions, stop offshore drilling, fund clean water programs, and reduce plastic pollution - check out the recap here!

Outdoor Alliance WA members meet with Congressman Derek Kilmer in the Olympic National Forest

Surfrider WA Joins Outdoor Alliance WA
Surfrider Foundation is thrilled to announce our participation in the newest state network: Outdoor Alliance Washington (OA Washington). OA Washington is a coalition of human-powered outdoor recreation organizations representing more than 75,000 members who recreate on public lands and waters in Washington State. Our goal is to empower and engage recreation enthusiasts to protect Washington’s outdoor spaces and tackle the climate crisis. At Outdoor Alliance, we know that when climbers, surfers, paddlers, hikers, mountain bikers, and backcountry skiers speak with one voice, policymakers listen. Our collective voice increases our community’s leverage with federal and state decision makers on public lands and recreation. Learn more here!

We had to go virtual for the Cascade Chapter Leadership Conference this year, but next year we hope to get back together in person!

Cascadia Chapter Leadership Conference
One of the highlights of every year is bringing chapter leaders from throughout the Pacific Northwest to share knowledge, develop campaign skills, and strengthen our network. Our goal for this conference was to give our chapters the knowledge and skills needed to continue their mission-driven work, as well as provide an opportunity for them to come together (whether in person or virtually) and build some stoke for what they accomplished (despite a challenging year), as well as the positive impacts they'll continue to make on a local, regional, and national level. 

Looking forward to happy and healthy days like these in 2022!!!

Join Surfrider Today!

This holiday season, consider supporting your local Surfrider Chapter by signing up for or renewing your membership. Memberships go a long way in supporting chapter programs and campaigns, whether that’s purchasing Blue Water Task Force equipment, buying beach cleanup supplies, or helping chapter volunteers attend public hearings and advocate for our ocean, waves, and beaches.

To sign up, head to your chapter’s website (links below) and click on the Give button on the upper right. Not sure what to gift your friends and family? You can purchase a gift membership, complete with sweet Surfrider swag and good vibrations!

Olympic Peninsula Chapter
Seattle Chapter
Northwest Straits Chapter
South Sound Chapter
Olympia Chapter