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As we announced earlier this month, 2024 marks our 25th anniversary serving the Orange County community! As we reflect on a quarter-century of environmental advocacy and action, we are excited to embark on a year-long celebration highlighting some of our most impactful successes over the years.

To kick off this celebration, we are launching a special series called Coastkeeper Chronicles, where we will share a historic Coastkeeper success story on the 25th of every month. And what better way to start than by revisiting one of our earliest victories?

Today, we invite you to journey back with us to 1999 when we took on a formidable challenge: preventing harmful water runoff from a housing development that threatened to pollute the pristine waters of Crystal Cove State Beach.

This endeavor marked our second major action since our founding, following our successful efforts to improve the water quality plan of the Montage hotel in Laguna Beach. In our fight to protect Crystal Cove, we sued the Irvine Company for violations of the Clean Water Act in its 635-home development project above this cherished coastal gem.

Crystal Cove holds a special designation as a California Area of Special Biological Significance (ASBS), which provides protection against pollution caused by urban runoff. Our lawsuit against the Irvine Company represented the first time an organization or agency had enforced these ASBS protections.

After a hard-fought two-year battle, we reached a settlement with the Irvine Company in 2001. Together, we collaborated on a comprehensive water quality plan for the development project, which included innovative measures such as larger stormwater detention ponds, advanced filtration devices, improved dry-weather runoff diversion, and a joint water quality monitoring program spanning multiple years.

Garry Brown Coastkeeper Hero Award

Me in the tunnel leading to Crystal Cove in 2019.

Photo Credit: Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register

What began as a legal dispute evolved into a positive and enduring relationship. Our collaboration with the Irvine Company not only safeguarded Crystal Cove from polluted runoff but also laid the groundwork for ongoing cooperation. The Irvine Company sought out our input on water quality plans for several other development projects in the years following the settlement.

Today, the fruits of our labor are evident in Crystal Cove’s pristine waters and thriving ecosystems. Our victory serves as a testament to the power of the Clean Water Act and the importance of preserving our waters for generations to come.

As we celebrate our 25th anniversary, we are immensely grateful for your continued support. Together, we can achieve even greater milestones in the years ahead.

If you’ve enjoyed the clean waters of Crystal Cove in the past 25 years, please consider supporting us today with a $25 monthly donation in honor of this historic victory! Thank you for being part of our journey.