Congressman Brian Bilbray (R-Calif.) spends a considerable amount of time away from the Southern California beaches he lifeguarded in his youth, but he still has water in his veins. As a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, Bilbray has been influential in shaping United States policies governing clean beaches and water safety.
In 1994, during his first stint in congress, Bilbray introduced H.R. 999/ S. 522, the “Beaches Environmental Assessment, Cleanup, and Health Bill,” which passed in 1999 with bipartisan support. The Beach Bill authorized $30 million for states and local agencies to establish monitoring programs and water quality standards for coastal recreational waters. In addition, it required the Environmental Protection Agency to establish a nationwide database to log polluted coastal recreational waters and provide information on water quality noncompliance.
“The Beach Bill was a product of my growing up on the beach,” Bilbray says. “At one point we had, at times, 42 million gallons of raw sewage being pumped into the San Diego-area coastal waters.”
Bilbray began his career in public service on the local level, serving the people of San Diego as mayor and county supervisor. His tenure in local government included supporting the nationally acclaimed San Diego River Rescue Team during historic flooding that hit the area during the mid-1990s. According to accounts, Bilbray even went out with the team himself and provided hands-on assistance with an animal rescue operation.
Bilbray began his second stint in the House of Representatives in 2006 and, looking ahead, he plans to continue his efforts in the area of water safety.
This year, he hopes to work with the United States Lifesaving Association on legislation that would enable entities such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency to activate professional lifeguards in the event of flooding.
“I’m no longer an active lifeguard, but I still can’t help scanning the water whenever I’m around swimmers,” Bilbray says in summing up his passion for aquatics.