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By C. Jayden Smith

Numerous beaches in Dana Point and San Clemente received high marks in Heal the Bay’s latest Beach Report Card, with many of them earning spots on the environmental nonprofit’s Honor Roll list.

Released on Wednesday, June 22, the 2021-2022 Beach and River Report Cards—annual rankings of hundreds of beaches and freshwater recreation areas that line the West Coast—gave A’s to several of the city, county and state beaches located in Dana Point and San Clemente.

The organization’s team of scientists and analysts assigns letter grades based on levels of fecal-indicator bacterial pollution in the water measured by county health agencies during the summer dry months, winter dry months and wet-weather periods, according to the nonprofit.

“Summer Dry Grades were excellent across the State with 94% of California beaches receiving an A and B grades, which is on par with the average,” the report stated. “Winter dry grades were slightly below average with 88% of the beaches receiving A and B grades.”

Samples taken during dry weather between April 1 and Oct. 31 count for the Summer Dry category, between Nov. 1 and March 31 for Winter Dry, and those taken during or within 72 hours of a rain event count for Wet Weather.

Among the list of Dana Point and San Clemente area beaches to crack the Honor List this year were Capistrano Beach, the youth and guest docks at the Dana Point Harbor, multiple locations around Doheny State Beach, Poche Beach, Salt Creek Beach, Avenida Calafia in San Clemente, and Dana Strands Beach.

The Honor Roll list is reserved for locations monitored weekly all year that received an A+ for each of the Summer Dry, Winter Dry, and Wet Weather conditions.

Those top beaches contributed to Orange County’s high marks. Across the county, 99% of beaches received A or B grades for the Summer Dry category; 95% received A or B for Winter Dry; and 66% graded A or B for Wet Weather, which was better than average, according to the report.

Most locations within Dana Point and San Clemente averaged an A grade, although there were several that did not receive a grade for all three conditions.

The San Clemente Pier area has seen marked improvement over the past few years, after being listed on the Beach Bummer lists for 2018-19 and 2019-2020, and receiving a C and A grade for Summer and Winter, respectively, in 2020-2021.

For 2021-22, the San Clemente Pier received an A for the Summer Dry period and an A+ in the Wet Weather period.

San Juan Creek also improved from the 2020-21 report, in which it received a C, C, and F for Summer Dry, Winter Dry, and Wet Weather, respectively. This year, it received B, B, and D grades.

Doheny’s North Beach area scored an A, A, and B in 2021-22, up from last year’s B, C, and F grades.

According to the report, grades are based on fecal bacteria pollution concentrations in wave-wash, and water samples that are analyzed for bacteria that indicate pollution from multiple sources.  

“The better the grade a beach receives,” the report stated, “the lower the risk of illness to ocean users.”

C. Jayden Smith

C. Jayden Smith graduated from Dana Hills High in 2018 before pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in digital and broadcast journalism from the University of North Texas. After graduating in December 2020, he reported for the Salina Journal in Salina, Kansas. Jayden loves college football and bothering his black lab named Shadow.

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