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Santa Monica Helps Kick Off War on Polluted Runoff

By Lookout Staff

City officials gathered near the shores of Santa Monica Bay Monday morning to help kick off a major statewide effort aimed at tackling the persistent problem of polluted runoff.

The joint state and federal effort combines both inland and coastal runoff sources into a single unified plan worked on by the Coastal Commission and the State Water Resources Board. The unprecedented collaboration, brokered by Gov. Gray Davis, ended a bureaucratic logjam that had lasted for years.

"Urban runoff is the single greatest source of pollution of Santa Monica Bay," Mayor Ken Genser said at a press conference, "and we in the city... have been active in both public education - getting people to take simple actions to prevent runoff pollution - and with technical solutions."

Genser pointed to partnerships with Heal the Bay and the Santa Monica Bay Restoration Foundation, as well as the new Urban Runoff Recycling Facility nearing completion just south of the pier.

The facility -- which Genser called "a model technical solution" - will treat up to 500,000 gallons of runoff water a day from the Pico-Kenter and Pier Storm Drains. The water will be recycled for irrigation and other uses.

"Santa Monica is a sustainable city," Genser said. "Our commitment to environmental protection is well established. The beach you see today, the bay, all our marvelous natural resources will be here for generations to come because of programs like the one we celebrate this morning."

The new program - which will serve as the blueprint for the war against polluted runoff -- directs more than 20 state agencies and departments to initiate more than 60 comprehensive measures to combat the problem.

Preventive measures include:

  • Erosion and sediment control, nutrient, pesticide and grazing management on agricultural lands.
  • Harvest planning, re-vegetation of disturbed areas and streamside management, road management, timber harvesting and replanting measures in forest areas.
  • Runoff controls for existing development, construction sites and transportation corridors in urban areas.
  • Siting, design, operation and maintenance procedures for marinas.
  • Erosion and sediment control for dams, stream banks and shorelines and wetland protection and restoration.

Pollution in urban areas comes from a variety of sources, including pesticide and fertilizer residues from lawn watering, soap residues from car washing, oil wastes and litter from city streets and parking lots, wastewater overflow from treatment plants after heavy rains and from raw sewage spills.

The program will aid municipalities through a number of urban management measures, including citizen education, runoff control for existing development, construction sites and transportation corridors and the developing and implementing on-site disposal systems.

Funds will come from the 2000 Parks and Water Bonds that can now provide $300 million for the program and another $10 million in federal money. In addition, approval of the state's plan will trigger $10.5 million in federal funds to kick-start the proposal.

Over the past two years, the Governor's budgets have funded 31 new staff positions and provided an additional $4.7 million in support to the Coastal Commission to help enforce environmental regulations. Another $10 million was included in this year's budget to combat seashore erosion and an additional $5 million has been authorized for technical resources and staffing to specifically battle polluted runoff.

The state program will be monitored yearly and will include five-year milestones to gauge its success. All state agencies are required to fully implement all 61 management measures by 2013.

"This plan represents an important step forward in California's ongoing efforts to protect its environment and natural resources," Gov. Davis said. "This is a tough but balanced approach that will tackle the state's most serious pollution problem and help us achieve cleaner lakes, rivers and beaches."

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