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San Diego plans to use water and noise to herd seals off La Jolla beach

May 22, 2009 |  9:10 pm


Under a Superior Court court order to herd seals off the beach at the Children's Pool in La Jolla, the city plans to spray the mammals with water and blast loud noises at them, according to documents released Friday.

The city plans to use amplified noise, probably of barking dogs, seven days a week from 6 a.m. to sunset to convince the seals to move. A hearing is set for next week to see if the plan gets court approval.

A Superior Court judge has ordered the city to move the seals so the beach will again be clean enough for children and families. But dueling litigation in the federal court system has taken the opposite view: that the seals are a protected group under federal law meant to safeguard marine mammals.

More than 100 seals lounge on the beach on a sunny day, to the delight of tourists and seal advocates but to the dismay of those who feel the beach is for people. The city estimates that its spraying and noise-making plan, as well as water testing and seal counting, will cost $688,934 a year.

The City Council had hoped that the Legislature would get San Diego out of the dispute by amending the deed under which the beach was given to the city and eliminating the clause about the beach being for children. That would allow the cash-strapped city to walk away from an issue that is costly and politically divisive.

A bill to help the city has passed the state Senate and awaits debate in the Assembly.

-- Tony Perry  

Photo: Los Angeles Times