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California beach city to ban public use of balloons in bid to protect coast

Environmental advocates are celebrating in Laguna Beach — but it won’t be with balloons.

Hilly seaside town known for stunning ocean views and rolling bluffs, sale and public use of balloons to reduce the risk of devastating wildfires and eliminate a major source of floating waste near the community’s scenic shores is banning.

The Laguna Beach City Council voted Tuesday night to publicly ban the popular mainstay of birthday and graduation parties, whether it’s inflated with helium or not. Starting in 2024, balloons cannot be used on public property or at city events.

The move in the community of 23,000 people 50 miles southeast of Los Angeles comes as several California beach towns limited balloons and the state enacted a law to regulate types made from foil.

“This is the beginning,” Chad Nelson, chief executive of the nonprofit environmental organization Surfrider Foundation, said before the vote.

Nelson said he looks forward to phasing out balloons entangling with turtles and sea lions, as he did with an effort to phase out single-use plastic bags. “We’re hauling away everything we find and trying to clean up the ocean one piece at a time.”

Environmental advocates are targeting the balloons, arguing that they are a preventable cause of coastal pollution that threatens animals and seabirds. According to the NOAA Office of Response and Restoration, balloon debris can tangle with wildlife or be ingested by animals that mistake it for food, and more than 3,000 balloon litter has been picked up on ocean beaches by volunteers in Virginia. I went. ,

In California, fire officials have long warned against foil balloons that can become tangled with power lines, causing a power outage and a potential fire hazard. Southern California Edison, one of the state’s major utilities, reported more than 1,000 foil balloon-related power outages in 2017, affecting more than 1 million customers, according to state legislative analysis.

But coastal advocates want legislation that addresses balloon litter in addition to the fire risk. Coastal communities in Florida, Delaware and New York have adopted regulations aimed at reducing balloon pollution. Several people in Southern California have taken similar steps. The city of Manhattan Beach has banned the mass release of foil balloons and latex balloons on public property, while two beach cities in San Diego County have banned lighter gas-filled balloons from the air.

Laguna Beach officials have long discussed the idea, given the pristine shoreline and mountainous terrain at risk of wildfires. Lawmakers took an initial, unanimous vote in January to end public use of all balloons. The second and final polling took place on Tuesday. The fine is $100 for the first violation, $200 for the second, and $500 for each additional violation within one year.

In addition, a business that repeatedly violates the ordinance may lose its business license.

Mayor Bob Whalen said the balloons could still be used by residents at home.

“Even balloon advocates and the balloon industry were not opposed to banning them on the beach,” Whelan said, adding that it would reduce the risk of fire and reduce the risk of fire to about six miles (10 miles) of the city. The city took to the issue to protect marine life with. kilometer) coastline. “There’s going to be some impact on the local distribution of balloons, but like I say, people will still find places to buy balloons.”

Treb Henning, who started selling balloons at Disneyland at age 15 and now, more than 50 years later, works in the balloon industry internationally, said balloons bring joy to the world.

“Throughout my life, I have seen kids of all ages thrilled. You can still be a kid at 90,” he said.

Heining said that Laguna Beach officials would not come to the table for a settlement. He suggested banning portable helium tanks for the public, prohibiting balloon releases, and banning balloons on beaches instead of taking an all-or-nothing approach.

“They’re doing just about anything to balloon into this wicked, horrible thing. And they’re not,” he said.

Those supporting the move include environmental advocates, whale watching groups and a marine mammal organization that reported a sea lion died of starvation after ingesting waste including balloon pieces in its digestive tract.

“Here’s another opportunity to be bold and be on the right side of an issue,” resident Mark Christie wrote in a letter to the council last month.

Cheryl McKinney, who owns a party supply company, opposed the idea, saying it would bog down the state financially and that responsible business owners encouraged patrons to add weight to the balloons and dispose of them properly. We do.

“We always refer our clients to this motto: ‘Don’t let go. Weigh. Fluff. Enjoy.'” she wrote.



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