Monterey Coastkeeper

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The Monterey Coastkeeper (MCK) is a part of the California Coastkeeper Alliance (CCKA), and serves Monterey and Santa Cruz Counties, as well as portions of Santa Clara, San Benito, and San Mateo Counties[1][2]. The MCK aims to protect water quality within this region of Central California, and works in the following arenas: agricultural pollution, urban stormwater, and watershed function[3][4][5]. MCK is managed by The Otter Project, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization working to assist recovery of the California sea otter[6][7].

Water Quality Areas of Focus

Agricultural Pollution

One area of water quality advocacy that MCK is actively working within, is in agricultural related water quality and pollution[3]. The MCK is concerned with water quality degradation associated with pesticide and nutrient runoff from farms, and its impact on the environment. Management of these pollutants in Central California is managed by the Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board (CCRWQCB) under the Irrigated Lands Regulatory Program (ILRP), known as the 'ag waiver'[8]. The Otter Project, and MCK, believe in the farmer's right to use water for agricultural purposes, yet also believes that does not include the right to discharge pollution[3].

Urban Stormwater

Another area of water quality protection and advocacy that MCK is involved with, is in urban stormwater management[4]. MCK is committed to taking a proactive role in working towards effective stormwater management on the Central Coast of California. Management of stormwater runoff is handled within the framework of the Clean Water Act, predominantly under section 402, the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System. MCK has made comment on Stormwater Management Plans for the Monterey area, Salinas, San Luis Obispo, and Santa Cruz, as well as hiring consultants to help improve some of these plans.

Watershed Function

The last area of interest for the MCK, is watershed function[5]. The MCK believes that healthy watersheds play a vital role in providing habitat for wildlife, and by acting as a filter to improve water quality. Riparian corridors are an example of an area that can provide these services[9]. The MCK also works to support Low Impact Development (LID), which consists of a wide range of land development practices that help reduce the impact of developed areas on hydrologic function[10]. Ultimately, the MCK supports the management of water and pollution through restoration of natural watershed function.


On October 21st, 2010, the MCK filed a suit against the Monterey County Water Resources Agency (MCWRA), alleging that the MCWRA is violating the Porter-Cologne Water Quality Control Act[11]. The suit claimed that the MCWRA illegally discharged waters containing pesticides, nutrients, sediments, and pathogens into subsurface and surface waters in the Salinas River watershed that were in excess of water quality standards. The suit goes on to claim that these excesses can harm public health, fish and wildlife, and beneficial uses (BUs). The suit claims that by allowing and contributing to water resource contamination, the MCWRA is breaching its fiduciary obligations under the Public Trust Doctrine.

The suit also claimed that the MCWRA did not file a report of waste water discharge, as well as a failure in protecting public resources, and lastly created a public nuisance. The suit did not seek monetary damages but the suit did ask for the discharge of pollutants to stop. The MCK is represented by Stanford Law Clinic. “Agriculture needs to step up and clean up their mess; regulatory agencies need to regulate; and water agencies simply must protect precious resources for everyone,” said Shimek. MCK spent the past two years attempting to work with growers and grower associations on new water quality regulations. Earlier this year MCK, together with San Luis Obispo Coastkeeper and Santa Barbara Channelkeeper, appealed a decision by the Regional Water Quality Control Board to extend an old and ineffective set of water quality regulations. “I’m not going to let up until our water is drinkable, swimmable, and fishable, the basic rights promised by America’s Clean Water Act and California’s Clean Drinking Water Act,” said Shimek.


  1. MCK, Facebook Page
  2. California Coastkeeper Alliance
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 MCK, Agricultural Pollution
  4. 4.0 4.1 MCK, Urban Stormwater
  5. 5.0 5.1 MCK, Watershed Function
  6. The Otter Project, Programs
  7. The Otter Project, What We Do
  9. CCoWS, Riparian Corridors
  10. US EPA, Low Impact Development (LID)
  11. Superior Court of California, Monterey County, MCK vs. MCWRA


This page may contain students's work completed as part of assigned coursework. It may not be accurate. It does not necessarily reflect the opinion or policy of CSUMB, its staff, or students.