The City of Ventura will be at our next monthly Surfrider meeting on May 1 to discuss the proposed new Countywide Stormwater Permit. According the Ventura County Star, "the proposed rules for Ventura County are stirring up a storm of their own with county officials and each of the 10 cities. "
The Ventura County Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation is encouraging the City of Ventura to consider comments such as those quoted below from the NRDC, that "some of the best approaches do not involve technology, but restoration of natural systems like wetlands, which help filter water... "...reducing the amount of grading done on construction sites, and using things like grass swales to filter runoff and porous concrete that would allow the soil to filter runoff, could prove to be both inexpensive and effective at cleaning runoff. "
County and cities cringe at proposed water rules
By Scott Hadly, shadly@...
April 4, 2007
In a push to limit pollution, the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board is proposing tough new rules that would force local governments to clean up storm runoff coursing down city streets and eventually into local streams and the ocean beyond.
But the proposed rules for Ventura County are stirring up a storm of their own with county officials and each of the 10 cities. Local government officials are arguing that the proposed standards go too far, cost too much and amount to overstepping by the state into the realm of setting land-use policy.
The rules are counterproductive and could undercut the strides already made here to clean up water pollution, said Gerhardt J. Hubner, chairman of the Ventura County Stormwater Quality Management program, which includes representatives from all of the local jurisdictions.
"We still believe source control is better than doing it at the end of the pipe," Hubner said.
Costly for developments
The regional board appears to be applying standards to Ventura County that are more suited to an urban environment, he said. Some of those standards include regulations for development on much smaller lots than before.
According to county estimates, the new rules would cost three to seven times the current costs per household. Among the suggested changes is a proposal to limit grading on steep slopes during the rainy season. Another proposal would be to lower the threshold on the size of commercial projects that have to incorporate runoff controls. In the past, the threshold was 100,000 square feet. The average big-box store is about 50,000 square feet. The proposed standard would lower that to about 5,000 square feet. The lower standard is equivalent to the size of a corner gas station.
The Building Industry Association of Southern California isn't too happy about the rules either, arguing among other things that the rules would be way too expensive and ineffectual.
Holly Schroeder, the organization's chief executive officer, said the rules meant to curb the amount of sediment that runs off construction sites would essentially prohibit grading for 6 1/2 months of the year. The group's general counsel, Andrew Henderson, said in a letter to the regional board that the proposed standards "incentivized sprawl" and discouraged infill and smart growth.
Hearing scheduled Thursday
But the debate over the 114 pages of proposed rules which will be discussed at a regional board hearing Thursday in Burbank get to what is so hard about cleaning up water pollution from runoff. There are thousands upon thousands of sources for the muck that runs down streets.
Dip a cup into the mouth of the Santa Clara or Ventura rivers right after a storm and sample the water if you want to get a sense of the scope of the problem.
Beyond the gross-out factor, the stew of stuff you find in storm water includes just about everything you can think of that winds up on the ground, on a street or in a driveway. There are cigarette butts, plastic bottles and assorted trash. There's fecal matter from domestic and farm animals as well as from sewage spills or faulty septic systems or simply people relieving themselves outdoors. There are traces of oil or gas that's leaked from cars or trucks onto the highway or at gas stations or in parking lots. There's stuff like zinc from tires, copper from brake pads, and herbicides and pesticides from farm fields and lawns.
Controlling that pollution is sort of the new frontier for regulators who are trying to comply with the federal Clean Water Act. It turns out that rain carries with it some of the worst pollution.
Environmentalist group support
There is new technology to help clean up some of that runoff, including things like drain inlet filters and separators. But some of the best approaches do not involve technology, but restoration of natural systems like wetlands, which help filter water.
The Natural Resources Defense Council largely supports the new rules, noting that despite implementation of standards in 2000, storm water still is one of the most significant sources of water pollution in Southern California. The nonprofit environmental advocacy group notes that under the old rules, commercial development under 100,000 square feet, something equivalent to two football fields in size, didn't meet the threshold. That meant big-box stores like Home Depot or Target didn't have to install devices to control runoff.
In a study submitted with the Natural Resources Defense Council's comments, a University of Washington scientist said reducing the amount of grading done on construction sites, and using things like grass swales to filter runoff and porous concrete that would allow the soil to filter runoff, could prove to be both inexpensive and effective at cleaning runoff.
For information on the Web, go to http://www.swrcb.ca.gov/rwqcb4/html/programs/stormwater/venturaMs4.html.
Surfrider Foundation Ventura County Chapter
Coordinator, Matilija Coalition
(805) 648-4005 pjenkin@...