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Environmentalists say the threatened western snowy plover is feeling ill effects from dogs frolicking in the surf at a de facto dog beach near the birds’ habitat at the mouth of the Santa Ana River — and that despite measures such as leash laws, government could be doing more to help.

One conservationist suggests there could still be a dog beach, as long as it’s not at the Orange County-controlled river jetty near the Newport Beach-Huntington Beach border.

Garry Brown, executive director of Orange County Coastkeeper, a Costa Mesa-based environmental group, told the California Coastal Commission at its meeting this week in Newport Beach that the state agency should step in to put some weight behind the dog issue, which he said is a problem lacking leadership to fix.

Whether that means the commission should urge more conversation between Newport and the county or give a direct order, “this should be a problem that reasonable people can sit down and figure out,” Brown said Thursday.

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