Channelkeeper Celebrates Its 20 Years of Environmental Impact at Virtual Blue Water Ball

Santa Barbara Nonprofit Continues Its Work on a Multitude of Fronts

Guests enjoy 2019 Blue Water Ball. | Credit: Gail Arnold

On Wednesday, September 9, water watchdog Santa Barbara Channelkeeper will celebrate its 20th anniversary with a free, virtual version of its annual Blue Water Ball, this year hosted by SBCC Foundation CEO Geoff Green. The event will include remarks by Executive Director Kira Redmond and Board President Mike Wondolowski, some surprises, and the kickoff of its extensive silent auction and its raffle. Each year, Channelkeeper has raised about a quarter of its funds from this event.

Executive Director Kira Redmond and Board President Mike Wondolowski at the 2019 Blue Water Ball. | Credit: Gail Arnold

Channelkeeper protects water resources in and along the Santa Barbara Channel through science-based advocacy, education, field work, and enforcement. The organization addresses the threats of plastic pollution, urban and agricultural runoff, dewatered streams, wetland destruction, sewage spills, offshore fracking, and oil spills.

This will be the final Blue Water Ball under the tenure of Executive Director Redmond, who is stepping down later this month after 16 years at the helm to pursue a new direction. The board is searching for a successor.

A pandemic has not deterred this small but mighty organization from continuing its work on a multitude of fronts. Channelkeeper has been engaged in advocacy work against ExxonMobil’s bid for approval of the use of 70 tanker trucks per day to transport oil from its three offshore platforms that have been shut down since the 2015 Plains All American Pipeline rupture. ExxonMobil has been seeking to transport the oil to Phillips 66’s Santa Maria refinery, but Phillips 66 recently announced it plans to close that refinery by 2023. ExxonMobil has requested a postponement of the S.B. County Planning Commission hearings set for this month while it evaluates its plans.

With a coalition of partners, Channelkeeper has been seeking to influence the development of new regulations, Ag Order 4.0, which would, for the first time, regulate the amount of fertilizer that farmers are allowed to apply to crops on the Central Coast. According to Channelkeeper Science & Policy Director Ben Pitterle, studies have demonstrated that farmers are grossly over-applying fertilizer, resulting in widespread degradation of our water supplies and river, stream, and coastal ecosystems. The Order would also require farmers in watersheds with known water-quality problems to test and report their own runoff.

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Channelkeeper advocated for the CA Circular Economy and Plastic Pollution Reduction Act, which would have reduced all single-use packaging and priority single-use food service ware by 75 percent by 2032. A $3.4 million lobbying campaign by the plastic industry led to a very narrow defeat.

Especially in light of the reemergence of single-use plastics in COVID times, Channelkeeper continues educating the local community about their harmful impacts and advocating for local policies to reduce their use.

Last month, Channelkeeper reached a settlement agreement in a lawsuit on the pumping and diversion of water from the Ventura River Watershed. The agreement places more restrictions on the city to better protect steelhead trout during the dry season.

On Santa Barbara’s desal plant, Channelkeeper opposed (unsuccessfully) acceptance of a $10 million grant from the CA Department of Water Resources because of the requirement that the plant operate at full capacity for 36 out of the next 40 years. Channelkeeper maintained that major energy, environmental, and social justice impacts of the plant’s operation outweighed continuous operation in the absence of a need for the water source.

In the last two days of July, Channelkeeper, along with commercial lobstermen and their crews, removed 6,440 pounds of marine debris from a mile-long stretch of shoreline on Santa Cruz Island, including 131 lost lobster traps, foam fishing buoys, rope, and miscellaneous plastics. 

To register for the free Blue Water Ball, go to To bid on auction items and buy raffle tickets from September 9 to 23, go to For more info about Channelkeeper or to make a donation, go to

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