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Vote Now! Estuary Protector McCoy Nominated for Environmental Award

Dr. Mike McCoy and his wife Patricia helped establish the Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve.

Dr. Mike McCoy is one of three finalists for the 4th Annual Cox Conserves Heroes award for his decades of commitment to preserving outdoor spaces. 

Voting ends Sept. 10 at 5 p.m.

If McCoy wins, the nonprofit he founded, the Southwest Wetlands Interpretive Association (), may receive up to $5,000. SWIA works on wetland restoration projects in the estuary and elsewhere.

A video about all three finalists can be viewed on the Cox Conserves Heroes website.

Click here to vote.

Along with other environmentalists and community residents, Mike and his wife Patricia worked for years to earn protection for the Tijuana Estuary, which became a major issue of conflict in IB for much of the 1970s.

A decade prior, the City of Imperial Beach and developers began to work on plans to dredge the area and build a marina.

In 1971, in an effort to preserve one of California's last coastal wetlands, veterarinarian Dr. Mike McCoy began to organize with local residents and fellow environmentalists to oppose the plans.

As the issue gained more and more attention, according to a city history book, Imperial Beach: A Pictoral History, the couple were repeatedly threatened, and in 1980 someone loosened the lug nuts on their car and they were almost killed while driving on the freeway.

In spring 1980, voters ratified Proposition A, approving the marina project.

But later that year, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services purchased the land and established the Tijuana Slough National Wildlife Refuge. The area would become a National Estuarine Research Reserve a year later.

Today, the remains the largest coastal wetland of Southern California and one of its is named after Mike and Patricia McCoy.

Debi Carey is SWIA's adiministrative director.

McCoy's commitment doesn't end at the estuary, she said, noting that he has played a role in the establishment of Living Coast Discovery Center and Otay Valley Regional Park in Chula Vista, and more recently earning for land near the Tijuana River. 

"Anything to do to with protecting the environment and educating people about the value of the environment, he's all for it," she said.

"It never ends. We say 'The guy just doesn't know how to say no," she said. "He's tireless. Right now he's on vacation in his cabin in Colorado, and you can be sure he's working on something there too."

Carey described McCoy as a person with unique attributes: persistant and determined, serious about conservation, but also likes a good joke and talking to people.

"Probably his last breath will be spent on some project he's working on to protect the environment for everybody," she said.

McCoy still works part-time at the .

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Serge Dedina September 07, 2012 at 10:22 PM
Dr. McCoy is a hero of mine and one of IB's most outstanding citizens. He also does a great job of working with the next generation of conservationists to help preserve the Otay River Valley, South San Diego Bay and our new system of marine protected areas.
Libi Uremovic September 07, 2012 at 10:29 PM
there's a link in the article to vote for dr. mccoy
Debi September 08, 2012 at 04:43 AM
Just one slight correction. As far as the Chula Vista Bayfront, Mike was part of a team of environmental groups invited by the Port of San Diego to advocate for environmental protection in the recent development plan for the the Bayfront. The Living Coast Discovery Center will be protected by the new plan and Mike has always supported the center, but he has been most instrumental in the development of the Tijuana Slough National Wildlife Refuge and Tijuana River NERR (both at the TJ Estuary) and the South San Diego Bay Wildlife Refuge.
Jon Hall September 08, 2012 at 02:16 PM
Remember the fights well --- we lost our Sloughs to the Eco-Terrorists --- it was a sad day for IB ...
Serge Dedina September 09, 2012 at 10:23 PM
Hi Jon: As one of the lifelong IB residents who fought to preserve our Sloughs for the people of Imperial Beach and California I find your comment incredibly offensive and also ignorant of the reality of the politics behind the scam proposal to build a marina in the Estuary. The developer-Helix Land Corporation who was behind the Sloughs proposal never owned the land in question-it was given to the company by the City of IB on the basis of the marina proposal--but was supposed to be returned to IB if the deal never happened. However, Helix never would have been able to build anything there--the reef outside--in which waves break up to 20 feet in the winter would have made it physically impossible to construct a breakwater there. The worst part of this is that the Helix Land Corporation never returned the land to the City of IB and sold the land to the federal government for millions of dollars--in a deal that was signed off on by old school "eco-terrorists" Secretary of Interior James Watt and President Ronald Reagan. Thankfully Dr. McCoy and other IB residents--including my parents-- fought to preserve our treasure--and everytime I surf beautiful waves at the Sloughs with my kids and lifelong IB friends I thank god that the Helix and other weren't allowed to destroy the heart and soul of IB. Serge Dedina Executive Director WiLDCOAST I.B., California
Salinde September 09, 2012 at 11:25 PM
Impossible ? Lol...well it's a good thing the Suez and Panama Canals were never built and of course it was impossible for us to put a man on the moon. Yes, Impossible that the Piramids were never built, yes it was impossible to put rovers on Mars. Athough I do agree that the sloughs are better. But, to say it was impossible to build a Marina there shows that you have no under standing of Engineering and our ability to overcome the impossible.
Jon Hall September 09, 2012 at 11:46 PM
To Serge and all others --- I never said a damn thing about a Marina --- and that idiotic idea was abandoned long before the eco-terrorists took the sloughs No, what I was referring to was the fun all of us had in the Sloughs --- from the motorcycle races there (late 1950's --- put on by the Don Diegan Motorcycle Club - President George Hall) to the plethora of kids who learned to drive there, to the great fishing at the Mouth, the clamming, all the *dates* locals had there, and who could forget Eddie's 30th Birthday Party Yep, the sloughs were a very important part of life in IB ...
Serge Dedina September 10, 2012 at 07:36 PM
Hi Salinde: The costs of building a marina entrance in an area where 20 foot waves break during winter storms and the costs of annual dredging of that entrance would have been in the tens of millions of dollars. And I do understand that engineering constraints are often technical and financial--which meant that IB was a no go due to the high cost. No one was willing to pay the construction and permanent costs of a such a ludicrous project. And more than probably the IB marina idea was quite a bit lower on the "let's do it" scale for the U.S. than putting a man on the moon or building the Panama Canal.
Jon Hall September 10, 2012 at 08:28 PM
Serge --- was going to comment on this response you wrote: http://link.patch.com/view/4f36e4ef5a43876f5c8d1300504e4026dd6a49886b000049/1d8f2ebe but I can't seem to find it here ... Anyway, I wanted to ask about how it is you are allowed to surf in the sloughs and how many Dolphins there are are in the sloughs --- not off-shore in the open Pacific, but in the sloughs themselves ...

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